The 61st Primetime Emmys ended almost as soon as they began; a testament to host and nominee Neil Patrick Harris, who entertained the creative minds inside the Nokia Theatre during the ceremony held on Sept. 20.
After the failure of the 60th Emmys hosted by the five nominees of Reality Host (Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst and Ryan Seacrest), Harris was a welcome respite to a ceremony that has not aged well in the 21st century.
Sauntering on the stage in a white suit coat, Harris did a song and dance number that was better than it should have been. To the surprise of no one, Harris even mentioned embattled rapper Kanye West, who had stolen Taylor Swift’s thunder at MTV’s Video Music Awards a week prior.
“Here’s hoping Kanye West likes ’30 Rock,'” Harris joked when talking to the audience about the show running smoothly.
The Emmy ceremony offered a number of surprise wins throughout the evening, especially at the beginning with the wins of Kristin Chenoweth (ABC’s “Pushing Daisies”) and Jon Cryer (CBS’ “Two and a Half Men”).
A teary-eyed and shaken Chenoweth flitted up the stage in a shiny metallic dress where she embraced the heavy statue.
“I’m unemployed now, so I’d like to be on ‘Mad Men.’ I also like ‘The Office’ and ’24,'” Chenoweth laughed.
Despite the cancellation of “Pushing Daisies,” Chenoweth was all smiles and appeared genuinely surprised defeating Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”), Elizabeth Perkins (“Weeds”), Amy Poehler (“Saturday Night Live”), Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live”) and Vanessa Williams (“Ugly Betty”) in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
In total, “Pushing Daisies” won four Emmys between the Creative Arts Emmys and Primetime ceremony. (Chenoweth later collapsed backstage due to a severe migraine with paramedics being called; however, the “Pushing Daisies” star later wrote to fans via Twitter that she is “warding it off with meds…thx 4 ur love n well wishes!!”)
Cryer defeated Emmy host Harris to the surprise of numerous awards forecasters, who favored the “How I Met Your Mother” thespian. Cryer’s victory for “Two and a Half Men” is the first major industry award won by the show in its six-year run (excluding technical Emmys won by the show’s crew).
In full self-deprecating mode, Harris joked throughout the rest of the awards about losing the Emmy to Cryer. In a category with Harris, Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) and Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”), it is befuddling to see Emmy voters go for Cryer, who is nothing special on “Men.”
Emmy producers deserve credit for staging the ceremony in such a way for the casual viewer, who could tune in at certain points and watch the awards that interested them the most. The evening was divided into categories: comedy, reality, miniseries and movies, variety, and drama. In between each division of category, clip reels played signaling the imminent death of broadcast television (most of the shows featured came from cable). Cable stars dominated the miniseries and movie categories, as well as some of the comedy and drama awards, including wins for Toni Collette (Showtime’s “United States of Tara”), Bryan Cranston (AMC’s “Breaking Bad”) and Glenn Close (FX’s “Damages”). Cranston and Close repeated for the second year in a row.
Even though “30 Rock” did not exactly sweep as it did last year, star Alec Baldwin repeated for the second year in a row in Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and especially thanked show creator Lorne Michaels for his endless support for his job on the NBC comedy. Baldwin has a long working relationship with Michaels, having hosted his sketch comedy, “Saturday Night Live,” 14 times.
The middle of the program was a somber affair when singer Sarah McLachlan took to the blackened stage to sing her hit “I Will Remember You,” while the Academy honored the television personalities who passed away in the last year. Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Walter Cronkite were just three of the many who died. While the production felt straight out of 1999, the performance was well-intentioned and it beautifully acknowledged the hard working talents of those who have passed on.
Nominee Sigourney Weaver presented the last Emmy of the evening to “Mad Men,” which deservedly won Outstanding Drama Series for the second year in a row. The ’60s set drama also won a writing award for its heartbreaking second season finale, “Meditations in an Emergency.” The victory would have been sweeter had one of the show’s stars, January Jones, been nominated. Jones was a revelation in the second season and gave Emmy-worthy performances week after week as her on-screen persona, Betty Draper, slowly unraveled due in part to the slow deterioration of her marriage to husband Don (nominee Jon Hamm).
With the culmination of the Emmy telecast, the 2008-2009 television season has been finally put to rest. In the meantime, the start of 2009-2010 has only just begun.
Contributions by Daniella Appolonia.