Let’s talk about what didn’t happen at the Emmys. That might be more interesting than what actually did.
The three hour-plus ceremony, which plodded along at a slower pace than usual thanks an unusual number of somber tributes to dead stars, originally promised some excitement leading up to the big day. Internet-streamed shows were going to stage a hostile takeover of the stodgy awards show; we might see our first ever African American lead actress winner; Jon Hamm might finally have a reason to start showing up at this thing.
Ultimately, the buzziest pre-Emmy stories wound up fizzling out pretty quickly. First and foremost was the idea of Netflix taking over the party with its 14 nominations. Headline-maker “House of Cards” got a couple technical wins at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend. But big dreams for the show faded fast when stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright lost in their leading acting categories, to Jeff Daniels of “The Newsroom” and Claire Danes of “Homeland.”
Things looked more promising when director David Fincher scored a trophy for director in a drama series; but Fincher was a no-show, and “Breaking Bad” ended up taking best drama honors.
At first, it seemed like the Emmy producers were counting on Netflix to make some noise. In the middle of Neil Patrick Harris’s opening monologue, a group of former hosts (Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Jane Lynch) crashed the stage — cut to Spacey in the audience, delivering a cheeky parody of his “House of Cards” alter-ego, which breaks the fourth wall to narrate events.
“Getting them to sabotage Neil was almost too easy,” he said in his Francis Underwood southern drawl, to big laughs from the audience.
While that brief joke ended up being the beginning of the end of the Netflix spotlight, some thought another type of history would be made. Kerry Washington, star of ABC’s addictingly-ridiculous “Scandal,” was a favorite to win lead actress in a drama. If she won, she would have become the first African-American in history to win the prize (Cicely Tyson was nominated in 1995). But no such luck; Danes took the category for the second year in a row.
Washington had a huge year, from being in a hit TV show, a box office smash (“Django Unchained”, and honored as World’s Best Dressed Woman. Many thought Washington’s scenery-chewing performance as professional D.C. fixer Olivia Pope (who’s having an affair with the president) would land her the win.
And speaking of actors who have yet to get their due, Jon Hamm remains zero for six in his quest to land a trophy for his portrayal as Don Draper of “Mad Men.” Hamm, in all his bearded glory, lost out to Jeff Daniels — which, granted, was a surprise to everyone, even Daniels. (It was expected to be battle between Hamm, Spacey, Bryan Cranston, last year's winner Damien Lewis ... well, pretty much everyone except Daniels.)
This was Don Draper’s most miserable year ever, so who knows what lengths he’ll have to go to get the prize in “Mad Men’s” seventh and final season.
If there’s one thing Hamm did do, it was manage to get as many laughs during his segment presenting the lead actress prize with Alec Baldwin as Neil Patrick Harris did for that opening sketch of the show. Oh, NPH — the man can host anything, but this was not his finest performance. Kicking off the show in binge-watching jail was painfully unfunny, and while he did pull off a few impressive song and dance numbers, it wasn’t exactly a rave, clip-sharing worthy performance that he’s had in the past. Though he did get in an inside joke-heavy bit with his fellow “How I Met Your Mother” cast members, about his addiction to hosting.
And finally, this was a big year for D.C.-set shows getting nominated. How did it pan out in the end? Out of 32 nominations for the five Washington scripted shows (“Scandal,” “Political Animals,” “House of Cards,” “Homeland,” “Veep”), there were eight wins, including a couple big ones, such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer, and Ellen Burstyn, as the president’s ex-mother-in-law in “Political Animals.” Not bad — but it just wasn’t Washington’s year after all.
Still, the District did get a special shout-out.
“Right here on CBS, there’s a show about hundreds of people totally cut off from reality who spend their lives living under a dome,” NPH announced, before introducing a couple “Under the Dome” stars to present an award.
And what picture appeared on the big screen after he said the line? That’s right — the Capitol. Good one, Emmys.