'Mad Men' wins the Emmy for best drama; 'Glee' takes home two awards

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2010

We may grouse a lot about television, which is supposed to be dying before our eyes, but Sunday night's Emmy show served as a fine reminder that we've got it pretty good. What's the word for this fleeting flutter of joy? (Ah yes, "Glee.")

"So where was I?" joked (or gloated) "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner, as deja vu settled over the ceremony's three-hour climax, when AMC's Madison Avenue saga won best drama for the third year in a row. It beat out a deserving field of fresher nominees that included "True Blood," "Dexter" and "The Good Wife." And "Lost?" Lost to the ages now, it seems.

More happily, for those of us who've brooded enough with Don Draper, there were big wins for ABC's superior "Modern Family," which took the Emmys for best comedy series, comedy writing and a supporting actor win for Eric Stonestreet.

As for "Glee" itself, the hit Fox comedy about singing high school underdogs won two awards: supporting actress for Jane Lynch (as the show's track-suited villain); and a directing Emmy for the show's creator, Ryan Murphy, who noted that "Glee" is really just a show about learning. Murphy thanked his art teachers, for "teaching me how to sing and how to finger paint."

Host Jimmy Fallon put his nervous, insouciant glee to work, and for once, it worked as well as it does on his late-night talk show. Armed with his acoustic guitar, a big bag of shtick, some obligatory Conan/Jay/10 p.m. jabs at his employers at NBC ("NBC asking a host of 'Late Night' to come to Los Angeles and host a different show -- what could possibly go wrong?"). Fallon made it look easier than expected.

His opening number -- a "Glee" sendup, naturally -- was a more lavish retread of a bit he's done before, only this time with everyone from Betty White to Jon Hamm to Hurley from "Lost" (Jorge Garcia) to Joel McHale to Kate Gosselin joining in. Fallon also did riffs on Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Boyz II Men, Green Day. Put everything in this paragraph into a nav bar and you've got a search engine's dream come true.

That's what this year's Emmys felt like, a big explosion of everything pop-courant, like those Web hits assembled by robots that write Lindsay Lohan news and keep us abreast (heh-heh) of dirty, dirty Betty White's every career move. (The Emmys even signed off with a naughty-near-nonagenarian joke: "Afterparty at Betty White's house!!" Fallon screamed.)

An attempt to involve viewers' Twitter tweets to Fallon as a way of introducing celebrity presenters fell flat, and should be a reminder to us all: The people who write television should be the ones writing it. The rest of us should stick with low expectations and high carbs. Our job is to watch. It should be John Hodgman's job, too; the Emmys' second attempt to overlay the comedian/author's cerebral nonsense atop the applause as the recipient walks to the stage is now officially a failed experiment.

"Breaking Bad," AMC's absorbing, meth-labs-in-Albuquerque drama, saw two wins -- with Bryan Cranston for lead actor in a drama and Aaron Paul for supporting actor. Kyra Sedgwick won for lead actress in a drama for "The Closer." Supporting actress in a drama went to Archie Panjabi for "The Good Wife." Can't quibble with any of those, even if you might possibly have never watched any of them.

Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," won for lead actor in a comedy amid one-too-many cracks about nerds; Edie Falco ("the original Real Housewife of New Jersey," as Fallon introduced her) won for lead actress in a comedy for "Nurse Jackie," Showtime's laugh-riot series about a depressed, drug-addicted, philandering ER nurse. (Trust the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and today's dark-is-actually-funny culture: "Nurse Jackie" is comedy.)

Still dubious, Falco said in her acceptance speech, "This is just the most ridiculous thing that has ever, ever happened in the history of" the Emmys.

Oh, Edie, not by a long shot. The Emmys have been much more ridiculous, and tedious, in past years.

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