With first-timer Jimmy Kimmel hosting and recent political programming causing upsets all around, Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards reeled in nearly 1 million more viewers than last year.
The Emmycast attracted 13.2 million viewers, which is a bigger draw than three of the trophy show’s past five broadcasts.
That said, Sunday’s trophy show was in no sense the kind of viewers magnet of, say, the recent political conventions. The final nights of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, which weeks earlier clocked 30 million and 36 million viewers, respectively.
Don’t expect your garden variety too-hip-for-the-small-screen intellectual to comprehend how dramatic this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards were. That’s like asking the Orkin man to appreciate an entomologists’ conference.
But the Emmycast was loaded with surprises, starting with Kimmel’s opening moments, in which he asked the Hollywood glitterati how many of them were going to vote for Mitt Romney, and a sizable number of them replied in the affirmative, quashing in an instant that planned gag we’ll never hear.
Sure, the show began to drag, when “Modern Family” stars Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen and “Louie” creator/star Louis C.K. were all handed the exact same comedy trophies they’d received in the past.
But if you’re too busy fuming over the snubbing of Hollywood “It” girl Lena Dunham — who helped open the show as best she knew how: naked, on a toilet, eating cake — you’re not going to appreciate the importance of “Two and a Half Men’s” Jon Cryer being named best actor in a comedy series.
In the past, Cryer was awarded the Emmy for best supporting actor, for playing Alan Harper on “Men.” His promotion to best lead actor — accomplished by stepping over far more pedigreed actors, including Larry David, Louis C.K., Don Cheadle and even Alec Baldwin — was the least the TV academy could do to reward Cryer for having survived all those Charlie Sheen seasons. It was high trophy-show pathos — as if the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show awarded its Best in Show ribbon to an abused mutt.
Showtime’s political thriller “Homeland,” meanwhile, deposed a couple of drama series despots. Star Damian Lewis snatched the best-actor Emmy away from Bryan Cranston of AMC’s “Breaking Bad”; he’d won every year in which he was eligible.
And “Homeland” wrested the best-drama Emmy from the four-year stranglehold of AMC’s “Mad Men,” which set an Emmy record for most losses in a single year (17).
“Homeland’s” other star, Claire Danes, won the Emmy for best drama actress.
Like a long dormant volcano, “Game Change” — the HBO’s project about Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate in ’08 that premiered way back in March — suddenly erupted, causing “American Horror Story” to flee. “Game Change” swallowed up the Emmy wins for best movie/miniseries, best long-form writing and best long-form directing. “Game Change” star Julianne Moore was named best long-form actress.
They’ll be talking for days about whether Kimmel’s sly Twitter stunt during the ceremony helped goose the ratings. Right around the time interest in the annual trophy show typically starts to sag, Kimmel suddenly told viewers that he wanted them to punk non-watchers by tweeting: “OMG! Tracy Morgan just passed out onstage! Turn on ABC now!”
Twitter instantly lit up with people dutifully typing as directed, including audience members Stephen Colbert and Joel McHale, who you’d think would have thought it through.
Thank goodness that the fearless journalists at TV Guide and other media outlets began to tweet that it was a Kimmel ratings grab, or who knows what good it would have done the trophy-show franchise, at the expense of Twitter’s unimpeachable credibility.
You know what else was surprising about the Emmycast? In the show’s 64th year, someone finally figured out how to make the obligatory stage walk of the Ernst & Young vote counters into something that does not cause you to look around for something sharp to poke into your eyes.
And all it took was a silly little bit of business involving the cast of “Big Bang Theory.”