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September 19, 2011  | by: Kerri O'Malley

Host Jane Lynch Goes For the Gold

This year’s Emmy Awards had its share of shoe-ins, surprises, and let-downs.  The Emmy judges picked their favorites early on, and a certain show swept their category almost completely, with multiple actors, writers, and directors from the same show vying against each other, stacked in a way that almost seemed unfair.  But bitter thoughts are slim this morning, as overall the show was diplomatic, handing out awards to at least someone in almost all of the year’s best shows — almost.

Burrell and Bowen with Their Emmys

One of this year’s biggest winners was ABC’s “Modern Family.”  The show won for Best Comedy Series, and its actors got nods of their own: Julie Bowen won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, while Ty Burrell took away the Outstanding Supporting Actor trophy.  The show also won the comedy category for Best Directing (it was nominated three times for that category, only going up against “How I Met Your Mother” and “30 Rock“), and Best Writing.  The sweep was so thorough that at one point, host Jane Lynch returned from a commercial break by saying, “Welcome back to the MODERN FAMILY AWARDS!”

At least the showering of affection seems well-deserved.  In an acceptance speech, one of the show’s creators said that a gay couple once approached him and said, “You’re not just making people laugh, you’re making them more tolerant.”

After watching the Emmys, I’m convinced the series deserves a shot — I’ve honestly never seen it!  But no matter how awesome “Modern Family” is, I still feel like some really hilarious people got left out of this year’s nominations, paving the way for an easy “MF” win.  For example, no one from “Parks and Recreation” or “The Office” was represented in either of the Supporting Actor categories.  For shows whose ensemble casts make the series, this was a huge oversight.  I would like to personally nominate Aubrey Plaza, who plays the unstoppably hilarious, eye-rolling April Ludgate in “Parks and Rec,” alongside on-the-rise actress Ellie Kemper, for her role as Erin in “The Office,” as two supporting actresses who should have made the cut.

Ron Swanson Demands an Emmy

But at least the ladies category had a bit more variety.  The Supporting Actor in a Comedy category was extremely dry for the dudes.  Four “Modern Family” actors were nominated, leaving room only for a pity nod to Jon Cryer in “Two and A Half Men” and the required “Glee” note, aimed at award-friendly Chris Colfer.  What the heck, Emmys?  Let’s not even talk about “The Office.”  “Parks and Rec,” the most perfect, laugh-out-loud comedy of the year (if not the past three years), has a number of award-worthy supporting actors alone, including Chris Pratt, who plays lovable goof, Andy, Aziz Ansari’s slick cheese-ball, Tom Haverford, and, of course, the best character in comedy television today: Ron Swanson, as played by the mustachioed Nick Offerman.  At least one of these fellows should’ve gotten the nod, but no one even made it into the category.  What gives?

“Parks and Rec” also could have used a writing nod.  For a comedy show, its storyline is impeccable, never haphazard, always driven.  But perhaps its subtlety is what makes it easy to gloss over.  No matter, in my eyes, “Parks and Rec” should win everything, even pie eating contests, by default.

Aside from my obvious shock at the lack of “Parks and Rec” mentions, the comedy portion of the program added some other surprises to its sweep, not the least of which was the Emmy people’s choice to let Charlie Sheen have access to a microphone.

Sheen Onstage at the Emmys

The Great Disaster introduced the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series award as “my old category,” and the tension built from there.  But instead of the usual word vomit that comes pouring out of Charlie, Mr. Sheen took the time to say a few kind words to the “Two and A Half Men” cast and crew he’s spent the better part of the year lambasting.  “From the bottom of my heart, I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season,” Sheen said.  “We spent 8 wonderful years together, and I know you will continue to make great television.”  Although it’s debatable whether “Two and A Half Men” is really great TV, it’s good to see that Charlie has his heart (and sanity) in the right place — especially considering he’s due for a Comedy Central roast tonight!

But even with Sheen on stage, the bigger shock came when the winner was announced.  I thought for sure that Steve Carell, who has never won an Emmy for playing Michael Scott on “The Office” and left the show this season, was a shoe-in.  His only real competition was Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock.”  But instead, the golden man slipped through Steve’s fingers and landed smack on the head of “The Big Bang Theory” actor, Jim Parsons.  “The Big Bang Theory” is another show I’ve yet to watch, but on purpose this time.  No matter what Parsons did this year, I think we can agree that the award belongs to Carrell, if not for this season, then for his fantastic run as Michael Scott, an indelible character who changed the face of TV in a series that started the now-popular mockumentary style.

McCarthy Wins Beauty Queen-Style

The other shocking win fell to the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category.  You know I was rooting for Amy Poehler (“Parks and Rec”), but Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) or Laura Linney (“The Big C“) also looked like good bets.  But all these ladies were tossed aside for surprise winner Melissa McCarthy.  McCarthy is probably best-known for her longest-running TV role as chef Sookie in “Gilmore Girls,” but she let the baking behind this year with an unforgettable, completely different role in Bridesmaids.  Still, has anyone ever even heard of “Mike & Molly“?  I know I hadn’t until tonight!  McCarthy herself was truly surprised by the award and accepted it with a tear-drenched, disbelieving speech.  All the best to Melissa — I hope she finds lots of work after this and Bridesmaids, but Amy Poehler was robbed!

But don’t worry, dear readers, some of the surprises were good! The Drama portion of the program could have easily been lost in a similar way to Emmy favorite, “Mad Men,” but although the show won Best Drama Series once again, the winners in the rest of the categories were varied, revealing that this was a great year for drama.  Fortunately, the Emmy team was willing to share the love.

One of the best surprises of the night was the attention that the heart-warming and powerful “Friday Night Lights” received.  Up against heavy players with huge budgets and millions of viewers like “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” and “Boardwalk Empire,” the modest “Friday Night Lights” still managed to steal away two Emmy awards, one for Best Writing and one for Kyle Chandler (aka Coach Taylor) as the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

Coach Nailed the Surprise Victory...Again

Though I had my fingers crossed for Chandler, my jaw dropped to the ground when he won — and I’m pretty sure his did too!  “I knew for a fact that I would not be standing here,” Chandler said before digging into a spontaneous acceptance speech.  Chandler, pretty much an unknown name, was vying with Steve Buscemi and Jon Hamm for the Lead Actor award.

In the wake of this decision, I’m sure a lot of critics will be crying for Hamm, but I say screw them all.  Kyle Chandler played the character of Coach Taylor with a quiet power, representing one-half of the most likable and realistic couple on TV, working through real hardships, from the politics of coaching to race relations to stress on his marriage, inspiring his team all along the way with the memorable line, “CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN’T LOSE!”

As much as Chandler contributed to the show (and as much as I would’ve liked to see Mrs. Taylor win an Emmy for her role as well), “Friday Night Lights” owed much of its greatness to its witty writing.  As it leaves the airwaves for good, these awards were the perfect cap to five incredible seasons.

But for those who love their HBO as much as I do, worry not — the channel’s fantastic dramas were not ignored this year.  “Boardwalk Empire” lost an award it deserved for Supporting Actress (Kelly Macdonald) and Michael Pitt was unfairly excluded from the Supporting Actor category, but the show did win for Outstanding Directing, handing Martin Scorsese his first Emmy.  Personally, I would rather see “Game of Thrones” with a directing nod, but it was good that the incredibly engaging “Boardwalk” was thrown a bone amidst the chaos of too many good dramas.

Dinklage is a Dog Lover

“Game of Thrones” got its moment of glory in the Outstanding Supporting Actor category, when the show’s “half-man,” Peter Dinklage, snagged the trophy.  He accepted the award with an appropriate kingly grace, thanking his dog sitter in his acceptance speech.

The Daily Show” rounded up its usual track of trophies, scoring Best Writing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Variety Series, an award it’s now won 9 times in a row.  “Saturday Night Live” also won a Best Directing for a Variety Series Emmy for its Justin Timberlake/Lady Gaga episode earlier this year.  This year’s Movie and Mini-series categories were particularly yawn-worthy.  Though I was hoping for a random “Sherlock” win, it seemed the more boring Brits had it their way.

In-between the awards, Lynch had minimal hosting duties, but the most fun part of the whole broadcast was the pre-recorded video segments that combined all of our favorite shows into one.  In a musical number at the beginning of the telecast, Lynch danced through various sets, stopping at the “Mad Men” set for a memorable battle of words, encountering Ron Swanson on the “Parks and Rec” set, and shifting through the “Friday Night Lights” locker room, giving a girl like me thirsty for more Matt Saracen a little something to live on.  Another favorite moment came later in the show, when Khal Drogo and Tom Haverford joined the cast of “The Office” in…the office.  Jesse Pinkman, from AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” also stopped by to drop off some crystal meth to Creed (awesome).

At various times in the program, Lynch was joined onstage by the “Emmy Tones,” a small singing group whose members included Robin from “How I Met Your Mother,” Meredith from “The Office,” and Fez from “That 70′s Show.”  On top of all that, Andy Samberg and the boys from The Lonely Island dropped by to perform a brief medley of their more recent tunes, including their Michael Bolton pirate number.

All in all, this year’s Emmy awards were a decent spread, only leaving out a few should-be-honored series and focusing way too much on “Modern Family.”  Here’s hoping for some more variety in the comedy nominations next year…and some more of those video shorts!  For a full list of Emmy nominees and winners, check out the Emmy website.

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