For the third year in a row, it’s time to pull out three bullet points from the Emmy telecast. Yes, despite not offering up any predictions, we still need to have some form of consistency, right? Right. Besides: How many times can you read about “House of Cards” being nominated before you say, “OK. I get it. ‘House of Cards’ was nominated,” and click somewhere else?
Oh, wait. You already clicked? Shoot.
Anyway, behold three takeaways from the biggest night in television and what they mean to you, what they mean to me and what they mean to an entire industry, moving forward. OK. Two of those things, I have absolutely no idea how to address. But you knew that.
Let’s go …
1. Three out of 4,928 ain’t bad, right?
Oh, you didn’t think we’d completely ignore Netflix and “House of Cards,” did you? Good. While you can’t find a bigger supporter of not only the Internet TV movement than I — and you also can’t find a much bigger fan of their splashy “House of Cards” than I as well — it would be both unfair and insincere to pretend as though the lack of awards given to the company and/or series didn’t sting at least a little bit. Somewhat pathetically (and I say that with all the most respectful connotations) much of what was written about the night and Netflix after it all went down pertained to creative Emmys that were given out light-years before the main event. Or, in other words, Emmys that nobody gave a mouse’s behind about when all the stars-in-our-eyes arrival think-pieces were penned (some of which, to be fair, were obviously written by me). “Oh, they have 490 chances to win popular awards — there’s no way they don’t!” I said. “Maybe not best actor/best drama, but there’s no way Robin Wright doesn’t win!” I hoped. “This will be the official arrival of Internet television!” I proclaimed. Exclamation point included.
Turned out that for the most part, all of those aspirations were squashed. Granted, David Fincher walked away with the Best Directing in a Drama prize that he certainly deserved for his work on at least one of the first two “House of Cards” episodes, but the addicting Kevin Spacey and perfect aforementioned Wright left empty handed. The drama award fell to “Breaking Bad.” And all those optimistic, “The Future Is Now” dreams turned into those things we have while we sleep that aren’t quite nightmares, but never stick with us after the morning alarm goes off.
Rather than make excuses for the poor showing, I’ll instead argue this: Did anybody catch that open? You know, the one at the top of the page? You know, the moment when all the hosts came up on stage and bickered back and forth? You know, the few minutes where it looked like a late-night host convention where half the guests used Neil Patrick Harris and Jane Lynch as their plus-ones? You remember all that, right? Good. Because then something fabulous happened. That something fabulous?
Kevin Spacey turned to a camera and pretended he was Francis Underwood for a moment.
And that’s it. That’s all that happened. The moment, which will go down in history as one of my own personal favorites, signaled a win far bigger than a few trophies could ever promise: “House of Cards” fans laughed in amazement while those who didn’t even understand what was going on immediately wondered how much a Netflix subscription cost. On some level, the move played perfectly into where the whole streaming-content approach is right now within the current day. As cameras panned to some in the crowd who completely understood the moment, you couldn’t help but feel like you were in on a joke that only the coolest people in the world comprehended. And that’s kind of where the whole TV-shows-online-thing is right now, anyway. Sure, the abundance of Netflix nominations suggested that the practice’s growth may have been moving quicker than planned, but at the end of the night, Sunday was just another small step in a trip that — as the results prove — hasn’t even reached its halfway point yet. And if it weren’t for those quick 15 seconds at the beginning of the show, the entire evening may have felt like too much of a wash to even consider. Instead, Spacey’s trick only furthered the mythology and lure of what can be found online to those who would never even consider making that leap. Did it mean 50 million more people were going to sign up for Big Red by Monday morning? No. But did it at least mark its territory and assure its spot among the most celebrated television shows the medium has today?
Well, leave it to Mr. Underwood to devise a plan as subliminally effective as any that Emmy has seen in recent memory.
2. Surprises, surprises and … more surprises.
Lost in all the “House of Cards” hoopla was the fact that a whole lot of people who nobody thought would win these awards … won these awards. The list of winners reads like the guest list for a weirdly funny dinner party. Even Jeff Daniels, who somehow beat out Spacey, Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston and Damian Lewis in the drama category, has made a lot of bones through his career with his comedic chops.
“I felt the work stood up to what the other guys are doing,” he said afterward. “But we’re all doing different things.”
He’s right. While each character nominated is the quintessential modern-day anti-hero, they all got there for different reasons. Daniels, a disgruntled newscaster. Lewis, a disgruntled solider. Spacey, a disgruntled politician. Cranston, a disgruntled chemistry teacher. Hamm, a disgruntled … guy. They all come from different walks of life, so choosing one out of the five is sort of like giving chocolate chip the award for ice cream, when vanilla, butterscotch, bubble gum and mint were all nominated: It came down to whatever flavor the voters preferred (well, that, and as some speculate, Cranston and Hamm split the vote).
Girls can have fun, too, though. Anna Gunn, she of “Breaking Bad” fame, shocked (shocked!) the world with her victory in the supporting actress race (and, as I said months and months ago when I first watched the nominated season, she deserved every bit of it, considering how this was easily her best set of performances through the series’ duration). Laura Linney, meanwhile, picked up her award for “The Big C,” a show I would love to talk about more … if I ever somehow receive season two’s DVDs (I hate it when I fall away from shows like that, especially you, “The Hour”).
My favorite upset of the night? Tony Hale, who seems to be one of the five nicest people in all the land, finally received recognition for his work on “Veep” after standing out for years on “Arrested Development” and a few choice indie flicks. Buster Bluth deserves nothing but good things in this world, people. Nothing but good things.
3. The Most Entertaining Writer On The Planet.
Of course we reserve an entire spot to recount the three best sentences from the fabulous Lisa De Moraes and her recap of this year’s show. Drum roll please …
– “This year’s Emmycast cleverly focused on one industry category that broadcast TV still completely dominates: death. A good chunk of last night’s Emmycast was devoted to it. In addition to the traditional In Memoriam segment, five Very Important Dead People were singled out for individual tributes.”
– “Conspiracy theorists last night insisted CBS’ best comedy actor-winning star Jim Parsons got more time to speechify, before the music began to cut him off, than was extended to other winners. CBS didn’t mind the accusation — see CBS Knows The Importance Of Social Snarking, above.”
– “Hopefully we can all agree that the best way to fix the Emmy Awards is not to single out token deceased industry VIPs who represent various demographic groups and/or who mentored stars with new series about to debut on broadcast networks, but to dump red-carpet arrival shows in favor of lead-in shows that deliver some ratings heft. Preferably football.”
You’ll want to read the rest. Trust me.
And to all a good night.