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October 05, 2011

That Golden Glow: Emmy Night Joy and Tears

Feature: On TV’s biggest night, host Jane Lynch goes for music and laughs, while pros with Emmy gold get downright giddy. Read all about the surprises and more stars experienced on Emmy night.

Ed O'Neill (l.) shares Modern Family

castmate Julie Bowen's joy at her win.

"Holy smokes!"

The reaction of Melissa McCarthy to her unexpected Emmy win was sweetly apropos for the actress who plays a likable fourth-grade teacher on the CBS series Mike & Molly.

Her giddy enthusiasm set the stage for a number of first-time Emmy winners to happily grab their share of gold at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.

Of course, some of the wins brought familiar faces to the stage at the September 18 event, held at NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles and telecast live by Fox coast-to-coast. ABC's Modern Family swept in to nab outstanding comedy for the second year in a row, while AMC's Mad Men was named outstanding drama for a fourth consecutive year. Still, it was a night to be remembered for its share of surprised faces and tearful moments.

"Oh, my God! Are you kidding me?" Julie Bowen cried when called to the stage to pick up the evening's first award, outstanding supporting actress in a comedy. Sounding a bit like her character, beleaguered wife and mother Claire Dunphy on Modern Family, she said, "I don't know what I'm going to talk about in therapy next week. I won something!"

It was Bowen’s first Emmy win, and it was the start of a sweep as the series went on to take four more awards, including outstanding supporting actor for Ty Burrell, who plays her husband, Phil. Also a first-timer, Burrell gave an acceptance both heartfelt and humorous. "My dad died before he ever saw me perform,” he said. “Now I have a job where I go to work every day in full makeup. If he were here tonight he would say, ‘But why the makeup?’"

In addition to outstanding comedy series, the show also won for comedy writing — with Emmys going to executive producer–cocreator Steve Levitan and executive producer Jeffrey Richman — and for directing, marking a first-time win for Michael Alan Spiller.

Another surprised face was that of Margo Martindale, named best supporting actress in a drama for FX’s Justified. The veteran character actress, who plays the backwoods matron of a drug-running clan, was overwhelmed with her first Emmy win. “Sometimes things just take time,” she told the audience.

The PBS miniseries Downton Abbey dominated the miniseries category, as the saga about pre–World War I England was named outstanding miniseries and one of its stars, Maggie Smith, won for supporting actress (the series also won for costumes and cinematography at the Creative Arts Awards on September 10).

"None of us know what's going to be a hit,” said writer–executive producer Julian Fellowes. “We make these shows, we hope for the best, but we don't know why sometimes it comes right. This evening is such a marvelous moment in all our lives because this evening it came right."

And while British aristocracy ruled in long-form, HBO's reworking of an American classic, Mildred Pierce, also brought home Emmy gold. The lead actress in the miniseries, Kate Winslet, was called to the stage (“I didn’t think we were going to win anything!” she exclaimed), and Guy Pearce was named outstanding supporting actor.

"I got to have sex with Kate Winslet many, many times," quipped Pearce as he accepted his award. Giving Winslet her due, he continued: "I share this award with you. Thank you for letting me insert myself into your world of Mildred."

Backstage, the actress told reporters that she was not offended by Pearce's saucy double entendres. "I've had a crush on Guy Pearce since I was eleven years old,” she said, “so just to stand in the same room as him was thrilling.”

The evening got off to a rousing start with a pre-taped musical number featuring host Jane Lynch singing and visiting the sets of several series (“Oh, I hate it when musical numbers come through our apartment!” snapped Jim Parsons, in character as Sheldon Cooper, in the living room of The Big Bang Theory) and getting in a pertinent jab or two. (“Sweetheart, can you get us some coffee?” asked Mad Men's Jon Hamm, as the chauvinistic ad executive Don Draper. “You’re hilarious,” Lynch fired back. “I’m not a secretary, I’m the host of the Emmys.”

The taped bits led into a live, elaborate music-and-dance number, with Lynch rising onto the shoulders of tuxedoed male dancers as the audience rose for a standing ovation. “Put mama down,” Lynch told the dancers, then said to the crowd: “Mama’s coming down… Try doing that in triple Spanx!”

In addition to the wins for Melissa McCarthy and Modern Family, the comedy category saw a second consecutive lead-actor win for Parsons, for his role as nerd genius Sheldon on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory.

CBS resumed its reign of the reality-competition category, with an eighth Emmy win as outstanding series for The Amazing Race (Bravo’s Top Chef won last year, interrupting Race’s seven-year streak). Another winner with a long track record was Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which picked up its ninth consecutive statuette as outstanding variety, music or comedy series (and also took its seventh for writing).

Putting a shine on the network gold for CBS was Julianna Margulies, named outstanding lead actress in a drama for The Good Wife. Margulies credited the show's creator–executive producers, Robert and Michelle King. "Thank you for your vision, your intelligent words and for trusting me to tell your story," she said.

HBO's Boardwalk Empire, which received seven honors the week before at the Creative Arts Awards, walked away with one more at the telecast, for director Martin Scorsese.

While the drama series category was stacked with strong contenders, including The Good Wife, Boardwalk Empire and HBO’s Game of Thrones, it was longtime favorite AMC’s Mad Men that again took the win. Creator–executive producer Matthew Weiner looked a bit shocked as he accepted the award. “I did not think that was going to happen,” he told the crowd.

Among other winners was actor Peter Dinklage, in a supporting category, for Game of Thrones. "HBO, you're quite simply the best place to work for,” the actor said in acceptance. “You let artists create.” He also took a moment to thank his wife and his dog sitter.

Later, Dinklage ruefully reflected that his forty-five seconds on stage did not include thank-yous to either his manager or lawyer. "It might be funny or witty — or not. But it comes at a price."
But surely the evening’s surprises were many:

When McCarthy won for outstanding actress in a comedy, she was surrounded by her fellow nominees, each of whom had already swept onto the stage as if she had won (the bit was pre-planned, though the audience wasn’t sure right away). Then, in the style of Miss America, McCarthy was crowned with a tiara by presenter Rob Lowe and given a bouquet of roses.

Actor Kyle Chandler finally saw gold for his work on DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights, which ended its run this past season after five years of ratings challenges and critical acclaim. In another first, the show’s executive producer, Jason Katims, won for drama writing.

Charlie Sheen also made an appearance, ostensibly to hand out the Emmy for lead actor in a comedy, but also to wish the best to the series he left last season, CBS’s Two and a Half Men.

And, in a new twist, this year’s executive producer, Mark Burnett, and his crew asked audience members to tweet about the show on their smart phones during the presentation — and they did.

“I’m going to streak [at] the Emmys today,” tweeted Conan O’Brien. “Look for my red carpet on the red carpet.”

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