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2011 Emmys: Winners & Losers

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Sure, Mad Men and The Amazing Race won again, but the 63rd Primetime Emmys on Fox Sept. 18 weren’t entirely predictable. We welcomed a bunch of new victors (nice to have you, Peter Dinklage!), were reminded that some people in Hollywood are great sports (friends for life, Amy Poehler?), and got another lesson on why we should never count out PBS programming (cheers, Downton Abbey!). Without further ado, here were the night’s big winners…and not-so-humble losers.

Winners

Modern Family

The best thing about the ABC comedy’s sweep in many of the major categories? It provided some of the greatest moments on stage. When accepting the prize for outstanding comedy, co-creator Steven Levitan explained, ”There’s nothing wrong with a loving, committed relationship between an old man and a hot young woman — and looking around the room tonight, I see many of you agree.” And supporting-actor winner Ty Burrell didn’t just give an acceptance speech — he performed a stand-up act in honor of his late father. (Among his bons mots: ”If he were here tonight, I think he would say, ‘But why the makeup?”’) ”I wanted to crack my dad up,” Burrell told EW.

Jane Lynch

The Glee star handled her weighty assignment with aplomb, even with the pre-Emmy kerfuffle over a Rupert Murdoch phone-tapping bit. (When Fox pulled the joke from the opening skit, the original Mr. President of Television, Alec Baldwin, asked to be cut, prompting a last-minute switch to Leonard Nimoy.) Not only were her jokes terrific — ”A lot of people are very curious why I’m a lesbian. Ladies and gentlemen, the cast of Entourage” — but her arms looked fab in that silver Grecian number.

Funny Women

Too bad there wasn’t a special Emmy for the night’s biggest mensch. Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler had the bright idea to have all the best-actress-in-a-comedy nominees take the stage before the winner was announced, in a mock beauty pageant. When Mike & Molly‘s Melissa McCarthy was deemed the queen, she was even given a tiara and roses, along with a group hug from her fellow nominees. ”It really worked out better than we thought,” McCarthy said afterward. ”In all honesty, I forgot an award was coming because I was like, ‘Look at where I’m standing!”’

Newcomers

First-time wins for actors like Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights, Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones, Margo Martindale of Justified, and Barry Pepper of The Kennedys helped spice up predictable wins for Mad Men and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. It also gave some relief to FNL fans who have long lamented the lack of Emmy love for the high school football drama, which began on NBC before moving to DirecTV, where it ended its run last season. (Head writer Jason Katims also took home a trophy.) ”I feel like I’m walking on the moon,” said Chandler, who won in the best-actor category. ”That’s how I felt walking up those steps.”

Downton Abbey

The PBS drama’s win in the best-movie or -miniseries category proved that a lesser-known project about the residents and servants on a massive British estate doesn’t need the full muscle of an HBO-type marketing machine. ”We did wonder if enough people had seen the show,” admitted writer Julian Fellowes, who also won for penning the series. ”People think it’s just one more period drama, but actually it seems to have this very broad appeal. I wasn’t worried once people had seen it. It’s just getting them to see it was the issue.” (In case you missed it the first time around, the miniseries will return to PBS for a second season in January.)

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Losers

Stagecraft

The last time Fox had the Emmys, it used an annoying theater-in-the-round format that ended up frustrating the celebrities. (Our hearts still go out to the poor schmucks who had to look at host Ryan Seacrest‘s back the whole time.) This new set wasn’t much of an improvement: It looked garish in a Cash4Gold kind of way and did Lynch no favors.

Reality Shows

Should The Amazing Race just take a break and give series like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance a chance in the reality-competition category? After Top Chef broke its streak last year, the travel competition once again claimed the top reality prize for an eighth time. Hey, TAR exec producer Bertram van Munster: Take a tip from Candice Bergen, who after five wins for Murphy Brown had the grace to stop putting her name in for consideration in 1996.

Wasted Talent

Fox made the strange decision to squander likable stars like Zachary Levi, Taraji P. Henson, Cobie Smulders, and Joel McHale by having them sing silly songs to introduce each genre. (Even their Emmytones name was lame.) Is this the only way Chuck and How I Met Your Mother can get the Emmy recognition they deserve?

Charlie Sheen

What’s the opposite of winning? It was a stunt that got tongues wagging, but former Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen‘s unexpected appearance to present the award for best actor in a comedy took away from Jim Parsons‘ second win for The Big Bang Theory. ”I had heard he was going to be here in general, but I never for a moment imagined we would have to encounter each other,” said Parsons, who added that Sheen ”couldn’t have been nicer.” But he also could have just stayed home.

(Additional reporting by Tim Stack and Tanner Stransky)

5 Things You Didn’t See on TV

By Carol Leifer

1. Jane on stage at rehearsal, applying Glide (not that one, I asked) to her feet so they won’t chafe in heels.

2. The writers backstage as mystified as the viewers by Charlie Sheen’s appearance. We were told he was going to come up with something on his own, and we thought that meant something funny.

3. Political jokes were nixed, but this made me laugh: “Welcome to the 63rd Annual Democratic Fund-raiser — I mean, Emmys.”

4. Brand names were edited out of the script. I slightly preferred Jane eating ”Pringles in the dark” at home to console herself over her Emmy loss, but ”tub of turkey meatballs” worked just fine. In Jane’s ”gay agenda” joke, ”have the oil changed in my Subaru” had to be changed to generic ”pickup truck.” But everyone knows us lesbians love our Subarus!

5. Sheer delight with an on-time show! So rare with live awards shows. Although that did mean cutting one of my favorite lines: ”This show is running so long that one of you is already in next year’s ‘In Memoriam’ package.”

A writer for this year’s Emmy Awards, Leifer has written for three Emmys and six Oscars previously, and is herself a three-time Emmy nominee.

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