The Emmys were largely predictable yet again. The Daily Show, Amazing Race, Claire Danes — we all figured those and several others would win before the 64th Annual Primetime telecast started. Still, there were several wins in key categories that prompted gasps in the backstage press room and proved prognosticators don’t always get it right:
— Giancarlo Esposito loses best supporting actor in a drama. Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul winning this award wasn’t really shocking — he was certainly deserving. But Esposito’s riveting performance as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad last season had many pundits thinking he had this one locked. “I didn’t prepare anything,” Paul said backstage. “I was shaking and trying not to sob.” And Paul said of Esposito: “I cried in his arms and said, ‘It doesn’t make sense that I was on that stage and you were not.'”
— Homeland‘s Damian Lewis wins best actor in a drama. Bryan Cranston was favored to win this category for a fourth time, with many hoping Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm would dethrone the king. Lewis was a dark-horse favorite for his shifty performance as a turncoat Marine in the Showtime drama. “I still get jokes going through the airport, do you have a vest on?” Lewis quipped backstage.
— Two and a Half Men‘s Jon Cryer wins for best comedy actor: Another half surprise. Cryer won an Emmy for this role in 2009, though he was submitted in the supporting category that year. But Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons has won this honor the past two years. Critics were pulling for Louie‘s Louis C.K., while others thought 30 Rock‘s Alec Baldwin might stage a comeback.
— Hatfields & McCoy‘s Kevin Costner wins best actor in a movie or miniseries. Benedict Cumberbatch fans wonder: Have Emmy voters actually watched Sherlock?
— Homeland wins best drama. After Homeland took home the Golden Globe for best drama series this year, critics thought it might be the show to dethrone Mad Men. But after Mad Men‘s four consecutive wins for the AMC drama, crushing challenger after challenger, few were willing to bet that Emmy voters would actually check another box on this ballot category. Plus, PBS’ Downton Abbey and AMC’s Breaking Bad seemed like they had a shot at seizing the crown too. “We didn’t make our show just to undermine them,” Homeland star Danes said backstage. “I don’t think anybody expected to be recognized this way right off the bat. But it feels pretty nice.”
— FX’s American Horror Story loses best miniseries bid. Who’s afraid of the miniseries category? HBO’s more traditional entry for this category, Game Change, beat out the FX series despite American Horror Story tying Mad Men for the most award nominations (17) this year. (See: Was American Horror Story punished?)