The dresses were fabulous. The ceremony was long. Michael Douglas broke the stupor with a wonderful acceptance speech, after beating Al Pacino and Matt Damon to the big prize. Ellen Burstyn and Jeff Daniels took home long-overdue acting statuettes, too. It was not a great night for the British. David Fincher won Best Director (and so did Steven Soderbergh). It sounds a lot like the Oscars – but it was the Emmys.
If any more evidence were needed that television is the new movies, you need only have studied the nominees list for this year’s 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, which took place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. The acting categories – not to mention the writing and directing ones – were littered with movie stars and former Academy Award nominees: Julian Fellowes, Kevin Spacey, Vera Farmiga, Tom Stoppard.
Oscar-winner Douglas claimed the award for Best Actor in a mini-series or TV movie, for his portrayal of Liberace in the HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra. “You deserve half of this,” he told his co-star and fellow nominee Matt Damon during his speech. “So, you want the bottom or the top?”
Jeff Daniels was a surprise winner for Best Actor in a drama, for his performance as news anchor Will McAvoy in The Newsroom, overcoming the favourite, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, as well as Spacey, nominated for Netflix’s House of Cards. The British star of Homeland, Damian Lewis, could not repeat his 2012 triumph in the category, though his co-star Claire Danes won a Best Actress award for a second year.
Downton Abbey missed out this year for the most part, though screenwriter Abi Morgan was honoured for Best Writing in a miniseries, for the BBC’s now-cancelled The Hour. Breaking Bad was named Best Dramatic Series– the one sure thing on a night full of upsets. It was the first time the acclaimed AMC drama had won the award, just a week before its finale.
The ceremony also featured moving tributes to some of the industry’s fallen stars, including The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith, the 31-year-old Glee actor, who died in July. If television is the new movies, then this year’s awards also suggested that the internet is the new TV.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan summed up the state of today’s TV industry, saying any one of the other nominees – House of Cards, Homeland, Downton, Mad Men, Game of Thrones – would have made worthy winners. “It could have been any of them... and even others that were not nominated in this golden age of television that we feel so proud to be a part of.”