It was like 2008 all over again at last night's Emmy Awards in Los Angeles: Mad Men and 30 Rock took the top honours, British talent punched above its weight, and Ricky Gervais appeared on stage to add some light relief during a sometimes-turgid three-hour telecast.
Depending on your point of view, the presence of repeat winners in the night’s two biggest categories, Best Drama and Best Comedy, were testament either to the brilliance of the victors - or the underwhelming health of the rest of their increasingly-fragmented and decreasingly-profitable industry.
The gong awarded to Mad Men as Best Drama also highlighted the growing dominance of cable TV over its mainstream rivals. When it first won 12 months ago, the many-layered drama about a 1960s Madison Avenue advertising agency became the first ever basic cable show to garner a top award.
Perhaps the only surprise this year was that it didn’t win more. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, won a writing award. But Jon Hamm, who plays protagonist Don Draper, was beaten to Best Actor in a Drama by Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad. Elizabeth Moss, who plays secretary Peggy Olson, lost out as Best Supporting Actress to 24’s Cherry Jones.
In the Comedy categories, the subversive 30 Rock won three awards, including Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actor for Alec Baldwin. But for what seemed like the first awards show in years, Tina Fey was pipped to a Best Comedy Actress gong, though: she lost out to Toni Collette, the star of United States of Tara.
Britain can claim a stake in six victories. The BBC adaptation of the neglected Charles Dickens book Little Dorrit won three awards, including Best Miniseries, and a writing award for Andrew Davies.
With commendable disregard for the conservatism of US TV audiences, its Irish director Dearbhla Walsh thanked her girlfriend for “patience, love and support” – saying that the presence of the trophy meant there would be three of them sharing the bed that night.
Brendan Gleeson, another Irishman, was honoured for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the BBC drama Into the Storm, while Bruce Gowers, the British director of American Idol, won in the reality category.
An unexpected victory for Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo for her performance in the BBC’s TV movie House of Saddam completed the tally of success for home-grown productions.
Further adding to the sense of déjà vu, Glenn Close repeated her win for Best Actress in a Drama for her role as a ruthless lawyer in Damages. Accepting the gong, the veteran star called it: “the character of my lifetime.”
Last night’s show, at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, was marked by an atmosphere of nervousness. In 2008, it was the least-watched Emmys in history, with an audience of just over 12 million. That three-hour telecast was so dull that critics declared it “The Worst Awards Show in the History of Television.”
Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, this year’s effort attempted to win fresh plaudits for TV's version of the Oscars. Initial reviews were largely positive, though not all the scripted jokes or comedy sketches hit the bullseye, and sections of the evening’s events meandered.
One bright point, however, came via Ricky Gervais. He insulted assembled TV actors as less attractive than their film counterparts (saying “in this room, I’m above average”) and poked fun at the show's decling viewing figures, declaring that one of his jokes was: “just for the 5,000 people in this room not for the 5,000 people watching at home.”
Drama Series: "Mad Men"
Comedy Series: "30 Rock”
Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad”
Actress, Drama Series: Glenn Close, "Damages”
Actor, Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock”.
Actress, Comedy Series: Toni Collette, "United States of Tara”
Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Michael Emerson, "Lost”
Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Cherry Jones, "24”
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men”
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth, "Pushing Daisies”
Miniseries: "Little Dorrit”
Mde-for-TV Movie: "Grey Gardens”
Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Brendan Gleeson, "Into the Storm”
Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, "Grey Gardens”
Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Ken Howard, "Grey Gardens”
Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Saddam”
Directing for a Comedy Series: "The Office: Stress Relief," Jeff Blitz.
Directing for a Drama Series: "ER: And in the End," Rod Holcomb
Directing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: "American Idol: Show 833 (The Final Three)," Bruce Gowers
Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special: "Little Dorrit: Part 1," Dearbhla Walsh
Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
Reality-Competition Program: "The Amazing Race”
Writing for a Comedy Series: "30 Rock: Reunion," Matt Hubbard.
Writing for a Drama Series: "Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency," Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner
Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"
Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special: "Little Dorrit," Andrew Davies
Host, Reality or Reality-Competition Program: Jeff Probst, "Survivor”
Original Music and Lyrics: "81st Annual Academy Awards: Song Title: Hugh Jackman Opening Number”