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Television's Big Night 

neil-patrick-harris-emmy-statue-white-bg-portait-e1370886731486_9945899214_oAs television has long been the subordinate to film, the Emmys notoriously have had less glamour and fanfare than the Oscars. Recently, as TV has improved while film is intent on remaking every old property available, TV has become the place to find top-tier entertainment. Such was the case with the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, held on Sunday, and they managed to offer many surprises.

The night began with the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy, a prize that went to Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Weaver, someone very few may know about, but after her speech, which consisted entirely of “Thank you so much. I gotta go. Bye,” brought much needed levity to an already dull show, things were looking up.

Tony Hale continued the streak of surprises, winning Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy for Veep, in which he bested the Modern Family trio of Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and following the loss of co-stars Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara, it wasn’t looking good for ABC’s hit comedy. Fans needn’t worry, as the show once again was named Outstanding Comedy Series despite winning no acting or writing awards, but when have the Emmys ever made sense?

Rounding out the comedy winners were Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy for Veep, and Jim Parsons, who won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for The Big Bang Theory. Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield won for scripting 30 Rock’s ingenious finale, leaving the wonderful Louie to go home empty-handed, and the comedy awards concluded for the night.

The categories for mini-series and TV movies were mostly dominated by HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, which won for Outstanding Movie or Mini-series, Outstanding Directing for a Mini-series or TV Movie, and star Michael Douglas was named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Mini-series or Movie for his portrayal of Liberace, outlasting his co-star Matt Damon.

This segment of the show also saw several other Oscar nominees — and one winner — as victors of Emmy gold. James Cromwell won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-series or Movie for his role in American Horror Story: Asylum, Ellen Burstyn won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-series or Movie for Political Animals, and Laura Linney won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Mini-series or Movie for The Big C: Hereafter. If anything, these winners prove that while television may offer higher quality programming, the best actors still reside in film.

Coming into the night, many wondered if The Daily Show’s ten year run as winner of Outstanding Variety Series would come to an end, as it seemed vulnerable following host Jon Stewart’s summer departure to film his debut feature. Before we would find out that answer, the awards for writing and directing needed to be handed out. Saturday Night Live’s Don Roy King won for Outstanding Directing in a Variety Series, a win that gave SNL the most Emmys a single program has ever won, a title taken from Frasier.

Properly welcomed with a standing ovation, the most heartfelt moment of the night came when Bob Newhart emerged onstage to receive the award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. This is Newhart’s first ever Emmy after an illustrious career.

And rightfully so that Newhart made history himself winning his first Emmy on the night he presented an award that altered the Emmys.

When The Colbert Report — once just a modest spin-off of The Daily Show — won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series, it seemed clear that the reign of The Daily Show was over, and when the envelope containing the winner for Outstanding Variety Series was opened, it became a reality. Host Stephen Colbert took the stage as the man who slayed The Daily Show, but when two shows of that caliber compete, there are no losers. If The Daily Show’s dominance had to come to an end, The Colbert Report was the next best choice.

The drama categories offered the most suspense of the night, as the field seemed wide open, allowing any show the chance to emerge victorious. While some of the perennial winners still remained — such as Homeland winning Outstanding Writing, Drama and Claire Danes obtaining yet another Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy, while famed filmmaker David Fincher won Outstanding Directing, Drama Series for shooting House of Cards’ pilot, there were still a few surprises.

Best Supporting Actor, Drama housed perhaps the strongest field of nominees, including both Jonathan Banks and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad, Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones, Jim Carter from Downton Abbey, and expected winner Mandy Patinkin from Homeland, yet it was Bobby Cannavale from the third season of Boardwalk Empire that walked away the winner. In a field this strong when all the nominees are deserving winners, Cannavale surely deserved his win, as Gyp Rossetti was one of last year’s most memorable villains.

Maybe the biggest upset of the night came during the announcement of Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama, when The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels bested Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, Homeland’s Damien Lewis, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, and House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey. Though The Newsroom has been much maligned by critics and viewers alike, HBO has a huge bloc of Emmy voters who were surely responsible in voting Daniels to an Emmy win.

Television’s best drama, Breaking Bad, still managed to have a great night, however, when Anna Gunn was named Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama for her work on the show, and the Emmy telecast managed to end on the best note possible when Breaking Bad was named Outstanding Drama for the first time. Being rewarded one week before its final episode airs was a bit bittersweet, but the fun can commence once again next year, when creator Vince Gilligan and company attempt to win in back-to-back years.

Though the show ran long and had one too many dance numbers, there’s an easy way to fix the show for next year. During the opening monologue, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler partook in the scripted skit while sitting in the audience, donning 3D glasses and eating popcorn, heckling host Neil Patrick Harris. While Harris’ monologue itself wasn’t very funny, aside from the appearances of several former Emmy hosts including Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch, and Conan O’Brien, Fey and Poehler’s appearance was the highlight of the often awkward first few minutes of all award shows.

The solution is simple: hire Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host every event forever. They already hosted and did a wonderful job with the Golden Globes, so no longer must we prognosticate who will host the next show, when the answer is clear. It’s only fitting that the next entertainment award show is the aforementioned Golden Globes, a show that will hopefully allow Fey and Poehler to run rampant — and save Hollywood — once more.

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