The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards started with the host, Seth Meyers, and other presenters poking fun at the fast-changing landscape of the television world, where the biggest stars in Hollywood are taking on TV projects and new streaming services like Netflix are storming the gates.
“Breaking Bad” was a big winner at the awards show. Bryan Cranston earned his fourth Emmy for lead actor for his role as Walter White. The award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series went to Aaron Paul for his role as the drug-dealing Jesse Pinkman in “Breaking Bad.”
“My God, ‘Breaking Bad,’ it changed my life,” Paul said in accepting the award.
Anna Gunn won the award for outstanding supporting actresses for her portrayal of Skyler White in “Breaking Bad.” It was her second consecutive Emmy win and her third nomination. Both Paul and Gunn thanked Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad.”
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Despite the broader upheaval across the television world, several award winners on Monday night had taken home the winged golden statuette in years past.
Jim Parsons of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” scored the award for lead actor in a comedy series for his role as Sheldon Cooper in the most-watched comedy on television. The award was his fourth Emmy win.
The award for lead actress in a comedy series went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for her performance as a fictional vice president in HBO’s “Veep.” The award was the third consecutive Emmy win for Dreyfus and her fifth Emmy win ever. On her way to the stage to accept the award, Cranston gave her an 11-second-long kiss. (Earlier, while presenting an award together, Dreyfus had pretended not to remember his guest appearance on the long-running sitcom “Seinfeld,” when their two characters dated.)
Meyers, a first-time host, began the evening by talking about what many are calling a new golden age for television. He said earlier that his role model for the evening was the comedian Steve Martin and that he had recruited Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to help write jokes for the monologue. Fey and Poehler have experience, having hosted the Golden Globes for highly rated back-to-back broadcasts.
“They both jumped at the chance,” he said, adding that they had responded to a text with the message: “New phone. Who dis?”
Held at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, this year’s ceremony was the first time since 1976 that the Emmy Awards had been on a Monday.
The primary reason for the Monday night broadcast was football, among other scheduling headaches.
Honoring excellence in the television industry, the Emmy Awards ceremony has gained popularity. About 17.8 million viewers tuned into the broadcast of the Emmy Awards last year, when Neil Patrick Harris hosted. That was up 34 percent from 2012 and the highest since 2005, according to Nielsen.
The three-hour show set the stage on Monday for a number of battles. Broadcasters tried to defend their turf against being completely shut out of the top series categories. HBO, the perennial leader, with 99 nominations this year, fought to hold on to its claim of winning more Emmys than any broadcast network. And the streaming service Netflix posed a growing threat to the industry establishment with its 31 nominations.
The late-night wars also took center stage. Meyers, known for his longtime “Weekend Update” segment on “Saturday Night Live,” took over as host on NBC’s “Late Night” in February after Jimmy Fallon left to host “The Tonight Show.” Meyers called on a parade of other late-night hosts to present during the ceremony, including Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and Stephen Colbert, who will succeed David Letterman as host of CBS’ “The Late Show” in 2015.
Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central won the award for outstanding series.
Though the evening’s focus was on comedy, the ceremony also took on a more somber note. Billy Crystal paid tribute during the show’s memorial segment to Robin Williams, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor and comedian, who died this month.
“As genius as he was on stage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine,” Crystal said. “It is very hard to talk about him in the past, because he was so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy.”
Television was long deemed a lesser art than film, but Monday’s awards showed how those lines had been blurring, especially as Hollywood stars increasingly took on television projects.
Matthew McConaughey, who won an Academy Award for best actor this year, was nominated for his performance as Detective Rust Cohle in HBO’s “True Detective.” Oscar winner Julia Roberts was also nominated, for her role in “The Normal Heart,” an HBO movie about the HIV-AIDS crisis. (She didn’t win. Taking home the prize for the category was Kathy Bates, who played the evil Madame Delphine LaLaurie in FX’s American Horror Story.)
“The Normal Heart” was named best television movie.
McConaughey was the butt of several jokes on Monday night. Kimmel poked fun at him, saying he probably didn’t even own a television. “That is not a television face. That is a movie star face,” he said, telling the audience to look at Ricky Gervais, who was nominated for best actor in a comedy series for his Netflix show “Derek.”
“That is not even really a television face,” Kimmel said. “That is a Netflix face.”
McConaughey presented the award for lead actor in a miniseries or movie with his “True Detective” co-star Woody Harrelson.
The first award of the evening went to Ty Burrell for his role as Phil Dunphy in ABC’s “Modern Family.” The prize was the second Emmy win for Burrell. The award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series went to Allison Janney for her role as Bonnie Plunkett in “Mom” on CBS. The award for outstanding writing for a comedy series went to Louis C.K. for the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of “Louie” on the FX network. The award was the sixth Emmy win for Louis C.K.