Jon Cryer seems as perplexed as we are that he won an Emmy last night. (Paul Buck/EPA )
“Two and a Half Men” won as many Emmys this year as “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Girls” combined.
How did this happen? And why, outside of “Homeland’s” coronation as TV’s best drama, did the evening’s “surprises” feel stale and a tad bit dispiriting?
Let’s review the tape of last night’s show and gather a few lessons:
1) Don’t bet against Maggie Smith. Ever.
Don’t get us wrong. We’ve enjoyed watching Smith’s sour pickle face on “Downton Abbey” these last two seasons. She looks great in purple, cuts people down to size like nobody’s business and could win a staring contest with a diamondback rattler. But, let’s face it, Smith probably makes withering remarks in her sleep. (“Look at that dreadful woman in my dream! Dear me, she shouldn’t wear black!”) For this she wins an Emmy over Christina Hendricks, who, in “The Other Woman” episode of "Mad Men," sells herself for a partnership at the advertising agency? (“Well, it’s like going up against Betty White,” remarked someone at the Governors Ball last night. “What are you going to do?”)
What will a member of the “Mad Men” ensemble have to do to win an acting Emmy? The mind buckles. Which brings us to …
2) “Mad Men” goes 0-17
All things must pass, but “Mad Men’s” run of Emmy glory flamed out in a spectacular fashion. Not only did the show not win a record fifth consecutive Emmy for drama series, it didn’t win anything. At all. Talking to pundits and television academy members today, explanations ranged from “voter fatigue” to a need to send a message to “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, i.e.: “Get over yourself.” This shut out Hendricks, Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, as well as the writers and the team responsible for Jessica Pare’s mod hairdo, where, again the Dowager prevailed.
3) But why “Homeland” over “Breaking Bad”?
It’s still possible that “Breaking Bad” might win a drama series Emmy for one of its two remaining eight-episode runs. It also remains well within the realm of possibility that Hamm will take a lead actor Emmy and that Earthlings will join forces with our newfound friends from the planet Zutron and colonize Mars within our lifetime. After last night, we’re not putting money on any of these propositions, though.
Older voters’ prejudices against “Breaking Bad” — “too dark,” “too methamphetamine-y,” “I don’t like that ironic use of Nat King Cole … I don’t like it one bit” — made the rounds, but, in the end, “Homeland’s” victory for drama series made perfect sense. The show is great, and it’s about Something Important in a way that’s a little more obvious than watching Walter White’s soul slowly rot away.
4) And speaking of obvious: Ladies and gentlemen, Jon Cryer
“That this has happened is ridiculous,” Cryer said, receiving the Emmy for lead actor in a comedy. We couldn’t agree more. Backstage, Cryer worked the interview room and was genuinely funny. We laughed more in the five minutes we spent with him than we have watching any random episode of “Two and a Half Men” on those long, cross-country flights when every other viewing option on the airplane has been tragically disabled.
The message here and throughout the comedy categories seemed crystal clear: If broadcast networks can’t make decent one-hour dramas anymore, voters are going to circle the wagons and reward comedies whenever possible, both deserving (“Modern Family,” though, c’mon, spread the wealth will you?) and ridiculous.
Oscar 8-Ball: 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
Oscar 8-Ball: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom'
Focus' new Oscar focus: Gus Van Sant's 'Promised Land'