Ellen Gray: Glee-ful Emmy Awards

Posted: August 30, 2010

THERE ACTUALLY were upsets and first-time winners at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, but on a night when AMC's "Mad Men" won best drama for the third year in a row and ABC's "Modern Family" won for comedy, perhaps the biggest surprise was that the awards show itself was entertaining.

The evening got off to a "Glee"-ful start, with a pretaped opening in which host Jimmy Fallon put together a pickup team of singers from the cast of the Fox hit series and from assorted other nominees - Jon Hamm ("Mad Men"), Tina Fey ("30 Rock") and Jorge Garcia("Lost") among them - for a performance of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" that ended on the stage of the Nokia Theater.

(This, along with Fallon's later musical tribute to three departed series - Fox's "24," NBC's "Law & Order" and ABC's "Lost" - should be in heavy rotation on YouTube or on NBC.com this morning.)

Talk of a possible "Glee" sweep quieted down when Eric Stonestreet of "Modern Family" won for supporting actor in a comedy, delivering a moving speech that brought his onscreen partner - and fellow nominee - Jesse Tyler Ferguson to tears even before Stonestreet said that he'd be sending the Emmy to his parents so they can see "what you made possible."

"Modern Family" creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd won for writing.

"Glee" fought back with a supporting actress win for Jane Lynch and a directing win for creator Ryan Murphy.

Bravo's "Top Chef" broke the seven-win streak of CBS' "The Amazing Race" in the reality-competition category, though perhaps the biggest indication of how seriously the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences now takes unscripted television was the inclusion of Captain Phil Harris, of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch," in the tribute to those in the industry who died in the past year.

Bryan Cranston, star of AMC's "Breaking Bad," extended his wins for lead actor in a drama to three in a row, and was joined in the winner's circle by co-star Aaron Paul, who won his first Emmy for supporting actor, while Kyra Sedgwick (TNT's "The Closer") won for lead actress, drama.

Other winners included Jim Parsons (CBS' "The Big Bang Theory") for lead actor, comedy; Edie Falco (Showtime's "Nurse Jackie") for lead actress, comedy (despite her contention that "I am not funny"); and Archie Panjabi ("The Good Wife"), for supporting actress, drama.

HBO's "Temple Grandin," a biography of a girl with autism who grew up to become an animal-science professor and best-selling author, won for made-for-TV movie and for directing, and picked up acting awards for Claire Danes, Julia Ormond and David Strathairn, while Grandin herself looked on from the audience.

Northeast Philadelphia's Adam Mazer won for writing the HBO movie "You Don't Know Jack," which also scored a win for Al Pacino as lead actor in a movie or miniseries.

"I'm so grateful that you're my friend," the George Washington High grad told the subject of the film, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, also in attendance. "I'm even more grateful that you're not my physician."

As always, there were awards that couldn't be squeezed into three hours of prime time, including:

* The Life Imitating Art Award: To Matthew Morrison, of "Glee," who brought as his guest the Orange County high-school teacher who'd steered him away from jockdom and toward theater.

* The Beat the Clock Award: To Fallon, who got his first Conan O'Brien joke in at 8:08 p.m., before he'd even caught his breath from the opening number: "NBC asking the host of 'Late Night' to come to Los Angeles to host a different show. What could possibly go wrong?" as the camera cut to a certain red-headed nominee, looking mock-grim. "Too soon?" (O'Brien, whose short-lived version of NBC's "Tonight Show" was nominated, lost to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.")

* Best Use of Humanitarian Award Winner George Clooney in a Totally Random Bit: The pretaped piece in which a network suit tries to persuade the cast of "Modern Family" to make a few small changes (one of which involves killing off a cast member and having Clooney replace him).

* Mrs. Malaprop Award: To supporting actress winner Ormond ("Temple Grandin") who said she told her mother she was "eminated for a Nommy" and referred to one of her co-stars, another nominee, as "Catherine O'Whatsername." Fittingly, Ormond's own last name was misspelled onscreen. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com or follow me at twitter.com/elgray.

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