The big winner of the night was “Modern Family,” ABC’s universally beloved comedy, which took outstanding comedy for the second year in a row, plus another four Emmys — for its writing and directing and also for supporting actor and actress Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen, who, as the frequently frantic Phil and Claire Dunphy, are arguably the best players in one of television’s strongest and funniest ensembles. But all the awards and baseline acclaim can mean only one thing to TV’s most discerning (and finicky) viewers: We’re about half a season away from wondering whether “Modern Family” is still funny. Success is like that.
Kyle Chandler took the drama acting prize for the sentimentally favored football saga “Friday Night Lights,” which was so good it had to migrate to a satellite service on which fewer people than ever got to watch it, but did so with those clear eyes and full hearts. Julianna Margulies took a much-deserved Emmy for her starring role in the CBS drama “The Good Wife.” And Kate Winslet classed up the evening accepting her Emmy for HBO’s “Mildred Pierce,” making it seem as victorious as her Oscar a couple of years back. It turns out she overreacts to just about any award.
The drama category had some other nice surprises: a supporting actor award for Peter Dinklage as the most likable of the conniving Lannister siblings in HBO’s fantasy “Game of Thrones”; a writing Emmy for “Friday Night Lights”; and a supporting actress award for Margo Martindale of “Justified,” the always-good FX crime yarn in which she played perhaps the meanest moonshinin’ mama who ever lived. (And, um, spoiler alert, contained within her acceptance speech — meanest moonshinin’ mama who ever died. Sorry, Netflixers.)
More wins for stuff we can all pretty much agree on: The British castle drama “Downton Abbey,” the most excitement PBS has generated in a while, got three Emmys for outstanding miniseries, writing and directing. Barry Pepper, who as Robert F. Kennedy was the only memorable thing in Reelz Channel’s “The Kennedys,” won an acting prize, as did Guy Pearce for his supporting role in “Mildred Pierce.”
But who was still watching at this point? Even Martin Scorsese, who won the drama directing Emmy for HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” gave a flat acceptance speech made up of a list of hastily read names. (For those who keep track of boutique TV, HBO won four awards during the evening.)