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‘Family’ friendly

On big night for ‘Modern Family,’ Emmys also go to ‘FNL,’ ‘Mad Men’

Juliana Margulies Julianna Margulies accepts the Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her role on "The Good Wife." (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 19, 2011

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A few shockers, a couple of predictable wins, a “Modern Family’’ sweep, a “Downton Abbey’’ love-fest, and maybe a disappointment or two or three. It was a long but happy Emmy Awards telecast last night, helped enormously by Jane Lynch’s ease in creating a light atmosphere. Some of her material was subpar - that opening “TV wonderland’’ number was a TV wasteland - but she was ever likable.

About that “Modern Family’’ sweep: While most of the drama prizes were divied up among different series, including “Mad Men’’ as best drama and Julianna Margulies as best actress for “The Good Wife,’’ five of the seven comedy awards went to the ABC hit, for directing, writing, supporting actor, supporting actress, and best comedy. “Welcome back to the ‘Modern Family’ awards,’’ Lynch announced at one point.

Next year, “Parks and Recreation,’’ next year.

The jaw-drop moment on the drama side was Kyle Chandler’s win for best actor, especially since he was up against Jon Hamm’s outrageously good work on “Mad Men.’’ Chandler’s win, along with Jason Katims’s for best writing, was a “Friday Night Lights’’ fan’s revenge fantasy come true. It didn’t make up for years of Emmy ignorance, but it helped. Alas, Chandler’s character, Coach Eric Taylor, delivers profound speeches to motivate his players; Chandler’s acceptance speech was just OK.

Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell of “Modern Family’’ were the night’s first winners. Looking bone thin, with cleavage down to her navel, Bowen was gracious enough. But Burrell delivered a standout Emmy thank you; it was honest, sentimental, and very funny, as he imagined his late father fixating on the fact that he wears makeup on the set. So he’s great on and off the show.

Melissa McCarthy was a surprise winner for best actress in a comedy, after all the nominees stood together onstage, a line of amazingly talented women from Amy Poehler and Edie Falco to Martha Plimpton, Laura Linney, and Tina Fey. McCarthy stood like a pageant winner wearing a tiara and holding a bouquet, delivering an exhilarating acceptance speech. Too bad “Mike and Molly’’ is so . . . not a winner.

Jim Parsons’s second win in a row was also a surprise; all the odds were on Steve Carell, for his seven seasons on “The Office.’’ Parsons talked, but audience members were still holding their breath, as Charlie Sheen had just presented the prize. Sheen was all sideburns, sanity, and seriousness, looking like a deer in the headlights. “From the bottom of my heart,’’ he said to the people on “Two and a Half Men,’’ “I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season.’’

“Downton Abbey’’ took the best miniseries prize, as well as best writer, director, and supporting actress for Maggie Smith. It was pleasing to see Kate Winslet so exuberant about her best actress statue for “Mildred Pierce,’’ proving an Emmy doesn’t have to be meaningless after an Oscar.

Of note: Peter Dinklage, best supporting actor for his phenomenal performance in “Game of Thrones,’’ thanked his dog sitter; best actress winner Margulies gave praise that her husband is not a politician; and Margo Martindale noted that “sometimes things just take time’’ before she let loose a major “Justified’’ spoiler. Ah well. Martindale was rightly rewarded for creating one of the year’s most layered villains.

Is it possible that Lynch’s “TV wonderland’’ number - as she walked among characters from “The Big Bang Theory,’’ “Parks and Recreation,’’ and “Mad Men,’’ where she hit on Peggy - actually did not contain a single funny line? Is it possible that the Emmytones - a group of singing actors including Zachary Levi and Joel McHale - sounded awful and weren’t funny? Yes, my friends, it is possible.

And yet, the event, produced by Mark Burnett, didn’t tank either. Maybe I was just in a good mood. A little wrestling match between Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel was cute; Lynch talking about her gay agenda, which included taking her pickup for an oil change, was smart snark; and a mash-up that found Ashton Kutcher, Aaron Paul, and Aziz Ansari in “The Office’’ was diverting. The Lonely Island comedy team brought a medley to the stage, and they freaked out William H. Macy in the audience.

Lynch teased the actors and mocked the event and yet never seemed self-righteous. “A lot of people are curious as to why I’m a lesbian,’’ she said in an introduction. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the cast of ‘Entourage.’ ’’

Sure, there were lulls in the night, including Martin Scorsese’s acceptance speech for directing the “Boardwalk Empire’’ pilot, and the use of the over-overused “Hallelujah’’ for the obituary segment. Any awards show worth its salt gets the bloat.

The E! red carpet seemed to be sponsored by “Glee.’’ Chris Colfer, Lynch, Darren Criss, and Dianna Agron took their moments at the mike; and a Betty Boopy Lea Michele was all “look at me, I’m not a diva, or maybe I am’’ in bright red. Was there a locker-room pep talk on the “Glee’’ set about scoring on the red carpet, or did Lynch have a clause in her contract?

The cartoon parade continued with Sofia “Jessica Rabbit’’ Vergara in orange and Jon “Tennessee Tuxedo’’ Cryer, who said he planned to thank Sheen if he won. Zooey “Cinderella’’ Deschanel looked a little demented in a poofy pink maypole gown; she seemed like a Gilda Radner character, saying she’d use the pockets to hide doughnuts for later in the night.

The best moment had to be Paula Abdul, who used to work with Ryan Seacrest on “American Idol’’ before, well, she didn’t anymore. “Idol’’ producer Nigel Lythgoe joined the clutch for an awkward little exchange, which found Abdul a beat behind everyone else, not least of all when she compared Simon Cowell’s testicles to blueberries. Oh yeah. “The X Factor,’’ here we come.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

Lea Michele

Emmy red carpet scene

Red proved a popular color worn by stars at this year's awards show. Pictured: "Glee" actress Lea Michele.
Show highlights

Show highlights

See on stage highlights and wins from the 63d Emmy Awards.