TV Article

'Breaking Bad' Goes Out On Top

HBO and Netflix were simply no match for Walter White & Co. at the 2014 Emmys

Primetime Emmy Awards 2014
Image credit: Larry Busacca/NBC/Getty

Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston, and Vince Gilligan

If you're one of the unlucky few who haven't had a chance to finish Breaking Bad yet, we're just going to go ahead and tell you how the show ends: with a huge pile of Emmys. The Aug. 25 ceremony—hosted by the eager-to-please Seth Meyers—doubled as a farewell tour for AMC's critical darling, which took home the night's biggest drama prizes, including outstanding series, lead actor, supporting actor and actress, and writing. (If outstanding pencil mustache were a category, Bryan Cranston would've taken that, too.)

''It's an embarrassment of riches,'' said Aaron Paul, who scored his third supporting-actor Emmy. ''This is probably one of the longest goodbyes in television history, and it's a damn good one.... We were so stunned about not only the win for the show but how the whole evening played out.''

Even peers from competing shows insisted they were okay with Breaking Bad's gold rush. ''We knew going into the night it was going to be tough,'' said David Benioff, co-showrunner for HBO's Game of Thrones, which came into the night with five nominations but went home empty-handed. (Thrones did win four Creative Arts Emmys on Aug. 16.) ''If you're going to lose to any show, it might as well be Breaking Bad.''

So where did all this leave True Detective, the hot HBO program thought to be the one to beat this year? That's a philosophical quandary even Matthew McConaughey's Rust Cohle might have had trouble with. For all its movie stars and buzz, TD earned just one award—the directing prize, claimed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, plus its four Creative Arts wins. In retrospect, the show might've suffered because it submitted in the drama race rather than the more logical (and perhaps less challenging) miniseries category. ''HBO does so many great things that, to some degree, they have to decide not only who they're going to compete with, but who of their own product [to promote]," said AMC president Charlie Collier. (Both McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were nominated for lead actor, and TD faced off against the network's GoT in best drama.) ''So it's a hard choice. I thought [True Detective] was an amazing piece of television.'' American Horror Story: Coven's Sarah Paulson sees it as a sign of the Academy's enduring affection for Breaking Bad—not a slight against the newcomer. ''[They decided] to honor the show that's been on for seven years over the soup du jour.''

Similarly, it was a tough night for Netflix, which was up for 11 awards, including best comedy series for the genre-defying Orange Is the New Black, but got shut out. (It did take home three Creative Arts Emmys, including Uzo Aduba for outstanding guest actress.) ''We're in the vanguard,'' said OITNB's Kate Mulgrew, who lost in the supporting-actress category. ''I would say we are in the golden age [of TV] crossed with the Wild West.'' Costar Lea DeLaria agreed: ''Until the Academy has a dramedy category, this is what is going to happen to shows like ours.'' Julie Bowen—star of Modern Family, which took home its fifth consecutive Emmy for comedy series—feels their pain. ''I really do wish there was a different category. Like, an hour-long-comedy category,'' she told EW. ''The show should be recognized, I just don't know how. Maybe with money? Money!''

But for all the hand-wringing about digital upstarts and movie stars encroaching on TV's turf, Emmy voters managed to keep their focus...on mainstays Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Allison Janney (Mom), The Amazing Race, The Colbert Report, and Modern Family. In fact, of the 12 acting awards given out that night, 10 went to previous Emmy winners. ''There weren't major surprises,'' mused Scandal's Kate Burton. ''I love Modern Family and Breaking Bad, and as time wears on, I'm happy they're still our standard-bearers.'' Said the admittedly biased chairman of NBC Entertainment Robert Greenblatt, ''I was actually thrilled that a bunch of network shows won. Seth was obviously joking about [giving all the awards to cable or streaming shows], but that's something we think about.''

While surprises were scarce, Emmy voters did make a few choices that were not elementary (sorry): Sherlock: His Last Vow shined in the miniseries/movie field—though Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, who won actor and supporting actor, respectively, skipped the show. Asked if the actors would've attended had they suspected they'd win, Sherlock writer/exec producer/actor Mark Gatiss replied, ''Oh, yeah. But I'm going to advise them to stay away from now on—it obviously works!''

The emotional highlight of the night came, as expected, during the ''In Memoriam'' tribute to this year's fallen TV stars, including Robin Williams, who committed suicide on Aug. 11. After a deeply touching tribute from longtime friend Billy Crystal, producers played a clip reel of some of his most memorable TV appearances, ending with a scene from a stand-up special in which Williams recalls a conversation about life—and laughter—with one of his kids. ''It honored him in the most perfect way,'' said presenter Viola Davis, who called it the best part of the night. ''The tribute ended with such a poignant moment, not with just him cracking jokes, but with him saying something deep and meaningful.''

Originally posted Aug 28, 2014 Published in issue #1327 Sep 05, 2014 Order article reprints
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