Cable shines, gala flops at Emmys

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Last night, the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards got many things right, and a whole lotta things wrong. Cable networks continued to stack their trophy cases and prove they're better than the broadcast behemoths with major wins, and the big victors of the evening--both of which barely move the needle in the ratings department--showed once again that American viewers just don't watch the quality stuff.

But the big story of the gala was the cringe-worthy ceremony, which is being labeled a disaster by those unfortunate enough to have sat through it.

Instead of using the tired-and-true (editor's note: that's not a typo) format of one bad host emceeing the show, ABC opted to use five: reality-show hosts Jeff Probst (Survivor), Ryan Seacrest (American Idol), Howie Mandel (Deal or No Deal), Heidi Klum (Project Runway), and Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars). The idea was a nod to the first ever Emmy for reality-show hosts, in which all five were nominated (Probst eventually won).

Much of the program felt canned, hacked, and flat, and even some of the stars took notice. Jeremy Piven, after accepting his third Emmy for his role as giant-sized A-hole Ari Gold in Entourage, didn't get too far out of character with his criticism of the show's bland opening. The outspoken actor told Access Hollywood backstage, "To be honest with you, I was having this moment watching it where I didn't know where I was. I didn’t know what was happening... I thought we were being Punk'd as an audience," referring to Ashton Kutcher's prank show.

Preliminary Nielsen ratings numbers show that the event wasn't swallowed well by viewers, either. In adults aged 18-49, viewership was down 12 percent from last year's atrocity, averaging 12.2 million, according to Nielsen. And as the show went on, more and more people tuned out--the broadcast started with more than 13 million and within an hour dropped to less than 12 million. This trend of passing on television's biggest event is a continuing one--ratings have sunk each of the last four years. Compare that to the turn of the millennium, where the Emmys broadcast grabbed an average of more than 20 million viewers, and it's obvious that the event is due for a makeover.

But as awry as the evening's program went, it's hard to deny that Academy members got much of the voting correct. The two big prizes went to AMC's Mad Men for best drama and NBC's 30 Rock for best comedy (two years running), which only pull in a fraction of the ratings that reality slop shovels into its gullets. Emmy producers take note: Both shows also won the big writing awards...perhaps they can write next year's ceremony?

In the major acting categories, 30 Rock swept comedy with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, and Glenn Close (Damages) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) took the dramatic acting awards. With all due respect to Mad Men's Jon Hamm, House's Hugh Laurie, and Dexter's Michael C. Hall, I'd like to give a hearty thumbs up to the Academy for praising Cranston, who absolutely transforms himself as Walter White in AMC's excellent Breaking Bad.

On the supporting side, Piven took gold for comedy, Jean Smart was recognized for Samantha Who?, Dianne Wiest further stocked her award-rich mantle for In Treatment, and Damages' Zeljko Ivanek upset Lost's Michael Emerson for supporting actor in a drama. Really? Did the Academy voters not see Emerson's season-long stranglehold on season four of Lost?

Chances are that if you worked on HBO's miniseries John Adams, you grabbed an Emmy. The seven-part epic won the hardware for best miniseries, every acting category it was nominated in (Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, and Tom Wilkinson), writing for a miniseries, as well as the eight trophies it took home from last week's creative arts Emmys. All in all, John Adams broke the record for most Emmys won by a miniseries with 13. Not bad for a dude who wears a wig.

The many strides to the podium taken by cable network (both premium and basic) stars reconfirm what's been developing over the past few years: Cable is the place for good television. Mad Men won basic cable's first-ever best drama award, and it won't be its last. Aside from NBC's irreverent 30 Rock, which, let's face it, is very "cable-esque," cable dominated the night. To all you holdouts: Time to ditch those rabbit ears and pony up for the deluxe cable package.

One last gripe: HBO's The Wire, which concluded its stellar five-season run earlier this year, ends its critically acclaimed career with a grand total of zeroEmmys. Injustice. For more on the Emmys, check out TV.com's coverage with interactive polls, photos, and more!

Below is a list of the winners (in bold) and nominees of the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. For a full list of winners, head over to the official Web site of the Emmys.

Best Drama Series
Boston Legal
Damages
Dexter
House
Lost
Mad Men

Best Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Entourage
The Office
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
James Spader, Boston Legal

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Glenn Close, Damages
Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Lead Comedy Actor
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Lead Comedy Actress
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?

Supporting Drama Actress
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers and Sisters
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy

Supporting Drama Actor
William Shatner, Boston Legal
Ted Danson, Damages
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages
John Slattery, Mad Men
Michael Emerson, Lost

Supporting Comedy Actress
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Jean Smart, Samantha Who?
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Comedy Supporting Actor
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Rainn Wilson, The Office

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