by Meredith O'Brien
The suave, quiet desperation of Mad Men and the in-your-face witty snark that is 30 Rock triumphed during the 61st Emmy awards . Though the two critically acclaimed, albeit relatively low-rated shows didn’t rule the night as far as the rest of the Emmy awards were concerned – they were up for more awards than they got, particularly 30 Rock -- their best drama and best comedy nods were richly deserved.
I was especially pleased for AMC’s 1960s-set Mad Men  whose second season featured the slow unraveling of the marriage of the two main characters, Don and Betty Draper, where Betty (January Jones) finally had enough of her lothario husband Don’s (Jon Hamm) brazen infidelity and booted the father of her two children out of the house. The last few episodes of the sophomore season featured Betty’s internal struggle over whether to take Don back, especially when she learned she was pregnant. The season also saw Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), once Don’s naïve secretary now a copywriter, get promoted and wind up in an office with her name on the door, while the sexy, smart office manager Joan Holloway decided to marry her doctor fiancé, the guy who date raped her in Don’s office.
Over on NBC, things are much lighter on 30 Rock , helmed by the writer/creator/producer/star Tina Fey. Fey may play Liz Lemon -- the socially awkward, off-center head writer of a Saturday Night Live-like show with no discernable personal life -- but Fey’s work on the small screen (she also won an Emmy for best guest actress for her Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live) and on the big screen, has made her one of the most powerful women in comedy.
Unfortunately for Fey, that power didn’t extend to the best actress in a comedy award this year. That award, in a stunning upset, went to Toni Collette, who stars on Showtime’s United States of Tara  as a mother of two who has three different personalities, officially called dissociative identity disorder. While I don’t think of this dramedy as a straight-out comedy like 30 Rock or Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ The New Adventures of Old Christine , The United States of Tara – created and written by Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody -- does push the limits of family dramedies. Collette, in particular, is the key ingredient to making the show, which could devolve into awful caricature, believable. Watching Collette’s Tara assess the impact of the misbehavior of her “alternate” personalities on her children and ultimately check herself into a mental facility, while not the stuff of classic sitcoms, certainly proved interesting and definitely different than anything else on TV. (Read Mommy Track’d’s take on The United States of Tara's first season  here.)
Among some other repeat Emmy winners were: Glenn Close as a powerful litigator on TNT’s Damages  as best actress in a drama; Bryan Cranston as a cancer-patient-turned-meth-maker in order to provide financially for his wife and teenaged son, who has cerebral palsy, on AMC’s Breaking Bad , and Alec Baldwin as the loopy NBC exec on 30 Rock. In addition to Collette, there were a few other pleasant Emmy surprises. I, for one, did not expect Cherry Jones -- who plays 24 ’s tough-as-nails President Allison Taylor, whose Achilles heel is her conniving grown daughter, and who some thought was an allusion to a potential Hillary Clinton presidency -- to win for best supporting actress in a drama, particularly when she was up against the powerhouse Chandra Wilson from Grey’s Anatomy  who this past season saw her character’s job destroy her marriage and render her a single mom.
Two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange -- who won an Emmy for best actress in a mini-series/movie for HBO’s Grey Gardens  where she played Edie Beale, who lived with her daughter “Little Edie” in their own eccentric world – uttered some of the best lines of the night when she accepted her award saying, “This part was a gift and they don’t come around for me that often anymore.” She used her Emmy to make a parting toast, “To mothers and daughters.”
Who were you toasting at the Emmys? Who, in your humble opinion, got rooked?
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