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Biggest Emmy surprises: Ken Howard, Cherry Jones and . . . ?

September 20, 2009 |  9:48 pm

The two biggest Emmy Award upsets of the night came in supporting categories. No pundit on the planet picked Ken Howard for his featherweight role as the tycoon who ditches Jessica Lange in "Grey Gardens." He beat big grandstanding performances by "Little Dorrit" stars Tom Courtenay and Andy Serkis. Makes me wonder if the voters in this category actually watched all eight hours of "Dorrit." Easily, Courtenay gave the best dramatic performance in this race, but his big scenes came near the end of the mini.

Emmy awards ken howard

I'm glad "Dorrit" won best mini. I'm a sucker for Charles Dickens adaptations, but I had suspected that most Emmy voters wouldn't watch it so therefore would be tempted to pick "Generation Kill" instead because of its political relevance, being about U.S. combat in Iraq. Maybe voters in this category actually watched "Dorrit" because there were only two nominees in this race — instead of five like supporting actor. There are different judges deciding each category.

Cherry Jones wasn't expected to win supporting drama series actress for her role as the U.S. president in "24," but her victory is sweet kudos recompense considering the poor dear recently lost out on an Oscar nomination when Meryl Streep stole her role in "Doubt," which earned Jones a Tony when she performed the role on Broadway. But how the heck did Jones beat both Rose Byrne ("Damages") and last year's champ (and double Oscar winner), Dianne Wiest  ("In Treatment")?

Jon Cryer's win was a bit of a surprise, but we knew he was in the running. He submitted a good episode of "Two and a Half Men" ("Sir Lancelot's Litterbos") to Emmy judges, and his silly, slapstick character is in the tradition of past wins by David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier") as a put-upon TV brother. (Here is a full list of episodes submitted to Emmy judges by nominees as examples of their best work.)  

Ian McKellan ("King Lear") was picked by most pundits to win lead actor in a TV movie/miniseries, but the victory by Brendan Gleeson ("Into the Storm") makes sense considering Albert Finney ("The Gathering Storm") won this category in 2002 for taking on the same role as Winston Churchill during World War II. Over the last 20 years, most winners here portrayed real-life people.

Most pundits were picking Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") to win supporting drama actor, but we all had Michael Emerson ("Lost") in second place. Paul probably lost because voters held his character's backstory (he peddles drugs to kids) against him.

No, no, Kristin Chenoweth's victory for "Pushing Daisies" isn't a surprise. I had predicted she'd win.

Obviously, voters are Oscar snobs too. Two-time champ Jessica Lange won for lead actress for a TV role in "Grey Gardens" for a role that most of us defined as supporting. Thus, many of us predicted that Sigourney Weaver ("Prayers for Bobby") would win instead, but we're not surprised by Lange's win. Because we know how Emmy voters think.

Photo: Ken Howard / HBO

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