What's behind Emmy surprises? Were voters drunk?
Some pundits like me put too much emphasis on evaluating the episodes submitted to Emmy voters as examples of their best work. Usually, the longest episodes win, but appearing in two-hour specials of "Monk" and "House M.D." didn't help Tony Shalhoub or Hugh Laurie. Instead, another voter bias paid off for Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"): appearing drunk in "The Pants Alternative." Hollywood voters are suckers for that — Jeff Bridges just nabbed an Oscar for the awful "Crazy Heart" to prove it. Perhaps the theme of substance abuse helped Bryan Cranston to prevail for a third year in a row as crystal-meth cook in "Breaking Bad." Is it a coincidence that Edie Falco triumphed as a pill-gobbling hospital worker in "Nurse Jackie"?
Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer") had the strongest episode submission among all nominees for best drama actress, but we made the mistake of believing that buzz and momentum would carry along Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife") after previously winning the Golden Globe and SAG Award (and an Emmy victory in 1995 for "E.R."). Ditto for Globe and SAG champ Michael C. Hall ("Dexter"), who gave judges the powerhouse season finale episode but still wasn't enough to stop the Cranston momentum.
However, "The Amazing Race" Emmy juggernaut finally stalled. It didn't get derailed by "American Idol," as I had predicted, but by "Top Chef." That was one of the biggest shocks of the night along with Archie Panjabi's victory as supporting drama actress for "The Good Wife."
But "The Daily Show" romp, mysteriously, continues. Not even boatloads of Hollywood sentiment behind Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show," the vast popularity of Betty White's stellar episode of "Saturday Night Live" or Stephen Colbert's gutsy visit to Iraq in his "Colbert Report" submission could topple "Daily Show." Why? I don't have a clue.
Turns out I didn't have a clue about a lot of Emmy categories this year. Easily, this was my worst bout ever as a pundit. I will continue my mea culpa Monday when I attempt to fathom further what happened tonight.
Photo: Jim Parsons in "The Pants Alternative" of "The Big Bang Theory." (CBS)