10 Best Moments at the Emmys, circa 2012

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It was a big night for Homeland, Modern Family, Game Change, and Louis C.K. and a very small (or not at all) night for Breaking Bad, Mad Men (0 for 17; ouch), Girls, and Downton Abbey. But who cares about that when you have all that false humility and gravity-defying cleavage to gape at?

Think of the Emmys as the less uptight sibling of the Oscars. If the Academy Awards are the pompous uncle who prefaces every utterance with the stamp of importance, then the Emmys are the fun aunt who gets tipsy and tells ribald stories at backyard barbecues.

10. Best Bad Joke: Host Jimmy Kimmel had plenty of great jokes, but sometimes they were so wrong they could only be right. “HBO got 81 nominations,” he said. “But it was a bumpy year. Luck was canceled.” Then Kimmel offered a bit of horse sense: “By the way, if you’re going to the HBO afterparty, don’t eat the sliders.”

9. Most Heartfelt Acceptance Speech: Winning for best supporting actor in a comedy, Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family first of all thanked his onscreen partner. He said of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who was also nominated in the category: “There is no Cam without Mitch.”

8. Best Frenemy Co-Presenters: In their upcoming drama Nashville, Connie Britton plays an aging singer and Hayden Panettiere a scheming upstart. (Think All About Eve set in the world of country music.) On stage, as the two presented the award for best drama, they looked stiff, awkward and uncomfortable, almost like they were trying not to claw out each other’s eyes. That tension should play well on screen.

7. Best Fast Food Reference: In a skit where the actress who plays 3-year-old Lily on Modern Family terrorizes her castmates, she eats a Chik-fil-A sandwich in front of Ferguson (who is gay in real life) and taunts him: “I know what I’m going to serve at my wedding.”

6. Best Bad TV Reference: Thank you, Homeland dudes, for the evening’s sole Spenser for Hire reference. It didn’t top Seth McFarlane’s crack about Joey Greco, which is the only Cheaters reference you’re likely to hear at the Emmys — tonight or ever.

5. Best Humblebrag: And the award goes to… Modern Family’s Steve Levitan who won for directing a comedy series and said, “I want to thank me for hiring me as a director when nobody else would. A friend said to me: ‘With your cast, your writers, and your crew, a complete idiot could direct your show.’ I think we’ve proven that tonight.”

4. Best Blink and You’ll Miss It Moment: Dustin Hoffman made a surprise appearance, peeping through Mrs. Robinson’s leg. That’d be modern Dustin Hoffman peeping through vintage Mrs. Robinson’s stocking-clad leg. And it still works!

3. Most Shamless Act of Nepotism: Anyway you cut it, giving a best directing Emmy — even if it’s for another show — to the guy who’s sitting in the booth directing the Emmys, stinks of bias.

2. Best Genuine Look of Surprise: When Jon Cryer beat a field of strong contenders, including Alec Baldwin and Louis C.K., to win best actor in a comedy series, everyone seemed shocked. Especially Jon Cryer. “Don’t worry people,” Cryer said. “Something has clearly gone wrong.” Talk about #winning.

1. Most Obvious Case of Highway Robbery: Let’s just make sure we understand: Breaking Bad, which is in its brilliant final season and comes into the awards show as both a fan and critical favorite, walks away with a whopping total of one Emmy (Aaron Paul for supporting actor in a drama), while Homeland in its first season gets four: best lead actor, best lead actress, best writing and best drama. This is TV’s equivalent of the perfectly acceptable but middling How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon for a Best Picture Oscar.

BONUS: Best Gag: A bit in which some of the lady nominees — including Zooey Deschanel, Kathy Bates, Mindy Kaling, and Connie Britton — hear wailing in a restroom stall and open the door to find a naked Lena Dunham gorging on cake.

Full List of Emmy 2012 Winners

Outstanding Drama: Homeland
Outstanding Writing in a Drama: Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff – Homeland
Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series: Tim Van Patten – Boardwalk Empire
Outstanding Actress in a Drama: Claire Danes – Homeland
Outstanding Actor in a Drama: Damian Lewis – Homeland
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama: Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama: Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Jeremy Davies – Justified
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Martha Plimpton – The Good Wife
Outstanding Comedy: Modern Family
Outstanding Writing in a Comedy: Louis C.K. – Louie
Outstanding Directing in a Comedy: Steven Levitan – Modern Family
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy: Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy: Jon Cryer – Two and a Half Men
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Julie Bowen – Modern Family
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Jimmy Fallon – Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Kathy Bates – Two and a Half Men
Outstanding Movie or Miniseries: Game Change
Outstanding Directing in a Miniseries or Movie: Jay Roach – Game Change
Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries or Movie: Danny Strong – Game Change
Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Kevin Costner – Hatfields & McCoys
Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Julianne Moore – Game Change
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange – American Horror Story
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Tom Berenger – Hatfields & McCoys
Outstanding Reality Show Competition: The Amazing Race
Outstanding Host in a Reality or Reality-Competition Program: Tom Bergeron – Dancing with the Stars
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special: Glenn Weiss – The 65th Tony Awards
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special: Louis C.K. – Live at the Beacon Theatre

[Louis C.K. and Amy Poehler photo from Emmys.com. Lena Dunham photo from Twitter.com.]