Claire Danes of 'Homeland'
Claire Danes of 'Homeland'

The sweep made by New Kid on the Block “Homeland” shocked many, including myself, who thought that the show was just too new to plant that kind of stake. This smartly scripted series oozes a paranoia-steeped atmosphere and really defines edge-of-the-seat entertainment, but it’s too plot-heavy and nowhere near as nuanced or contemplative as “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men,” which were virtually shut out last night. “Homeland” is not as cinematic as these AMC shows, and is more self-congratulatory about its Serious Acting than anything else, but the Emmys did shake things up a bit by awarding this show over what seemed to be lock contenders.

Nor can it be said there were no reasons as to why the Academy was “over” the ever-Emmy-gobbling “Mad Men” this year, denying the program all 17 of its nominations. But Jon Hamm is so, so overdue, as is Elisabeth Moss, annually shut out because her performance as Peggy, staid and pensive with some flashes of ferocity, is too slight when pitted against bigger, louder characters like Danes’ Carrie Mathison or Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes on "Damages." And woe upon Glenn Close. This was her last shot at an Emmy for the late “Damages,” after winning in 2008 and 2009. Voters must see something off-putting in this woman. She’s been nominated for six Oscars within 30 years and has won nary a one.

Ambling and aimless, I spent most of the night in the media center, standing in back of the press conferences where winners were met by a barrage of subpar questions and gave subpar answers in return. But this is a great time to see the winners aglow, and a little unhinged. There was an incident in the VIP Room where a certain slovenly actor known for passing out onstage and making ridiculous scenes was shouting at production staff about gift bags and handcarts. I enjoyed these small moments of depravity in a night of sparkling pristine, where every flyaway hair must be put in its place and where publicists will physically shove you out of their way to do so.

Amid this very long night — made even longer by the now notorious dragging-on of the Miniseries/Movie categories, because even I don’t know who watches these things — were small moments of tenderness to which I was an accidental voyeur: watching an actress, who did not know she was being watched, standing alone outside the theater, as she set down her trophy and tied her hair up in a ponytail; another nominee walking barefoot in the street, not bothering to lift her dress off the ground.

Seeing all these celebrities milling about in such a profoundly ordinary way, especially after witnessing the Grand Guignol theater of the red carpet in all its gruesomeness, was the highlight of my Emmy experience. These showy telecasts lose their gravity and significance more and more each year, but they acquire a certain tragic beauty once you understand the meaninglessness of it all. Jon Stewart, in his F-bombing acceptance speech, totally gets it: “Years from now, when the Earth is just a burning husk and aliens visit, they will find a box of these and they will know just how predictable these fucking awards shows are!”