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Emmys’ Drama Upset

‘Homeland’ Topples ‘Mad Men’

'Mad Men' is triumphant no more. Jace Lacob examines Showtime’s superlative terrorist thriller ‘Homeland,’ which took home the Emmy for best drama Sunday.

Not only did Mad Men not win the Emmy Award for best drama, the AMC period drama went home empty-handed Sunday, leaving the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards with not a single statuette in its possession.

Homeland

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes of “Homeland.” (Showtime)

In the weeks leading up to the awards telecast, Mad Men seemed very much like a sure thing: it had won four of the four times it was eligible for Best Drama, and the odds seemed very much in its favor once more. In fact, Showtime’s Homeland—the taut psychological drama that also nabbed best-actor and -actress awards for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes—had cooled in recent weeks, with Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey poised as far more likely usurpers to Mad Men’s throne.

Yet Homeland did triumph, putting Showtime on the awards map in a very real way and ending the streak maintained by AMC and HBO. It’s not only a victory for showrunners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, but also for the new regime at Showtime overseen by David Nevins, whose support for the fledgling Homeland has paid off in dividends.

However, those scratching their heads over what happened to the once-Teflon Mad Men are missing the point. Homeland’s victory isn’t much of an upset, if we’re being honest. While the least expected choice of the viable ones, the Emmy is still very much deserved. While I’m a staunch supporter of Mad Men (and will continue to be), Homeland is new and shiny, and Emmy voters, like magpies, are often drawn to the glitter of a fresh show. But Homeland is also a highly provocative drama, fueled by paranoia, patriotism, zealotry, and madness.

Homeland wins best drama at the 2012 Emmy's.

Homeland can be viewed on multiple levels: there’s the nuanced character development embodied by Danes’s and Lewis’s characters (and also by the egregiously overlooked Mandy Patinkin’s Saul), who are pitted against one another. Enemies, lovers, confidantes—they ricochet off one another over and over again, causing catastrophic damage every time they come into contact. She’s a secretly bipolar disgraced CIA agent who believes he is an American soldier who has been turned by the enemy. He’s a decorated war veteran who nearly blows himself up with the vice president and a slew of cabinet members. Their secrets are deadly, and they lead to collateral damage of a very real kind.

Danes was a lock for the best-actress race. Her performance as Carrie Mathison is extraordinary and extraordinarily painful to watch at times, particularly as Danes depicts the CIA agent self-destructing on more than one occasion. She renders Carrie’s psychological state as something that is palpably felt and electric: her bipolar disorder is the source of her genius and the genesis of her pain. Watching her is like grabbing a live wire without gloves, and Carrie’s undoing is ultimately that she’s right about Lewis’s Nicholas Brody, but there’s no one left in her life to hear her, a modern-day Cassandra whose words of doom fall on deaf ears.

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Watch This!

10 Buzziest Emmy Moments

‘Homeland’ and ‘Modern Family’ win big—and ‘Mad Men’ loses for the first time. Shannon Donnelly reports.

Lena Dunham Has Her Cake (Naked)

If the entirety of the Emmys were as pithy and ribald as the opening sketch, this would have been an awards show for the ages. Alas, what followed didn’t quite measure up, but we’ll always have naked Lena Dunham eating cake, a funny potshot at 2008’s ill-conceived reality-show host debacle, and some of the funniest women on TV smacking the ever-loving snot out of host Jimmy Kimmel.

Breaking Bad Goes Old School

Critical darling Breaking Bad might not have gotten much Emmy love, with only Aaron Paul winning Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, but the show still managed to provide one of the funnier moments of the night in a pre-cable reimagining that saw Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul popping a cap in Don Knotts.

Bowen Turns the High Beams Off for Her Win

“My job really amounts to me falling down and making faces while wearing lipstick and nipple covers,” said Modern Family’s Julie Bowen, who won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She went on to thank the show’s writers, editors, cast, and, yes, nipple covers. Might this be the first time an actress has thanked “nipple covers” in an acceptance speech? Perhaps, though there are certainly quite a few other actresses who owe thanks to those little marvels of technology. (And still more actresses who could benefit from a close acquaintance with them.)

Don’t Cryer Foul on This One

In what was perhaps the night’s biggest upset, Jon Cryer—who got bumped up from supporting to lead actor in the wake of Charlie Sheen leaving Two and a Half Men—beat out presumed frontrunners Louis C.K. and Jim Parsons in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category. A clearly baffled Cryer took the stage saying, “Don’t panic, people. Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I didn’t actually win this.”

Watch This!

Jon Hamm’s Wildest Cameos

Is that Don Draper? The ‘Mad Men’ actor may be best known for playing the suave adman, but Hamm also has played a sleazy music video director, TV actor in blackface, and dimwitted talk show host in bizarre cameo appearances. We count down the weirdest—and most enjoyable.

Mad Men may be between seasons, but the drama’s debonair Don Draper, actor Jon Hamm, is seemingly everywhere. He’s signing on to new movies, attending Yankee games with Larry David, and making the entire Internet blush with photos of him wearing, um, clingy pants.

Now, he’s starring in singer Aimee Mann’s new music video, donning a fake mustache and adopting a New Yawk accent to portray a sleazy director. It may seem beneath an eight-time Emmy-nominated A-lister to play a bit part in a music video, but Hamm has a history of making these unusual, surprising, and often fun cameos. Here’s a look back at some of the weirdest and most enjoyable.

1. Aimee Mann’s Music Video

Talk about high concept. The video for Aimee Mann’s new song “Labrador” begins with fake behind-the-scenes interviews with Hamm playing director Tom Scharpling and Mann herself. Hamm-as-Scharpling explains, “What I suggested was, we do a shot-for-shot remake of the Til Tuesday video for ‘Voices Carry.’ She flipped for it.” Mann then clarifies in her fake interview that she did not in fact flip for the idea and is only participating under contractual obligation. The video for “Labrador” that follows is indeed an impeccable recreation of the 1985 clip for “Voices Carry,” making the whole ordeal strangely meta and a bit confusing, but—thanks to Hamm’s committed performance—bizarrely fun.

2. ‘Childrens Hospital’

The Adult Swim comedy Childrens Hospital has gained a swift cult following, thanks to its cast of respected industry heavyweights, including Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Megan Mullally, and Ken Marino. First appearing in a 2010 episode of the series, Hamm added himself to that list in the most startling of fashions. Buxom star Malin Akerman is delivering a monologue in the season finale when she pulls off a face mask Mission: Impossible style to reveal that she is not Dr. Valerie Flame but Derrick Childrens, the son of the hospital’s founder, played by Hamm with another one of his exaggerated regional accents.

‘Game of Thrones’ is beloved by viewers and critics alike. But the Emmy-nominated HBO fantasy drama is also a surprising favorite in the writers’ rooms of TV comedies around Hollywood. Jace Lacob talks to sitcom writers about why they’re obsessed with the sex-and-magic-laden drama, and how the show informs their own narratives.

Fox’s upcoming sitcom The Mindy Project, created by and starring Mindy Kaling, deconstructs the romantic comedy fantasies of its lead character, an ob-gyn whose disappointment in the dating world stems from her obsessive viewing of Nora Ephron films.

At the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in July, Kaling was candid about the role that When Harry Met Sally and other rom-coms would play on the show, but also revealed the show might feature shoutouts to HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Drama.

“My writing staff, they are just obsessed with Game of Thrones,” Kaling said. “The show could just have Game of Thrones references: dragons, stealing eggs of dragon babies… You might see a lot—more than your average show—of Game of Thrones references.”

Yet the writers of The Mindy Project are not the only scribes who have fallen under the spell of the ferocious Game of Thrones, which depicts the struggle for control of the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

“It’s a violent, strange show with lots of sex in it,” Kaling went on to say.

Writers’ rooms—where the plots of television shows are “broken,” in industry parlance—often revolve around discussions of other shows, particularly ones that have a significant hold on the cultural conversation, whether it be Breaking Bad, Mad Men, or Homeland.

“A comedy writers’ room is like a really great dinner party with the smartest and funniest people you’ve ever met,” Parks and Recreation co-executive producer Alexandra Rushfield wrote in an email. Their typical conversations? “The presidential campaign. Whatever articles or books people are reading. Taking wagers on crazy statistics, like how much all the casts in the world combined might weigh. General heckling of co-workers.”

And TV shows such as Game of Thrones that viewers can debate endlessly. Modern Family executive producer Danny Zuker likened Game of Thrones to Lost in terms of the volume of discussion and passionate debate that the show engenders. It’s certainly immersive: five massive novels, two seasons of television, maps, online forums, family trees. Game of Thrones is a show that provokes—or even forces—viewer evaluation, deconstruction, and discussion.

He Said/She Said

Our Emmy Predictions Are In!

Ahead of Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards telecast, Jace Lacob and Maria Elena Fernandez predict the outcomes of the top 10 categories.

The Emmy Awards aren’t typically known for shocking anyone, but there are some unexpected twists every now and then. Just look at last year’s surprise Best Actor win for Kyle Chandler for the beloved, barely watched Friday Night Lights, and the look of absolute shock upon the face of Best Supporting Actress winner Margo Martindale.

This year’s races are tighter than ever, especially in the acting categories, where no fewer than seven comedians are battling it out for supremacy in the Best Actress race, and the competition is no less fierce in the supporting categories, where Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn will face off against The Good Wife’s Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi, Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, and Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith and Joanne Froggatt.

EMMY PREDICTIONS

L-R: Kent Smith / Showtime, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 / Masterpiece

The winners will be announced on Sunday’s telecast of the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on ABC. But before they’re declared, Jace Lacob and Maria Elena Fernandez offer their predictions of who and what will take home the top prizes in 10 key Emmy races.

Outstanding Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Breaking Bad
(AMC)
Downton Abbey
(PBS)
Game of Thrones
(HBO)
Homeland
(Showtime)
Mad Men
(AMC)

He Said: This year represents some very real competition to the supremacy of four-time winner Mad Men, but despite the presence of potential spoiler Downton Abbey (the Television Academy loves a cultural lynchpin!), political thriller Homeland, and meth-laced Breaking Bad (and for reasons I discuss at long length here), I think Mad Men will once again emerge victorious, making Emmys history with a fifth win for Best Drama.

She Said: AMC will have lots to brag about, but it won’t be Mad Men making them proud. It’s all about Breaking Bad this year. The show’s fourth season was an unforgettable blast and its strong fifth season (however short it was!) makes it fresh in all of our memories. One of the best shows in the history of television needs to be recognized and this is the year. Walter White did not kill Gus Fring for nothing.

Emmy Watch

Skyler White Tells All

Anna Gunn has snared her first Emmy nomination for her stellar work on ‘Breaking Bad’ as the tough-as-nails foil to TV’s most compelling anti-hero, Walter White. The actress talks about the hand-job scene that won her the part.

It was the hand job that did it.

anna-gunn-fernandez

Skyler White (Anna Gunn) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in “Breaking Bad.” (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Anna Gunn shone on David Milch’s Deadwood and has many of the traits Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan was looking for in the wife of the most deranged chemistry teacher that has lived on television. But when he saw how much Sony executives laughed as Skyler White pleasured her husband while surfing eBay, Gilligan knew he’d found Mrs. White.

“On the surface, the show doesn’t seem like it should be very funny,” Gilligan said. “But, in fact, we try to get as much humor as we can into Breaking Bad, and Anna has a sense of comic timing and knows how to get the most out of a humorous moment instead of inadvertently squashing it. That is indeed an important quality for the woman married to Walter White.”

Gunn, who is nominated for her first Emmy for her work in the fourth season of the AMC series, almost didn’t try out for the career-altering role. She had just had her second child, and couldn’t knock a cold, but her good friend, Sharon Bialy, one of the show’s two casting directors, persevered until Gunn read the script and agreed to audition. As part of the process, several actresses met with Gilligan and Bryan Cranston to work out the scene on a stage before trying it out in front of executives.

“We were laughing and shooting ideas around and it was very fluid and very easygoing,” Gunn recalled. “Bryan and I amused each other immensely from the start.  We got into this whole thing about how physically we could pull this off. I told them I was embarrassed to do the air hand-job miming thing. I was just going to start laughing. That would make me feel so silly. So we got an actual object to simulate the activity and it cracked up everybody in the room. But we were able to be completely poker-faced and straight-faced about it, and that’s what made it work.”

Not everyone, though, gets a kick out of Skyler, and Gunn knows that. Men, especially, think she’s a bitch whose sole purpose is to nag her husband and prevent “Heisenberg” from having any fun—an idea that seems ludicrous to those viewers who see Walter for the drug-dealing murdering psychopath that he really is. Gunn keeps it in perspective, though, because she knows Skyler is not the first television wife of a jerky anti-hero husband to catch flak. Before Skyler, there were Carmela Soprano and Betty Draper.

“Some men get a little upset because she’s such a toughie and she’s so strong,” Gunn said. “She’s not somebody to sit in a corner and go, ‘Oh no! Oh no!” and wring her hands and cry and do all that stuff. I think men are really threatened by her a little bit. She’s the one telling Walt don’t do this, don’t do that. If you love the badass Walt, that is, you love Heisenberg, she’s the one that sucks the fun out of it. It’s a fascinating gender issue.”

Drama!

Will ‘Mad Men’ Make History?

The race for the Emmy Awards’ top drama prize is fierce (hello, ‘Downton!’). Jace Lacob assesses the field to see whether ‘Mad Men’ will make history with a fifth win.

Can Mad Men could do the impossible on Sunday and win a fifth Emmy Award for Best Drama? After walking away with the statuette four years in a row, all eyes are on AMC’s Emmy darling, which could make history with a five-time win.

Best Drama Emmys Race

Clockwise from top left: ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Homeland,’ ‘Mad Men,’ and ‘Downton Abbey.’ (Clockwise from top left: Ben Leuner / AMC; Ronen Akerman / Showtime; Frank Ockenfels / AMC; Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE)

Currently, Mad Men shares the record for most Best Drama wins with such notable programs as Hill Street Blues, The West Wing, and L.A. Law, all of which were crowned victors four times. But a win at Sunday’s 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards would make Mad Men the undisputed drama record-holder, no small feat for a show that is about to go into its sixth season—reportedly the show’s penultimate—and whose loyal viewers are considerably dwarfed by HBO’s and Showtime’s entries.

Mad Men’s fifth season found Don Draper (Jon Hamm) rediscovering himself as a newlywed after his surprising proposal to his secretary, Megan (Jessica Paré); Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) facing his mortality; Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) selling herself to become a partner; Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) leaving the firm; and poor Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) taking his own life in the office. Often polarizing, Season 5 of Mad Men was a challenging and gut-wrenching season of transformation for its characters, and a lyrical and haunting experience for many viewers.

It’s Mad Men’s toughest road to the Emmys podium. This year’s competition is fierce; so fierce, it seems, that there isn’t a single broadcast network drama competing for the top prize. (Stalwart CBS drama The Good Wife is the most obvious omission.) Instead, Mad Men’s competitors come almost entirely from cable, with AMC sibling Breaking Bad, HBO’s Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, and Showtime’s Homeland all represented.

And then there’s Downton Abbey, the British costume drama that transformed itself into a phenomenon this year. The Julian Fellowes–created show—which depicts the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era—airs on PBS’s venerable Masterpiece, the 41-year-old anthology series that has suddenly become a mainstream success story thanks to its wise and prescient investment in Downton.

Downton’s considerable wins in the movies and miniseries categories last year came as no surprise, as it was a clear victor and offered a palpable threat to HBO’s hegemony in the longform department. But its move to the Best Drama race is also fraught with peril, as it’s now facing off against the big guns of American drama … and HBO and Showtime have some deep pockets when it comes to awards campaigning.

Still, Downton Abbey could very well be the spoiler this year, after a second season—set during World War I and the Spanish-flu epidemic in England—that cemented its status within the collective consciousness of viewers on both sides of the Atlantic. While some viewers and critics (myself included) griped about some of the relative weakness of Season 2, especially when compared to the dazzling perfection of Downton’s first season, what lingers is the absolute beauty and power of that season finale (a.k.a. the “Christmas Special”).

Oral History

‘Breaking Bad’ Up Close

The Emmy-nominated fourth season of ‘Breaking Bad’ culminated in the insane finale episode, ‘Face Off.’ Creator Vince Gilligan and actors Bryan Cranston, Giancarlo Esposito, and Mark Margolis offer insights into five major scenes.

The fifth season of Breaking Bad just concluded with a huge moment: Walter White’s DEA agent brother-in-law has finally figured out that he is the evil, meth-making Heisenberg. But it’s the fourth season, which ended in October, that’s being considered for 13 Emmys on Sunday, including the show’s third nomination for Outstanding Drama Series and acting nods for Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, and Mark Margolis.

“Face Off,” the Season 4 finale, blew everyone’s minds—as well as half the face off television’s smoothest villain, Gus Fring (Esposito). In it, Walter (Cranston) found himself in the worst bind yet, after Skyler (Gunn) gave away their fortune and Gus threatened to kill Walter’s entire family. But Walter found a way out by hatching a plan with Hector “Tio” Salamanca (Margolis), who despises Gus and is willing to commit suicide if it means taking Gus with him. The episode, one of six that were sampled by Emmy voters, had as much humor as it did gore. Last week, The Daily Beast dissected five scenes from the finale with Cranston, Esposito, Margolis, and series creator Vince Gilligan. The following is an edited, condensed transcript.

Walter (Cranston) Proposes Suicide Mission to Tio (Margolis) to Kill Gus Fring (Esposito)

Gilligan: That was an idea that we had many months beforehand. We put ideas on index cards, and we thumbtack them up all around the writers’ room. We had a card up that said “Ding-Boom!” Meaning that the bell, which was Tio’s form of communication, would go “Ding! Ding! Ding!” and then “Boom!” and blow up Gustavo. We had to work for many months of somewhat torturous plotting to make that happen.

Esposito: I thought it was poetic justice that Gus would go with Tio. I wonder, even today, had Tio looked at Gus once would Gus have spared him.

Ding! Ding! Ding! A bell rings during the interview. Everyone cracks up.

Abbey’s Road

‘Downton Abbey’s’ Emmy Bid

Can ‘Downton’ topple ‘Mad Men’ at the Emmys later this month? Jace Lacob talks to creator Julian Fellowes and the cast about the show’s popularity and its 16 nominations.

It’s hardly a surprise that the Television Academy would shower some love upon PBS’ Downton Abbey. After all, the Julian Fellowes–created drama—which airs in the U.S. on the 41-year-old anthology series Masterpiece—walked away with the Emmy Award for Best Miniseries last year, and scored a staggering cumulative audience of 17 million viewers for its second season. And Downton is now competing for a Best Drama award, ahead of the launch of its third season this weekend in the U.K.

Downton Abbey. Series Two.

Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

The British soap will battle for the top prize with such critics’ darlings as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones, all of which hail from cable networks HBO, Showtime, and AMC. But, in a year when not a single broadcast network drama is being represented, Downton’s 16 nominations and its departure from the movies and miniseries category and into the fiercely contested Best Drama race is even more of a feat.

“We were going up against the giants of American television,” creator Julian Fellowes told The Daily Beast. “We were hoping for a look-in and we got 16.”

Fellowes wasn’t alone in that sense of surprise. “It is a big leap to go from being a ‘new boy’ to being in the mainframe,” said Hugh Bonneville, who plays the estate’s Earl, Lord Robert Grantham, and who scored a Best Actor nomination. “To be thought of in the same breath as people like Steve Buscemi and Damian Lewis is just mind-blowing, really.”

Bonneville wasn’t the only member of the show’s sprawling cast to receive a nod, with nominations also secured for Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, and Dame Maggie Smith. “It’s the complete antithesis of the usual ‘body of work’ thing that people get a noise for,” said executive producer Gareth Neame. “It can only be that the Academy members love those characters and really respect the actors that play those parts.”

For Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton, the show’s mainstream success has turned up the volume of the buzz surrounding Downton Abbey to deafening levels. “It keeps exceeding expectations,” she said. “I’m trying to stay calm and carry on.”

The show secured its status as a hurricane-strength cultural phenomenon with its second season, which found the Crawley clan struggling to survive amid the era of shifting social mores, World War I, and the deadly Spanish flu pandemic. Beloved characters died, others were injured, and romances were tested by distance, disease, and even—in the case of downstairs power couple Anna (Froggatt) and Bates (Coyle)—murder. It was a shift from the show’s relatively idyllic first season, which Bonneville said was “set in this golden world that probably never existed.”

Geek Out

Mayim Bialik’s Back!

A scientist who loves playing one on television, the ‘Blossom’ star is nominated for her first Emmy for her supporting role in the CBS hit ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Bialik talks to The Daily Beast about how the industry has changed, her family life—and the hand injury that’s keeping her character away from the harp.

Last season on The Big Bang Theory, Amy Farrah Fowler got her tiara. It was a fan-favorite moment, as the idiosyncratic neurobiologist briefly lost her very controlled mind and blissfully exclaimed, “I’m a princess and this is my tiara!”

mayim-bialik-fernandez-tease

Denise Borchert

The question now is whether actress Mayim Bialik, who plays her, will get to do the same kind of happy dance when the Emmys are handed out on Sept. 23. Bialik, who starred in her own show, Blossom, at the age of 14, has earned her first Emmy nomination for her comedic supporting role on The Big Bang Theory, the CBS hit nominated for outstanding comedy for the second time.

“To be loved by fans is so important but to finally get critical acknowledgement is a very big deal for all of us,” Bialik said. “I think we would all agree that it’s really a testament to our writers. We have a very bright group of people who make it what it is. To me, even my nomination is an acknowledgment of all those words and just this quirky character, which is more of their creation than mine.”

The episode, titled “The Shiny Trinket Maneuver”  but affectionately known by fans as “The Tiara Episode,” is the one Emmy voters will consider on Bialik’s behalf. Also competing in that category are last year’s winner Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara of Modern Family; Merritt Weaver of Nurse Jackie; Kristen Wiig of Saturday Night Live; and the late Kathryn Joosten of Desperate Housewives.

“Even though I don’t really think it’s my best episode, a lot of people felt that was the moment to submit,” said Bialik over lunch this week in Studio City. “There were episodes I liked more or better, but the vote by Team Mayim was that this one was the one that got the most play.”

Amy Farrah Fowler, who has possibly the best character name in all of television, met Dr. Sheldon Cooper (played by two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons) online in the third season finale and became his “girl-slash-friend,” as Sheldon has more than a few intimacy issues. But last season, Sheldon drew up a strict 31-page “Relationship Agreement” and the couple started dating on his terms. In the show’s unexpectedly touching finale, Sheldon reached out for Amy’s hand for the first time.

Splitting Heirs

6 Best ‘Downton Abbey’ Spoofs

PBS’s white-hot British import, nominated this year for 16 Emmy Awards, is now a bona-fide cultural phenomenon—with its own spoofs. From Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Downton Sixbey’ to the ‘Mean Girls’-‘Downton’ mash-up, Jace Lacob on the six best.

While devotees of costume dramas instantly fell under the spell of Downton Abbey when it first premiered in the U.S. in January 2011 on PBS’s Masterpiece Classic, it took a second season for it to truly permeate popular culture.

Nominated for 16 Emmy Awards this year—including Best Drama, Best Actress in a Drama, Best Actor in a Drama, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and seemingly a billion others—Downton Abbey has become deeply entrenched in our collective consciousness. It is no surprise, then, that the show has prompted a slew of parodies, turning up everywhere from Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon to an Arby’s commercial.

Fans, meanwhile, have taken to performing their own takes on Downton, spoofing the show with paper dolls, zombies, dogs, and stuffed animals. There’s even a “boyfriend’s guide” to the period drama that educates reluctant viewers about the difference between a “batman” and the Batman. PBS’s Sesame Street, meanwhile, plans to follow up its True Blood and Mad Men spoofs this fall with “Upside Downton Abbey,” described as “a chaotic manor house where gravity is inverted with Big Bird and Cookie Monster trying to maintain order.”

On Twitter, there are accounts dedicated to Lady Mary’s Eyebrows and to lady’s maid Miss O’Brien’s Bangs (@OBriensBangs), which seem to have a life of their own. The latter was created by comedian and actress Kate Hess, who also wrote and stars in her own Downton-themed one-woman show at the Upright Citizens Brigade.

“I had no idea that O’Brien’s Bangs would touch such a nerve!” said Hess in an email. “It made me laugh to think of her bangs having the twitter bio of ‘B. 1913 to a dustmop and a barrister’s wig.’ As an actress, tweeting as O’Brien’s Bangs allows me to explore a character, but I don’t actually have to learn any lines or get out of my pajamas. Also, O’Brien’s Bangs are more omniscient than even O’Brien herself—the bangs see past and future and even have their own tiny Ouija board.”

The producers of Downton Abbey, meanwhile, are only too pleased to see the show get skewered.

“I love them,” Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton told The Daily Beast. “Imitation is the sincerest form of television, Fred Allen [said]. There have been Masterpiece spoofs over our 40 years: Alistair Cookie, Monsterpiece Theatre. It’s an intersection of wit and humor, and it shows that you’re in the water. I don’t think anybody connected to the production in any respect does not like them.”

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, meanwhile, was thoroughly charmed by last year’s BBC Red Nose Day two-part spoof of the show, the first part of which can be seen below.

2012 Emmys

‘The Good Wife’s’ Grande Dame

2012 Emmy nominee Christine Baranski’s character on ‘The Good Wife,’ Diane Lockhart, is coming off a fierce season. She tells Jace Lacob what lies ahead for the show and addresses those crazy (and untrue) ‘Brady Bunch’ rumors.

In the third season of CBS’s The Good Wife, Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart found herself on the defense, fending off attacks from the equity partners after the suspension of her partner, Will (Josh Charles), a grand jury investigation, uppity clients, and vengeful adversaries.

Christine Baranski

Christine Baranski, center, performs as Diane in CBS's 'The Good Wife' along with co-stars Julianna Margulies, left, and Josh Charles, right. (Jeffrey Neira / CBS via Getty Images)

In the process, Emmy and Tony Award winner Baranski, 60, showed Diane at her fiercest, as she kept a strong hand on the firm’s figurative tiller, even as, in her personal life, she found herself ricocheting between two potential lovers. In an age where television romances are most often limited to women 35 and under, Diane’s romantic journey this season was refreshingly honest.

The Daily Beast spoke to Baranski about how her character has changed since the pilot episode, what’s ahead in Season 4 of The Good Wife, those bizarre Brady Bunch Internet rumors, and more. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.

This is your third time being nominated for Diane Lockhart. Why do you think viewers find Diane so compelling?

She has a ferocious work ethic and is such a model of integrity. I love the way they write the character as sometimes the only grown-up in the room, especially in a room full of guys. She has one of those tough journeys that women had in the ‘60s, going into the ‘70s. She followed right behind Hillary [Clinton] and went to Wellesley, and then to law school, and had high aspirations and didn’t have the time or good fortune to meet a partner. She’s a very independent woman, and yet there’s a vulnerability that I often see in the writing that they let me reveal, and a great sense of humor. There’s a maturity that she has that people have really responded to.

In Season 3, Diane took the reins of Lockhart & Gardner, thanks to Will’s suspension and a thwarted power grab from Eli. What was it like being able to show Diane’s tenacity?

She really took strides last year with the firm in a state of eternal crisis. There was this terrific feeling of unease. I just loved the writing last year for the character. I thought, without becoming a bitch or maternal or condescending, she offered tough love to people. She cares fiercely about this firm that she created. She was expected to be this bitchy antagonist for Alicia, but it went the other way; she wanted to mentor a woman who she thought had tremendous promise. She saw in Alicia a ghost of her past: not wanting Alicia to be indebted to a man to make it to the top.

Part 2

5 ‘Mad Men’ Scenes Dissected

Mad Men’s creator Matthew Weiner and star Christina Hendricks go deep into five pivotal scenes from the Emmy-nominated episode “The Other Woman” in the second of a two-part conversation. Read Part 1 here.

In Mad Men’s controversial fifth season episode “The Other Woman,” Christina Hendricks’ Joan Harris is offered an indecent proposal: sleep with the head of the Jaguar dealership association and receive a partnership in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Over the course of the episode, Hendricks’ Joan battles with the decision, ultimately choosing to sell her body for a seat at the table next to the men.

Mad Men (Season 5)

Frank Ockenfels / AMC

In Part 2 of a two-part deconstruction of “The Other Woman,” series creator Matthew Weiner and Emmy nominee Christina Hendricks dissect five sequences from the Emmy Award-nominated installment. What follows is an edited transcript from that conversation. (You can read Part 1 of this story here.)

Pete Offers Joan an Indecent Proposal

Christina Hendricks: People’s reaction to that is, “Oh, Pete, he’s the worst, he’s the creepiest.” He’s not doing anything worse than what everyone else does in the episode, to be quite honest. He brings up the topic for the first time, but if he didn’t, who knows if someone else wouldn’t have stepped in and done it?

Matthew Weiner: He brings it up in a very clever way, which is like a tabloid version. He’s morally outraged by the suggestion and, by the way, what do you think of it?

Hendricks: Yes, yes, I find that to be utterly amusing. I could watch Vincent [Kartheiser] do that scene over and over again.

Part 1

‘Mad Men’ Up Close

mad-men-the-other-woman-oral-history-lacob-tease

AMC

Season 5’s ‘The Other Woman’ was a controversial, polarizing episode of ‘Mad Men.’ Show creator Matthew Weiner and star Christina Hendricks offer an oral history of the heartbreaking, Emmy-nominated Joan episode, the first of a two-part conversation.

AMC’s Mad Men has never shied away from uncomfortable or challenging circumstances, but Season 5’s “The Other Woman”—during which Emmy nominee Christina Hendricks’s Joan Harris had sex with a potential client in order to secure a partnership at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce—was instantly controversial, given Joan’s heartbreaking decision and because she is such a beloved character.

Nominated for writing (for co-writers Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas) and directing (for Phil Abraham) Emmy awards, “The Other Woman” was also the episode submitted by Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, and Hendricks in their respective categories, and rightly so. It’s an installment that is vicious in its condemnation of the treatment of women as objects of beauty to be owned and possessed, a thematic thread that manifests itself in the circumstances surrounding Joan, Peggy (Moss), and Megan (Jessica Paré). From Joan’s decision to sell herself for a shot at power to the pitch that Don makes to Jaguar—where the tagline reads, "At last, something beautiful you can truly own"—the notion of commodity and ownership provides a strong undercurrent in an episode that is riveting and eye-opening.

The Daily Beast spoke to Weiner and Hendricks about “The Other Woman,” and dissected five of the most indelible sequences from the Emmy-nominated installment. What follows is an edited transcript, the first in a two-part interview.

What did you make of the reaction to “The Other Woman”? Did you anticipate it being as polarizing an episode as it was?

Christina Hendricks: Yes, I did think it was going to be. It is a very controversial scenario.

Matthew Weiner: I was surprised. I knew it was a dramatic moment, and I expected it to be treated as drama, because the stakes were so high, and we knew Joan so well. But I also felt on some level, if we hadn’t used the word prostitution in there, it was more about the public nature of what was going on, and also their love for Joan, and the fact that she was put in this position that was so upsetting to people. I was stunned, though, by the suggestion that there were some people questioning about whether she would have actually done this or not. That shocked me. Maybe what they were saying is they were questioning whether they would have done it, but I was hoping, certainly judging on the history of the show and what Joan has done, obviously this is not the first time this has been an issue for her.

Given that, why do you think that people reacted so viscerally to Joan’s decision?

Weiner: A lot of this is attributed to Christina’s portrayal, but Joan is a very important character and has had a great deal of suffering. Some of it based on her own values and expectations, and I think that the audience really roots for her and was horrified at her having to do this, or having to even be in this situation. I think they felt terrible.

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