The Survivor host takes the first reality emcee Emmy, while Mad Men wins for drama

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 21, 2008 11:15 PM
Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Landov; Kevin Winter/Getty

The 60th annual Primetime Emmys finally got real – and finally funny, too.

In terms of the former, for the sixth year running, CBS’s The Amazing Race was named best reality series. But in the newly-created best reality show host category, it was Survivor‘s Jeff Probst who raced away with the Emmy Sunday night.

“Thank you for allowing reality in,” said Probst during his acceptance at Los Angeles’s Nokia Theater.

As for finally getting funny, after an otherwise slow start, 30 Rock was showered with Emmys – and an octogenarian comedian named Don Rickles showed he could still bring an audience to its feet.

Overall, the top winners were those with the most nominations: HBO’s miniseries John Adams, NBC’s comedy 30 Rock and AMC’s drama Mad Men.

For the second consecutive year, 30 Rock was named outstanding comedy series. Its male lead, Alec Baldwin, won in the acting category. “It’s the greatest job I ever had in my life,” he said, calling the show’s creator, writer and star Tina Fey “the Elaine May of our generation.”

Fey Shouts Out to Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Not long afterwards, Fey picked up her second Emmy of the night – the first was for writing 30 Rock – as that show’s outstanding lead actress in a comedy. She revealed that when she doesn’t know what to do in a scene, her husband advises her to act like Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

“So, thanks, Julia. It’s really working out for me,” said Fey, as a bemused-looking Louis-Dreyfus flashed her a thumbs-up.

Damages star Glenn Close, the outstanding lead actress in a drama series, said of her sister nominees – Sally Field, Mariska Hargitay, Holly Hunter and Kyra Sedgwick, as well as Helen Mirren and Judi Dench – “We’re proving that complicated, powerful, mature women are sexy, high entertainment and can carry a show.”

Zeljko Ivanek, outstanding supporting actor for dramatic series winner, also on Damages, thanked Close and the TV academy voters, “who,” he said, “made my parents very, very happy tonight.”

Best actor in a drama series winner, Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston, whose victory was something of an upset, gasped when his name was announced. Picking up his trophy the AMC-series star said of Emmy, “She’s bald, too.”

HBO’s historical drama, John Adams, was voted top mini-series, with producer Tom Hanks collecting the Emmy from presenter Sally Field, who played his mother in Forrest Gump. She asked, “You been a good boy?” “Yes, Mom,” he replied. The project’s leading man, Paul Giamatti, received the genre’s best actor Emmy, and said his casting proved “Anybody can be president. Anybody.”

Laura Linney (who played Abigail Adams) picked up a best actress Emmy, as did Tom Wilkinson (Benjamin Franklin). Adams was also honored for its screenplay.

AMC’s Mad Men creator and executive , Matthew Weiner, also clinched the Emmy for dramatic-series writing.

Belly Laughs from Rickles

In the laugh department, veteran comic Don Rickles – who had already received the evening’s biggest ovation when he and Kathy Griffin entered to present the best reality-show Emmy – was named winner for outstanding individual performance, variety or music performance, for the Emmy-wining HBO documentary Mr. Warmth, The Don Rickles Project.

Rickles, 82, also brought down the house. “It’s a mistake,” he said. “I’ve been in the business 55 years, and the biggest award I ever got was an ashtray.” As to be expected, the old guy also grew emotional. Before exiting the stage, he told the crowd inside the Nokia Theater, “Thank you for making my life happy after a very long trail.”

60 Years of TV Awards

Honoring the 60 years of Emmys, the show also included many nods to TV history. At one point, the surviving members of the cast of Laugh-In presented the best variety, music or comedy show trophy to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Clutching his award, the politically minded Stewart said, “I look forward to the next administration, whoever it is. I have nothing to follow that up. I just look forward to the next administration.”

In writing awards, The Colbert Report was honored in the variety category, as was Tina Fey for 30 Rock in the comedy category. Steve Martin also delivered a long overdue Emmy to Tommy Smothers for his contribution to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

For a list of nominees and winners, click here.