Emmys 2012: 5 Things We Learned From ‘Homeland,’ ‘Modern Family,’ Jimmy Kimmel, and Jon Stewart (INSIDE STORY)

Emmys 2012 Winners
The complete list of winners from the 2012 Emmy Awards.
Emmys 2012: Opening Skit
Take a look at the hilarious opening skit for the award show.
Now that the red carpet is all rolled up, ABC’s Modern Family kids are taking long naps, and Showtime’s Homeland cast are trying to get those sharp-pointed trophies in their carry-ons past the TSA screeners, it’s time to look back at Sunday’s 64th annual Primetime Emmys and determine: What did we learn?

Looking over all that was seen and heard on stage, analyzing the trends, crunching the numbers, and taking some long and hard looks at Sofia Vergara’s wardrobe malfunction, we can boil it all down to five lessons. (Well, six if you count this one: No one needs to see GirlsLena Dunham eating a cake while sitting naked on a public toilet. That image is going to haunt too many of last night’s viewers for a long, long time.)

Lesson No. 1: The Emmys are predictable. So predictable, in fact, that they inspired Jon Stewart to drop an f-bomb in his acceptance speech as he marveled over The Daily Show’s 10th straight win. Most pundits had predicted victory for such Emmy perennials as TDS in the Variety Show category, Modern Family in the Comedy category (its third striaght win), The Amazing Race in the Reality-Competition category (its ninth win), and Claire Danes (her third nomination and second win, though all were for different projects). Such patterns lead to charges that TV Academy members are voting autopilot and ignoring fresher competitors, thus reducing suspense, making the show a bore, and turning off potential Emmy viewers. In fact, these complaints themselves have become a predictable annual ritual.

Lesson No. 2: Except when they’re not. Not many predicted the Homeland sweep. A fifth straight win for Mad Men seemed more likely, as did a fourth straight win for Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. So here’s what you wanted, Emmy nitpickers, a fresh new series that’s recognized for its quality right out of the gate. That does happen sometimes. (Indeed, it happened with both Mad Men and Cranston the first time they were eligible.)

Still, even the surprises were sort of predictable. Jon Cryer’s lead comedy actor win was a shock, even to him, except that he’d won once before for the same character as a supporting actor. Asked to choose between two Breaking Bad regulars for supporting actor, voters went with Aaron Paul, who’d won once before, even though Giancarlo Esposito’s character had dominated the drug drama last season before going out with a boom.

Lesson No. 3: Homeland did not end HBO’s Emmy reign. Yes, it marked a big win for Showtime, the first Best Series victory for the premium cable channel.But Showtime didn’t win a single Emmy for any other show. HBO still won 23 prizes, more trophies than any other channel, as it does seemingly every year, thanks in part to its dominance in the movie/miniseries category (this year, that meant five awards for Game Change). HBO’s Game of Thrones won as many statuettes as Homeland (six, albeit in lesser categories that were handed out last week at the Creative Arts Emmys). CBS was the second biggest winner, with 16 Emmys, and half of those were for awards shows. When it comes to original programming, HBO is still the channel to beat.

Lesson No. 4: When the Emmy love runs out, it really runs out. Longtime Emmy darling Mad Men didn’t just lose the Best Drama Series prize. It lost every single award it was nominated for, all 17 of them, marking the biggest shutout in Emmy history. Among those were its acting nominations; Mad Men has been nominated for acting 25 times in five seasons and has won zilch. At least it has those four previous Best Drama wins to its credit. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s loss in Best Comedy last night set another record; no other show, comedy or drama, has been nominated for Best Series seven times without winning. Previous Emmy fave 30 Rock was up for 13 awards this year and went home empty-handed. And then there’s Bill Maher, who’s the Susan Lucci of the Primetime Emmys. As of last night, he’s been nominated a record 29 times without winning.

Lesson No. 5: Hosting remains problematic. Jimmy Kimmel earned mixed reviews at best. He’s a funny guy on his own show and a knowledgeable TV fan, but his dry, acerbic style didn’t play well in this setting, and many of his big gags (the bizarre  pre-taped opening sequence, or the prank that involved Tracy Morgan pretending to pass out on stage in order to create a Twitterstorm of fake news) were underwhelming. But then, you can’t blame ABC for hiring him. Each of the Big Four networks gets to air the Emmys only once every four years in rotation, and each network usually uses the opportunity as an excuse to plug its own programs. Usually, that means hiring its late-night talent to host (though last year, Fox, with no late-night talent, went with Glee’s ubiquitous Jane Lynch instead). So there’s a lack of continuity from one year to the next, and no host gets to become seasoned on the job, the way Billy Crystal or Whoopi Goldberg did at the Oscars or Neil Patrick Harris at the Tonys. Sure, the networks could hire an outsider (like, say, TBS’ Conan O’Brien, who did a great job hosting the Emmys in 2002 and 2006, when he worked for NBC. But no network is going to pass up the chance to plug its own talent. Maybe Kimmel will do a better job when ABC inevitably asks him to host again in 2016.

What did you learn from this year’s awards? Tell us in the c0mments section below.