Emmy upsets explained: Laura Linney, Ellen Burstyn, Anna Gunn

Gold Derby’s editors and writers offer up views to explain several of those head-scratching Emmy wins.

Laura Linney, “The Big C: Hereafter”

MATT NOBLE: “Woman dying of cancer by Emmy darling was probably underestimated.”

DANIEL MONTGOMERY:Laura Linney is undefeated in the race for Best Movie/Mini Actress, so perhaps we should have seen this win coming. As her character, Cathy Jamison, dies of cancer over the course of four episodes, Linney delivers a showy, sympathetic performance that takes her through stages of illness and grief. Though ‘The Big C’ had less overall support from the TV Academy than ‘Top of the Lake’ and ‘American Horror Story: Asylum,’ it’s clear voters were watching the performances, and many judges on this panel may have been watching ‘The Big C’ all along.”

CHRIS BEACHUM: “Linney has surprised before with her first win in this same category for ‘Wild Iris.’ She also has one loss on her record for trying this same character in the comedy field. The voters were wanting to reward her and this cancer storyline but in a more dramatic category.”

CHARLES BRIGHT: “In a race with two main frontrunners, it’s not uncommon to have a third nominee come from behind and ultimately upset. It’s happened several times at the Oscars (Judy Holliday over Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson in 1950 and Adrien Brody over Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson in 2002) and it also helped Linney that her performance had the biggest heart of all the nominees. As a woman trying to make the best of her final days with terminal cancer, her performance grabs the viewer in a way none of the others did.”

Ellen Burstyn, “Political Animals

CHARLES BRIGHT: “Voters must not have been watching ‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ or were simply not able to take it seriously which are the only reasons that can really account for anyone triumphing over Sarah Paulson. Burstyn was the most well-known and respected actress (in terms of career achievements) and voters probably checked off her name because of her reputation rather than the impact of her performance. It’s insanely ironic that this led her to Emmy victory after the same factor (simple name recognition) caused her to be nominated in the same category seven years ago for a 14-second performance.”

CHRIS BEACHUM: “I switched over to Burstyn this weekend because it reminded me so much of Maggie Smith. Older Oscar winner with lots of quips and one-liners to toss off to other characters.”

DANIEL MONTGOMERY: “The woman so beloved by Hollywood that the TV Academy nominated her in this category for a 15-second performance, Burstyn plays a boozy, scenery-chewing grand dame in ‘Political Animals.’ Rattling off barbs and one-liners, she’s not unlike another previous Emmy winner in this category: Maggie Smith in ‘Downton Abbey.’ A showy performance and strong name recognition helped push her over the top against a showier, more dramatic performance by Sarah Paulson (‘American Horror Story: Asylum’).”

Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad

CHRIS BEACHUM: “Gold Derby has been discussing her episode ‘Fifty-One’ for over a year and how it would win her an Emmy.”

ROB LICURIA: “This was not a surprise. Gunn had this in the bag — the perfect example of where episode submission matters.”

DANIEL MONTGOMERY: “The TV Academy adores Maggie Smith, but often at the Emmys that’s no match for an actor with a clearly superior episode submission. Last year there was no obvious frontrunner, allowing Smith to win almost by default. But Anna Gunn’s powerhouse performance in the episode ‘Fifty-One’ was all the reason Emmy voters needed to look elsewhere.”

CHARLES BRIGHT: “Episodes can make all the difference. As we were saying since it aired last August, this episode would be a perfect submission for Gunn and it certainly made the difference in helping her take down the seemingly unbeatable Maggie Smith.”

MATT NOBLE: “Powerhouse episode from a series with a lot of heat.”

RELATED: How the devil did Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom” win?

RELATED: How Bobby Cannavale (“Boardwalk Empire”) beat the odds.

RELATED: How Tony Hale (“Veep”) won in a shockeroo.

RELATED: How Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”) pulled off her jawdropper.

8 thoughts on “Emmy upsets explained: Laura Linney, Ellen Burstyn, Anna Gunn

  1. I am SO angry Paulson didnt walk away with that Emmy. Absolutely no one was more deserving. Even if they style of AHS was too over the top for some people, its impossible to deny the talent and craft she displayed.

  2. Paulson not winning was the biggest upset of the evening. She so deserved it. Her performance was powerful and demanded courage and strength. Dungeon rape, coat hanger abortion. Aging from mid 30’s to 70’s, dancing to the Name Game 😉 Powerhouse performance.

  3. Paulson’s performance was incredible, but she had more screen time than Jessica Lange. Hers was not a supporting performance, rather a lead. Perhaps that hurt her. Burstyn’s part on Political Animals was tiny, but she made her presence felt, truly the BEST supporting performance of the bunch in my opinion. The third and final season of the Big C was a masterpiece, especially for Laura Linney. It was truly the BEST overall performance, and that’s saying a lot, considering Lange’s was near perfect. Plus,
    the fact that Lange won last year probably affected the final results this year.

  4. it just bothers me that this year to try to explain away being wrong people always say there was no clear frontrunner against Smith. Whether you personally liked her performance or not, Cristina Hendricks was definitely the clear alternative to Smith. She had the baitiest storyline, and i saw multiple totally unrelated websites that said it was going to be her or Smith. So there definitely was a clear alternative, they were just still obssessed with Maggie Smith and DA

  5. I personally disliked the final season of The Big C intensely. I’m pretty unhappy Elisabeth Moss lost. And I’m upset with myself for not having faith in Anna Gunn to win. I had her picked right up until this weekend, and then I just lost my faith in the voters and switched over to Maggie Smith. Horrible mistake on my part. The voters got it exactly right in that category.

  6. Sarah Paulson’s performance in American Horror Story: Asylum was clearly the best in her category. I’m still in shock she didn’t win.

  7. I still cannot get over the fact that Sarah Paulson didn’t win that award. She had me scared to death for her character’s situation on AHS week in and week out, she was that believable. Let’s hope the powers that be get it right for both her and Jessica Lange on next year’s Emmy’s. Wrongs need to be made right here.

  8. GREAT!! FANTASTIC!! Just seen that Laura Linney won the best actress award….SO WELL deserved!! LOVED the Big C and LOVE Laura too!! you’re great!! wish the series hadn’t ended! cried so much during the last half hr of the last episode!

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