Emmy upset explained: How the devil did Jeff Daniels win?

Combining the wisdom of predictions from 18 Experts, 8 Editors, 24 Top Users and more than 1,300 Gold Derby Users put Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom“) in fourth place for Best Drama Actor, but he nonetheless pulled off a classic Emmy jawdropper. How?

In my opinion, it’s a reminder of the ole David E. Kelley rule – speechifying trumps all. That’s how James Spader kept bagging all those friggin’ Emmys for “Boston Legal” and “The Practice.” Spader was rewarded for giving huffy, defiant speeches before a jury and Emmy voters are suckers for that. In Daniels’ case, he gave Emmy judges the pilot episode of “The Newsroom,” which included a loooooong firebrand harrumph that he performed before a national TV audience. So therefore Emmy voters believe: thundering denouncements = Great Acting. Or else they like to cut their ham thick. Hmmmm ….

Below: the opinions of other Gold Derby editors and writers.

CHRIS BEACHUM: The Aaron Sorkin opening speech did it for him. We talked for months how that alone would make him a threat. Voters overlooked the other jerky traits he had throughout the rest of that pilot episode. He has been a very respected actor for over 30 years, so that didn’t hurt.

CHARLES BRIGHT: The opening speech was definitely a key factor but certainly not the only one. Throughout the rest of the episode we see Jeff Daniels acting like a jerk to a lot of his news staff, which many people thought would discount him from a victory. But they forgot that at the end of the episode, Daniels has moments with both Alison Pill and Emily Mortimer that are very tender and redeeming for his character and brought it around full circle.

MATT NOBLE: The “James Spader” effect, where a big speech about something important can stand out to voters. Aaron Sorkin’s writing also led to seven acting wins for “The West Wing” and Jeff Daniels is a respected film actor.

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19 thoughts on “Emmy upset explained: How the devil did Jeff Daniels win?

  1. Did you ever stop to consider, that A: maybe the voters saw more than just the pilot episode, as they in fact may be human and watch television in there own free time, and B: That Jeff Daniels is brilliant throughout the entire series and is the anchor of a great cast, and that maybe the voters were able to look past all the undeserved negative reviews that the media has cast upon the show, because of their own wounded
    pride, and give credit where credit is due. But what do I know, i’m not an “expert.”

  2. “huffy, defiant speeches” are given on TV all the time, i’m sure there plenty others giving them when James Spader was on Boston Legal (including his cast mates), however its the more talented actors that make those speeches (and the good writing of course) rise above the others, and they’re rightly reward for it.

  3. So you presume the critics only watched the first episode of The Newsroom and two seasons later Jeff Daniels gets the Emmy. What a disrespectful thing to say because his performance was splendid throughout the show.

  4. Bryan Cranston is excellent and breaking bad is a great show but Daniels’ role in the newsroom takes the cake deservedly. Fantastic writing with Sorkin and the entire cast of the newsroom is great. Cranston’s character Walt, has appeal in the same way that Michael C hall has as dexter. Our insatiable appetite for the juxtaposition of morbid curiosity with more accepted social farces. Cranstons’ success as Walt is that he unrelentingly reminds us of how enjoyable our vicarious journey through his character is. Will from the newsroom may be less of a thrill for the masses as a disgruntled, misunderstood, sharp tongued republican but his ability to make us love his character and appreciate his disposition, is through great acting and amazing writing. Newsroom is awesome, well done Jeff Daniels and a big congrats from a fan of both shows!

  5. Gold Derby has written before that the acting awards are determined by a panel of 50 to 75 voters — none of whom can have a “conflict of interest” per Emmy rules, so I imagine that means you can’t sit on a panel for any categories your own show in nominated in. This makes for a small and rather bizarre selection of voters. Seems to me just about anyone can win under those circumstances, unless there is a widely acknowledged front-runner, such as Clare Danes.

  6. Interesting point about Sorkin’s writing for both Sheen and Daniels. My opinion in watching Sheen’s performance over the years, he never quite elevated the material enough to win Emmy. The first time I saw Daniels on Newsroom, I was convinced this was Emmy worthy. Obviously the selection panel agreed.

  7. “Bryan Cranston is excellent and breaking bad is a great show but Daniels’ role in the newsroom takes the cake deservedly […] Walt, has appeal in the same way that Michael C hall has as dexter. ”

    Wow, way to dismiss Cranston. Maybe, just MAYBE, shoving Walter White in the same category as Dexter only happens when you forget Cranston already won 3 times for incredibly deserving and complex material, which Dexter never was, and which season 5 of Breaking Bad for once didn’t showcase.

  8. It was the only ONLY nomination this excellent show you are so dismissive of obtained. Breaking Bad is also an excellent show but Bryan Cranston has won how many awards over how many seasons? A bunch. It won Best Drama last night. Why so sour? Jeff Daniels is excellent and he plays a news anchor. They have monologues. It happens.

  9. I thought I heard somewhere that Jeff Daniels had to have that whole big beginning speech memorized and performed in one whole take. That does seem like an incredible degree of difficulty, because it’s a pretty long speech. I like The Newsroom, and I think Jeff Daniels is pretty good on it. He is fantastic in the pilot. But I did have him in a solid 4th place. I would have thought they would go for Jon Hamm if they weren’t going to go for Damian Lewis or Bryan Cranston. Poor Jon Hamm has been waiting so long and deserves it so bad. But what a great category this year, huh? So many great nominees, most of whom deserved to win. Not all, but most. I wish there was a way to know who they had in second place!

  10. When You have no talent become a critic, When You are even too crap for that Job, Become an on-line critic.. If You are too moronic to see the excellence of The Newsroom and just follow the rest of the braying sheep spouting on and on about breaking Bad, then ware is Your talent at all? Have you taught about washing cars, At least then You would be doing something worthwhile.

  11. Wait! R they saying that that sneaky b*strd submitted an episode for the judges to consider?! Then he won?! OMG Yeah! That’s a real “Jawdropper”
    Are these “critics” 4 real?!! Shut up & deal with the fact YOUR favorite show didn’t win & stop whining!

  12. Oh pooh on your “How did Jeff Daniels win” post. How about because he does a terrific job with an intriguing character and “The Newsroom” writers do a superb job.

  13. Cranston should have one. In all honesty look at the body of work from him and then compare Jeff with newsroom. Bryan hit it out of the park. Sad.

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