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.”

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