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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