Sept. 23--On a night when AMC was airing the penultimate episode of "Breaking Bad" and Showtime the series finale of "Dexter," viewers who changed the channel from the CBS Emmy broadcast nonetheless missed some real drama.
The 65th Primetime Emmy awards were handed out at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles with more than a few surprises.
After narrowly being shut out of acting and writing -- thank you, Anna Gunn -- "Breaking Bad" and "Modern Family" won best drama and best comedy shows.
"This must be the saddest Emmys of all time, but we couldn't be happier," said Steve Levitan, co-creator of "Modern Family."
This was the fourth consecutive best comedy win for the show, the first to do so since "Frasier."
HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" was nominated 15 times and, counting creative arts awards, won 11, including best miniseries or movie and a best acting award for Michael Douglas. The film, which scored a best directing Emmy for Steven Soderbergh, is about the relationship between Liberace and his young escort, Scott Thorson.
Mr. Douglas said he could not have won without Matt Damon, who played Mr. Thorson and was also nominated in the category. He joked about cutting the Emmy in half, adding, "Do you want the bottom or the top?"
A big winner was Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," which ended the network's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart's" 10-year win streak in the variety category. "Colbert Report" also took home the category's prize for writing.
"The Emmy's are SO good this year," Mr. Colbert joked after the first victory was announced. The next time up, he noted it was "cliche to say, 'It's an honor to be nominated.' It's also a lie; this is much better.
"Jon never told me how good this feels, actually."
The host made sure to thank his family and paid tribute to his mother, Lorna, who died in June.
"Thanks, Mom, for not worrying about me. And for believing that I'd be OK."
Among the winners: Don Roy King, a Pitcairn native and graduate of Gateway High School and Penn State University. Mr. King had won previously as in the same variety category, as director of "Saturday Night Live."
He described winning as "an embarrassment of riches."
Also a winner in the directing category, film auteur David Fincher, who directed the pilot of the streaming Netflix series "House of Cards."
Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto came up short in the supporting acting category for miniseries or movie ("American Horror Story: Asylum"), where castmate James Cromwell, a Carnegie Mellon University alum, received the Emmy.
The night kicked off with a stunner. Up against "Modern Family's" Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara, Merritt Wever took home the first statuette as supporting actress in a comedy series. She plays "Nurse Jackie's" obsessively caring nurse, Zoey.
Her acceptance speech was succinct:
"Thanks so much. Thank you so much," she said, adding, "I gotta go. Bye."
"Merritt Wever, best speech ever," quipped Mr. Harris after the commercial break.
Ten minutes later, there was another upset when Tony Hale won best supporting actor in a comedy for "Veep."
"This is mind-blowing," said Mr. Hale, long a favorite on cult classics such as "Arrested Development." He sent a shoutout to series star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who would later become a four-time winner. "Julia, you are a joy to work across from."
He and the star had a funny time on stage when Ms. Louis-Dreyfus won for best actress in a comedy. When they called her name, she paused long enough for Mr. Hale to follow -- in character as the vice president's lackey.
Carrying her tiny purse, he stood behind Ms. Louis-Dreyfus at the microphone and prompted her when she "forgot" part of her acceptance speech. Of course, true to form, she "forgot" to thank Mr. Hale.
There was no surprise when Jim Parsons took home his third Emmy for "The Big Bang Theory."
The upsets continued in the second half of the program when Jeff Daniels ("The Newsroom") won for best actor in a drama series over "Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston and "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm.
Mr. Daniels joked that he hadn't won anything in a very long time -- except for an "over-50" award from the AARP. "With all respect for the AARP, this is better."
Bobby Cannavale, who played a thug with a serious anger management problem on "Boardwalk Empire," was named best supporting actor in a drama.
He thanked producer Martin Scorcese ("Well, you know, he's great") as well as director Tim Van Patten, whom he said provided him with the weirdest first day of work in his experience.
"Twelve hours of beating someone to death with four different kinds of rubber wrenches."
Laura Linney scored her fourth Emmy, this time as best actress in a miniseries or movie, for "The Big C: Hereafter." Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler on "Breaking Bad," won for best supporting actress in a drama. She bested, among others, Maggie Smith, who had won two previous times for playing the Dowager Countess on "Downton Abbey."
If "Modern Family" fell short in the acting categories, it got a boost from Gail Mancuso. The first-time winner became only the second woman after Betty Thomas -- 20 years ago for "Dream On" -- to win in the comedy director category.
Two other women were nominated this year in the category: Lena Dunham for "Girls" and Beth McCarthy-Miller for "Modern Family."
There was a somber moment when the winner was announced for best writing on a drama series. It went to Henry Bromell ("Homeland"), who died of a heart attack in March. His Emmy was accepted by his wife, Sarah.
Expressing her gratitude while accepting her second Emmy for playing a bipolar agent on "Homeland," Claire Danes described Bromell as "a brilliant person and so kind, and we think of him every day as we continue to work on the show that he helped define."
Ms. Danes also has an Emmy for "Temple Grandin." She thanked husband Hugh Dancy, "for making me so whole and happy, so I can be so unhappy in the land of make-believe."
Earlier, Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield snagged an award for best comedy writing ("Last Lunch") on "30 Rock." In her acceptance speech, Ms. Fey thanked her longtime collaborator, Robert Carlock.
"There are not that many people that make me feel lazy and stupid, and you make me feel that way every day."
Abi Morgan won for her writing on "The Hour," a rare win for BBC America, in the category of writing a miniseries or movie.
Longtime favorite in the reality competition, "The Amazing Race," was knocked off by "The Voice." "The Amazing Race" had won nine of the 10 previous times.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.
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