“Breaking Bad” was the one who knocked.
The night that its penultimate episode was airing on AMC, the show of the moment won its first drama series Emmy.
“Holy crap,” exec producer Vince Gilligan said. “I did not see this coming. I thought this was gonna be ‘House of Cards,’ or it could have been ‘Homeland,’ or it could have been ‘Mad Men,’ or it could have been ‘Game of Thrones,’ or ‘Downton Abbey.’ It could have been any of them, and even some others that were not nominated in this golden age of television that we feel so proud to be a part of.”
Despite speculation that there would be a fresh face in the laffer scene, “Modern Family” won the comedy series Emmy for a fourth consecutive year. It joins “All in the Family,” “Cheers” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the four-Emmy club, one behind all-time comedy champion “Frasier.”
“We have the deepest respect for our co-nominees,” said “Modern Family” exec producer Steve Levitan. “You guys make us laugh and make us jealous every week.
“I cannot begin to express to you how surreal this ride has been, because none of us grew up feeling like winners. So, thank you to the bullies, to the popular kids, to the gym teachers who taunted us, who rejected us, and who made fun of the way we ran.”
After dominating the Creative Arts Emmys on Sept. 15 with 20 wins, HBO added seven more at the main event to easily top all networks with 27 (no shock, considering its 108 nominations in July). Next in total Emmys was CBS with 16, followed by NBC with 11. Showtime, which won four at the Primetime Emmys, was fourth overall with seven kudos.
Outside of HBO miniseries “Behind the Candelabra,” which led all programs with 11 Emmys (eight via the Creative Arts ceremony), the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences spread the wealth among its contenders. The next-biggest winner was a show that didn’t even get a series nomination: “Boardwalk Empire,” which won five Emmys.
In a night that featured a fair number of upsets, Jeff Daniels topped competition including Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey to win the lead drama actor Emmy for HBO’s “The Newsroom.”
“I’ve been neutral about this whole thing,” Daniels said. “I’ve been nominated a bunch of times – Google it — enough to not lean towards it. There were six people nominated, there could have been at least 10 other guys. … I felt that the work stood up to what the other guys were doing, but we’re all doing different things.”
“We’ll have to move the golden Barcalounger that the AARP gave me,” Daniels said earlier onstage.
Other victories that weren’t exactly counted on to happen included supporting acting Emmys for Bobby Cannavale (“Boardwalk Empire”), Tony Hale (“Veep”) and Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”).
But other favorites, or at least customary names, did prevail. Claire Danes won her second consecutive lead drama actress Emmy for Showtime’s “Homeland.”
“I think all actors know how indebted we are to our writers, especially in television,” Danes said. “And we happen to have one of the most experienced, intrepid team of writers in the business, led by the amazing Alex Gansa.”
Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” won his third lead comedy acting Emmy, following kudos in 2010 and 2011. Parsons is now one away from tying Carroll O’Connor, Michael J. Fox and Kelsey Grammer for the most career wins in the category.
“I want you to know I’m very aware of how exceedingly fortunate I am,” Parsons said. “It’s so silly to be emotional, isn’t it?
“Sheldon’s been traveling on kind of a funny road with this romance idea, which seemed (impossible) six years ago,” he added backstage. “It’s been kind of a harrowing adventure.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her second consecutive lead comedy actress Emmy, for “Veep.”
“This is so much good fortune, it’s almost too much to bear,” Louis-Dreyfus said, as supporting comedy actor winner Hale hung in the background, feeding her lines for her speech very much in character for his own “Veep” part. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to make people laugh.”
Louis-Dreyfus last year became the first actress to win lead or supporting comedy acting Emmys for three different shows, but she added backstage that this award means a lot.
“I’ve actually lost many more times than I’ve won,” she said. “I’ve lost 10 times. It was delicious to win.”
Earlier, Hale beat out a trifecta of “Modern Family” nominees to win the comedy supporting actor Emmy — as for Wever, a first career win. “Even to be on a list with those guys is crazy humbling,” Hale said.
Immediately after Hale’s win came the first of the Emmys’ special tributes to key talent who passed away in the previous year. “His riffs on our show were like epic movie categories,” Robin Williams said of Jonathan Winters. “Jamming with Jonathan was like dancing with Fred Astaire. … The beauty of Jonathan was that he was a big, brilliant kid who never grew up.”
David Fincher won the drama directing Emmy for “House of Cards,” giving a third Emmy this year for the digitally distributed series to Netflix, which had two Emmy wins at the Creative Arts ceremony.
The night’s first award, for comedy supporting actress, went in something of a surprise to Wever. After saying “Thank you so much” twice, she immediately wrapped up her acceptance speech (and became the producers’ best friend ever) by saying, “I gotta go — bye.”
Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad” dethroned two-time defending champ Maggie Smith of “Downton Abbey” for the drama supporting actress Emmy, while Cannavale’s one-season appearance on “Boardwalk Empire” delivered supporting drama actor honors.
“Mandy Patinkin’s the first person I saw on stage,” Cannavale said of one of his fellow nominees, “so he’s like my favorite person.”
“It took me a while to get up there (to accept the award),” he added backstage. “I couldn’t really believe it.”
Helping to crown the farewell season of “30 Rock,” Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield won for the “Last Lunch” finale episode. It was Fey’s eighth career Emmy, counting series awards for exec producing the show.
“I share this award with my partner of seven years, Robert Carlock,” Fey said. “There are not many people in this world who make me feel lazy and stupid, but you made me feel like that every day.”
“I accept this award on behalf of Henry, with a deep appreciation to the Academy,” his wife Sarah said.
She added backstage that the episode had special meaning for Bromell.
“It was like a little movie,” she said. “It has a 20-page interrogation scene … so it was difficult to figure out how to do that. When (he and his colleagues) finally did … it was really a beautiful sort of solution to the program, a turning point of the episode and a huge puzzle piece (for the show).”
Gail Mancuso, who helmed the “Modern Family” episode “Arrested,” won her first Emmy — the second ever by a woman for comedy directing.
“I was very fortunate as a child,” Mancuso said. “My parents let me watch as much TV as I wanted.”
The big momentum of HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra” that brought eight Emmys out of nine minis-movies nominations at the Creative Arts ceremony was knocked down by a writing win for Abi Morgan of BBC America’s “The Hour” and a supporting actor Emmy for James Cromwell of FX’s “American Horror Story: Asylum,” preventing “Candelabra” from tying 2008’s “John Adams” for the most Emmys (13) for a miniseries ever.
But “Candelabra” did prevail as the top miniseries-movie of the year, with Michael Douglas winning for lead actor, 39 years after his first nomination for “The Streets of San Francisco.”
“You deserve half of this,” Douglas said to co-star and fellow nominee Matt Damon in the audience. “So you want the bottom or the top?”
“Candelabra” helmer Steven Soderbergh also won movie-mini directing honors.
“If Michael and Matt don’t show up, we don’t have a movie,” Soderbergh said.
Laura Linney became a four-time Emmy-winner after nabbing the lead minis-movies actress Emmy for the final, abbreviated season of Showtime’s “The Big C.” Ellen Burstyn of USA’s “Political Animals” won for mini-movie supporting actress.
“The Colbert Report” broke the 10-year winning streak of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in outstanding variety series, and also won the variety series writing Emmy.
“As I said before, it’s an honor to just to be nominated,” Colbert said. “But what’s more, it’s also a lie. This is way better.”
“I’m second to none in my admiration and my belief that Jon deserved all those wins,” Colbert added backstage about the “Daily Show” winning streak his show ended.
Continuing a dynasty of his own, Don Roy King of “Saturday Night Live” won his fourth consecutive Emmy for variety series directing.
Top honors in reality-competition went to NBC’s “The Voice,” a week after CBS’ “Undercover Boss” was named top reality program at the Creative Arts ceremony. The latter award was bumped to the earlier kudofest to make room for a presentation around the outstanding choreography Emmy, won by Derek Hough of “Dancing With the Stars.”
“It’s a very different show (than ‘American Idol’),” “Voice” exec producer Mark Burnett said. “It’s a kinder show. … America loves kindness.”