Modern Family won a record-tying fifth best comedy series Emmy Award and a dominant Breaking Bad captured the top drama award and a trio of acting honours in today's ceremony, which took a sombre turn as Robin Williams was remembered with restraint and grace by his longtime friend, Billy Crystal.
"He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him," Crystal said of Williams at the conclusion of a tribute to industry members who died last year. "Robin Williams, what a concept."
"I used to think if I could put a saddle on him and stay on him for eight seconds, I was gonna do OK," said Crystal.
"It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives," Crystal continued. "He was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy."
Crystal concluded by reflecting on the eternal glow Williams would continue to give off, long after he was gone.
"And you'll think to yourself: Robin Williams, what a concept."
Bryan Cranston was honoured as best actor in a drama for Breaking Bad, proving that True Detective nominee Matthew McConaughey's movie-star appeal couldn't conquer all.
"I have gratitude for everything that has happened," Cranston said. His victory ties him with four-time best drama actor champ Dennis Franz. Cranston's co-stars Aaron Paula and Anna Gunn were honoured in categories for best drama supporting acting,
"Thank you for this wonderful farewell to our show," said Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan said of the series about a teacher-turned-drug kingpin that ended with a bang.
The Good Wife star Julianna Margulies won the Emmy for best lead actress in a drama series. "What a wonderful time for women on television," Margulies said.
McConaughey was the object of too-handsome jokes by presenter Jimmy Kimmel and adoration by winner Gail Mancuso, honoured as best director for an episode of Modern Family.
"If you don't mind, Matthew McConaughey, I'm gonna make eye contact with you right now," she said from the stage, making good by holding the actor's gaze for much of her speech.
The ceremony honouring the best of TV wasn't shy about playing the movie-star card. "Six minutes to Woody Harrelson" flashed on screen during Colin Bucksey's acceptance speech for best miniseries direction for Fargo.
Harrelson and his True Detective co-star were given time to banter before announcing that Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock: His Last Vow was the winner of the best miniseries actor award.
"So you won Oscar, (People magazine's) Sexiest Man Alive and now you want an Emmy, too. Isn't that a little bit greedy?" Harrelson teased his fellow nominee.
Fargo was named best miniseries, and the award for best miniseries actress went to Jessica Lange of American Horror Story: Coven.
Buffering the miniseries awards was a parody routine about top nominees by "Weird Al" Yankovic. Musical numbers usually look out of place at the Emmys, and this one was no different. Other scripted banter fell flat, although host Seth Meyers kept soldiering on.
CBS' The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons was crowned as best comedy series actor, giving him his fourth Emmy and putting him in league with all-time sitcom winners Kelsey Grammer and Michael J. Fox.
ABC's Modern Family, which tied Frasier as the all-time sitcom champ with five statuettes, also captured a best comedy supporting actor trophy for Ty Burrell. Allison Janney was honoured as best supporting comedy actress for CBS' Mom,adding to the trophy she'd already picked up as guest actress on Masters of Sex.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who received her third consecutive best comedy actress Emmy for the political comedy Veep, drew big laughs as she stopped to exchange faux heated kisses with Cranston, who earlier was her co-presenter and who appeared with her on Seinfeld.
Meyers kicked off the ceremony by tweaking his home network, NBC, and other broadcasters for being eclipsed in the awards by cable series and online newcomers like Orange Is the New Black.
Noting that the Emmys moved to Monday night to avoid a conflict with yesterday;s MTV Video Music Awards, he said that MTV doesn't really specialise in videos anymore.
"That's like network TV holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and Netflix. That would be crazy," Meyers joked.
The ceremony's traditional "in memorian" tribute to industry members who have died in the past year flashed images of stars including James Garner, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, Carmen Zapata and Elaine Stritch as singer-son
What else happened:
- 'Weird Al' Yankovic performed an epic medley of Emmy-nominated TV show themes.
- The Colbert Report won outstanding variety series. The end of an era, as Stephen Colbert takes over Letterman's spot next year.
- The Amazing Race is back to its winning ways after one year on the back-burner, taking out Outstanding Reality Competition. Seeing that the show's host, Phil Keoghan, is a Kiwi we'll book that win as ours.
- Kathy Bates has won her second Emmy (after being nominated 11 times) for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries for American Horror Story, while Martin Freeman won the Emmy for his role in Sherlock.
- Steven Moffat won an Emmy for writing for Sherlock, leaving Wellington writer Neil Cross empty handed.
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