AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” the critically-acclaimed show following anti-hero meth manufacturer Walter White, took home the top honor at Sunday night’s 65th Emmy Awards, winning for best drama just an hour after its penultimate episode aired.

ABC’s “Modern Family” won its fourth consecutive trophy for comedy series in a ceremony that ended about 12 minutes late, after a show packed with somber tributes to deceased actors and industry veterans.

“This may be the saddest Emmys of all time, but we could not be happier,” said “Modern Family” executive producer Steve Levitan.


Self-mocking humor doesn’t rescue Emmys

Best of red carpet fashion

There were many surprises earlier in the night.

With all the frenzy surrounding “Breaking Bad,” and headlines about Netflix invading the Emmy Awards, the award for lead actor in a drama goes to … Jeff Daniels?

The leading man from HBO’s “The Newsroom” pulled off a shocking win in a category in which he was up against Bryan Cranston and “House of Cards’s” Kevin Spacey, not to mention last year’s winner Damian Lewis (“Homeland”) and perennial runner-up Jon Hamm (“Mad Men.”) “I usually don’t win anything,” a surprised Daniels admitted, saying his last prize was a “best actor over 50” award from the AARP for 2005 film “The Squid and the Whale.” HBO continued its hot streak with another surprise, as “Boardwalk Empire’s” Bobby Cannavale scooped up a supporting actor in a drama, over two-time winner Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad,” and “Homeland” star Mandy Patinkin.

In another surprise, Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” finally snapped “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s” 10-year winning streak in the variety series category. A genuinely moved Colbert thanked his “brother and friend,” Stewart. “Jon never told me how good this feels, actually,” he said, hoisting the Emmy trophy in the air.

Host Neil Patrick Harris noted the number of surprising wins during the night. “No one in America is winning their Emmy office pool,” he announced in the middle of the show.

In some categories the status quo prevailed, as old favorites Julia Louis-Dreyfus of HBO’s “Veep” and Jim Parsons of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” scored lead actress and actor in a comedy prizes, respectively. That’s Dreyfus’s second win a row for playing frazzled vice president Selina Meyer, while Parsons’s notched his third career win as lovably nerdy physicist Sheldon Cooper and beat Alec Baldwin, who earned his seventh straight nomination in the category for his role as TV network head honcho Jack Donaghy in the NBC comedy “30 Rock,” which aired its final episode this spring.

Claire Danes scored her second consecutive win for lead actress in a drama as bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison on Showtime’s “Homeland.” Danes topped Kerry Washington, star of the buzzy “Scandal”; Washington was the first African-American actress to be nominated in the category since Cicely Tyson in 1995. Sticking with D.C.-themed shows, Netflix’s “House of Cards” finally won a big prize as David Fincher was named best director in a drama.

HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra” nearly swept the miniseries category. That included a win for best miniseries or movie; Steven Soderbergh for director; and Michael Douglas in the lead actor category for his role of Liberace, leading to an acceptance speech filled with sex jokes and innuendos aimed his co-star, Matt Damon, who played his younger lover in the movie, Scott Thorson.

However, little-watched premium cable comedies had a moment in the spotlight early in night, as Tony Hale of HBO’s “Veep” and Merritt Wever of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” picked up supporting acting trophies.

“I gotta go. Bye,” a stunned Wever said, staring out into the audience before wandering off the stage in a daze immediately winning the speech of the night in the very first category.

On the non-premium cable end of things, “Breaking Bad” could be shaping up for a big night. The critically-adored AMC series – which ends next week and aired its penultimate episode opposite of tonight’s Emmys – is expected to duke it out for best drama, and Anna Gunn kicked things off early with her first win in the supporting actress in a drama category for her portrayal as Walter White’s wife, Skyler.

Showtime continued to rack up the awards, as Laura Linney won lead actress in a miniseries as a teacher with terminal cancer in “The Big C: Hereafter.” Presenters Michael Douglas and Matt Damon accepted on her behalf. (“She’s such a great actress she didn’t even need to show up,” Damon cracked.)

In between the awards, the Emmys turned rather morbid, as five recently-deceased showbiz types were singled out for special, personal tributes. Robin Williams drew some laughs while talking about Jonathan Winters (“Jonathan Winters was my mentor. I once told him that and he said, ‘Please. I prefer idol.’”) while Rob Reiner got emotional talking about Jean Stapleton. Elton John performed a ballad, “Home Again” as a tribute to the departed Liberace, the subject of HBO original movie “Behind the Candelabra” starring Douglas and Damon. Jane Lynch showed up to talk about Cory Monteith and discuss the perils of addiction; the 31-year-old actor died of an accidental drug overdose this summer. Earlier this week, Monteith’s inclusion in the personal tributes made headlines, as some didn’t think his body of work merited special attention in the same list of veteran actors.

The Emmy Awards aren’t known for shaking things up. So, relatively speaking, this could be an especially groundbreaking year for the show as “House of Cards” is expected to duke it out with critically-adored “Breaking Bad” and last year’s champ “Homeland” for best drama series. If “Cards” prevails, it would become the first Internet-streamed show to win a major award. The political drama made a big splash in its debut season, as stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are up for acting nominations, while David Fincher represents in the directing category.

Netflix stole the thunder back during the nominations this summer, snagging 14 nods and becoming the first Internet-streamed show in history to be up for major awards. It continued to have a presence during the awards ceremony, as Kevin Spacey parodied his “House of Cards” character’s breaking the fourth wall, addressing the camera during a bit that saw former hosts of the Emmy Awards crash Neil Patrick Harris’s opening monologue.

“It’s all going according to my plan,” Spacey gloated in the audience, talking directly to the camera while the former hosts (Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch) bickered with NPH behind him on stage. “Getting them to sabotage Neil was almost too easy.”

A hint of modesty infused the red carpet at the 65th annual Emmy Awards. Call it a backlash to headlines of nude pop stars and a sensational buff-colored bikini at MTV’s Video Music Awards. Buttoned-up gowns felt fresh compared to the amount of skin seen on carpets of late.

The visual interest was provided by unique necklines. Zooey Deschanel’s seafoam J. Mendel delicately traced the line of her collarbones before breaking into a small slit diffusing the solid block of color. Taylor Schilling, of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” chose a haltered pearl-hued Thakoon featuring a high front slit and open back.

Padma Lakshmi’s lovely Kaufmanfranco felt balanced with a moderate neckline and sheer back, as well as the tiniest of slits along her svelt torso. Heidi Klum, never one to shy from the risque, shimmered in a form-fitting Versace with choker embelishment. The color, dubbed pomegrante by fellow “Project Runway” host Tim Gunn, was similar in hue to Mindy Kaling’s decadent Georges Chakra.

Zosia Mamet of “Girls” wore an Honor gown that had a halter akin to Klum’s, though the full skirt and flower print softened the look to fit her feminine sensibility. There was no “side-boob” fodder this year for Michelle Dockery of “Downtown Abbey,” whose Chado Ralph Rucci revealed a little much at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last winter. A chic color-blocked Prada was appropriately covered, feeling on trend in this season of conservatism. See red carpet photos here.


Drama Series: Breaking Bad (AMC)

Comedy Series: Modern Family (ABC)

Miniseries or Movie: Behind the Candelabra (HBO)

Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Michael Douglas, Behind The Candelabra (HBO)

Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals (USA)

Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)

Variety Series: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

Writing for a Variety Series: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

Directing for a Drama Series: House of Cards (Netflix)

Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom (HBO)

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Reality Competition Program: The Voice (NBC)

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad (AMC)

Writing for a Drama Series: Homeland (Showtime)

Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter (Showtime)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Directing for a Comedy Series: Modern Family (ABC)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep, HBO)

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)

Writing for a Comedy Series: 30 Rock (“Last Lunch”) (NBC)

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie (Showtime)

Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Program: Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Project Runway (Bravo)

Cara Kelly, David Malitz and Marie Elizabeth Oliver contributed to this report.