In a year that found a lot of unexpected upsets, Breaking Bad, Modern Family and Behind the Candelabra were the big winners at The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday night, airing live from the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Read on for the recap…
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A true victory for a series in its final season, AMC's Breaking Bad was named Outstanding Drama over Mad Men, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Homeland and Downton Abbey. Show creator Vince Gilligan gasped, "I did not see this coming. I thought it was going to be House of Cards..." Meanwhile, HBO's Behind the Candelabra was named Outstanding Movie or Miniseries. The Liberace biopic earned its star Michael Douglas his first Emmy in the title role and also gave director Steven Soderbergh his first shiny lady. Upon winning the category, producer Jerry Weintraub declared, "We took it to the gold standard."
Homeland star Claire Danes was named Lead Actress in a Drama Series, her third Emmy win to date. In addition to her cast and hubby, she singled out Henry Bromell, one of the show's writer-producers who recently passed away of a heart attack: "We just loved him so much. … We think of him every day as we work on this show that he helped define." Claire's competition in her category was Connie Britton, Michelle Dockery, Vera Farmiga, Kerry Washington, Elisabeth Moss and Robin Wright. The Best Actor honor went to Jeff Daniels for The Newsroom, his first nom and win. "Well, crap. Didn't expect this. I usually don't win anything," he quipped. Jeff bested Hugh Bonneville, Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Damian Lewis and Kevin Spacey.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama went to Boardwalk Empire star Bobby Cannavale, his second Emmy win, who recalled his surreal first day at work: "12 hours of beating someone to death with different types of rubber wrenches." Cannavale bested Jonathan Banks, Jim Carter, Peter Dinklage, Aaron Paul and Mandy Patinkin. The Best Supporting Actress in a Drama honor went to Breaking Bad star Anna Gunn, her first win. She was Morena Baccarin, Christine Baranski, Emilia Clarke, Christina Hendricks, and Maggie Smith.
Outstanding Comedy Series went to ABC's Modern Family, which has racked up a total of 57 nominations since its premiere. The show bested top laffers 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Louie, Veep and Girls. "I cannot express to your how surreal this feels," said creator Steven Levitan, who thanked all the bullies and others who made fun of him and his peers over the years. "Without you, we never would have gotten into comedy."
Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus was named Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, her fourth Emmy win, declaring, "This is so much good fortune it's almost too much to bear," adding that making people laugh is "a joyful way to make a living." With her co-star Tony Hale right behind her -- holding her purse and humorously feeding her "thank you" speech notes -- she made sure to mention her family and the cast – and specifically forgot to thank Tony. Julia bested Laura Dern, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Edie Falco. The Lead Actor trophy went to The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons, his third Emmy win, who said he's "very aware of how exceedingly fortunate" he is, adding, "It's so silly to be emotional, isn’t it?" Jim trumped Alec Baldwin, Jason Bateman, Don Cheadle, Louie C.K and Matt LeBlanc.
In the Supporting Actor category, Nurse Jackie star Merritt Wever notched her first-ever Emmy win, delivering a brief and pithy acceptance speech: "Thank you so much! Thank you so much. I gotta go. Bye." Wever bested fellow nominees Mayim Bialik, Julie Bowen, Anna Chlumsky, Jane Krakowski, Jane Lynch and Sofia Vergara. Veep star Tony Hale also nabbed his first-ever Emmy. While his speech was a lot longer, it can pretty much be summed up with his statement, "This is mind-blowing." Tony bested Ty Burrell, Adam Driver, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Bill Hader and Ed O'Neill.
THE OTHER GOOD STUFF
Outstanding Reality Competition Program went to The Voice, which bested perennial winner The Amazing Race as well as Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, Top Chef and So You Think You Can Dance; Dancing with the Stars pro Derek Hough trotted away with the Best Choreography award; big-screen helmers David Fincher won Best Directing for a Drama with House of Cards, while Steven Soderbergh won Best Directing for a Miniseries or Movie with Behind the Candelabra; Best Writing for a Comedy Series went to 30 Rock, while Best Writing for a Drama Series went to Homeland; The Colbert Report was named Best Variety Series, and also earned Best Writing for a Variety Series, while SNL snagged Best Directing in that category; Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries went to James Cromwell for American Horror Story: Asylum, while Ellen Burstyn won in the same category for Political Animals; Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries went to Laura Linney for The Big C: Hereafter, while in the same category Michael Douglas nabbed the Emmy for Behind the Candelabra, throwing due credit to co-star Matt Damon by saying, "You really deserve half of this, so do you want the bottom or the top?"
Related: ET's Complete Emmys Coverage
In a refreshing change of pace, several major stars who passed away this year were eulogized independently by their respective former co-stars and friends: Edie Falco called her late Sopranos co-star James Gandolfini kind, uniquely generous, fiercely loyal, and not entirely comfortable with his fame; Jane Lynch remembered Glee co-star Cory Monteith's warmth and charm, remarking that his untimely death "is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is addiction." "Big, brilliant kid" Jonathan Winters was remembered by his Mork & Mindy co-star Robin Williams, with a poignant and funny selection of anecdotes. Rob Reiner fought back tears as he talked about his TV mother-in-law, Jean Stapleton, for the heart and soul she brought to Edith Bunker on All in the Family; and Michael J. Fox remembered the warmth and love of Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg.
Other stars fondly remembered In Memoriam included Dennis Farina, Annette Funicello, Larry Hagman, Conrad Bain, Lee Thompson Young, Eileen Brennan, Bonnie Franklin, Jeanne Cooper, Allan Arbus, Charles Durning, Alex Karras, Jack Klugman, Julie Harris, Andy Williams and Roger Ebert.
Host Neil Patrick Harris kept the proceedings fun, quippy and dancey, with his opening monologue highlighted by a bit with previous hosts Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel interrupting the show to give him a few hosting tips -- despite his having already hosted the Emmys in the past -- with all the "strings" pulled by jilted host by Kevin Spacey, and then all capped by a hilarious cameo by Golden Globes co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Elton John debuted a new song written with Bernie Taupin in memory of Liberace called Home Again, and Carrie Underwood crooned Yesterday; Neil's How I Met Your Mother co-stars appeared in a fun "EHD" -- excessive hosting disorder -- PSA and staged an intervention, sending him to "The Ryan Seacrest Center for Excessive Hosting." At the halfway point, Neil broke out his first musical number, the cleverly meta tune The Number in the Middle of the Show, featuring "The Emmy Gold Dancers" in a retro disco variety number accompanied by Nathan Fillion and Sarah Silverman. "Sorry dudes, I just couldn't help myself," joked the host, who hoofed it once again just before the Best Choreography category, which interpreted all the top shows nominated for the evening with dance.
Watch ET for all the highlights of The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards!