HBO's Liberace movie 'Behind the Candelabra' wins three awards.
As Breaking Bad continues its intense journey to its final moments, its cast and crew were all smiles at the Emmy Awards.
With its series climax airing in a week, the AMC show won best drama series on Sunday night.
"Man, I did not see this coming," said creator Vince Gilligan, whom star Anna Gunn called a "mad genius" when accepting her outstanding supporting actress Emmy.
"I thought this was gonna be House of Cards," Gilligan added, "or it could've been Homeland, or it could've been Mad Men, or it could've been Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, could've been any of 'em, and even some others who were not nominated in this golden age of television that we feel so proud to be a part of."
On the more humorous side, Modern Family pulled off its fourth consecutive win for best comedy series, and also added an Emmy for best directing.
"I cannot begin to express to you how surreal this ride has been, because none of us grew up feeling like winners," said Modern Family creator Steven Levitan. "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. Without you we never would have gone into comedy!"
HBO's Behind the Candelabra won three Emmy Awards for best miniseries or movie, outstanding director for Steven Soderbergh and lead-actor honors for Michael Douglas, who played the flamboyant piano superstar Liberace.
"I hope all the people that deserve to be thanked will understand if I say that no matter what we all did, and no matter how well we did it, and no matter how much support we got, if Michael and Matt (Damon) don't show up with those performances, we don't have a movie," Soderbergh said.
In his acceptance speech, Douglas thanked his co-star, fellow nominee Matt Damon.
"You're magnificent," he said to Damon, "and the only reason I'm standing here is because of you, so you really deserve half of this, so do you want the bottom or the top? The top? I figured that."
In a bit of an upset over the likes of Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, Homeland's Damian Lewis and Mad Men's Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels won his first Emmy as Newsroom's larger-than-life cable newsman Will McAvoy.
"Well, crap! Didn't expect this, I usually don't win anything," Daniels said. "The last thing I won was a few years ago for Squid and the Whale. I won the best actor over 50 from the AARP. With all respect to the AARP, this is better."
Claire Danes won her second straight award for lead actress in a drama as CIA agent Carrie Mathison on Homeland. She took time on stage to acknowledge Henry Bromell, the Homeland producer who died of a heart attack at age 65 in March and was posthumously awarded with a best writing Emmy.
"We just love him so much. We think of him every day," said Danes, who thanked her cast and husband, actor Hugh Dancy, "for making me so whole and happy so I can be unhappy in the land of make-believe."
Oscar-winning actress Ellen Burstyn picked up her second Emmy for her supporting role on the miniseries Political Animals.
"I'm just glad I was on screen long enough for you to vote for me," Burstyn said. "I want to thank USA for putting this smart show on the air" as well as the creative team "who had the wisdom to write a woman over 65 who still had a lot of juice."
American Horror Story, which led all nominees with 17 total, was honored with a supporting actor Emmy for James Cromwell, who called the win "very strange."
Boardwalk Empire star Bobby Cannavale also won his first Emmy, for supporting actor in a drama series.
"I didn't write anything down, I can't believe I get to get mentioned with these other really incredible actors," he said. "Thank you for putting me with them. Mandy Patinkin's the first person I ever saw on stage, he's like my favorite person. But you know what, I have a family, so let me thank them."
Laura Linney won outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie for The Big C but wasn't there to accept the award at the ceremony hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Thankfully, Matt Damon was.
"Laura couldn't be here tonight. She's such a great actress that she didn't even need to show up," he joked.
Like on their show Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus had Tony Hale for help to accept her second straight Emmy for leading actress in a comedy.
"This is so much good fortune it's almost too much to bear," said Louis-Dreyfus, who started thanking folks. Hale whispered "Family, family" to her from behind, causing her to excitedly state, "I'd like to thank my family!"
'Breaking Bad' beats out the online series 'House of Cards' to win best drama at the Emmys, while 'Modern Family' picks up its 4th consecutive best comedy Emmy. (Sept. 23) AP
The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons won his third Emmy for lead actor in a comedy. "Boy, I want you to know that I'm very aware of how exceedingly fortunate I am," he said during his acceptance speech.
Merritt Wever won her first Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy for Nurse Jackie, and had arguably one of the shortest speeches in recent memory: "Thanks so much. Thank you so much. I gotta go, bye."
Tina Fey accepted the best writing Emmy for comedy for 30 Rock and said she was sharing the award with her partner of seven years, Robert Carlock. "There are not that many people that make me feel lazy and stupid, and you make me feel that way every day."
Hale won best supporting actor in a comedy, and was honored to be in the same field as the other nominees.
"Here's the deal. Even to be on a list with those guys is crazy humbling. This is mind-blowing," Hale said.
Saturday Night Live won for outstanding directing of a variety show, Dancing WIth the Stars was honored with best choreography, and Stephen Colbert accepted two Emmys, for best variety and outstanding writing for The Colbert Report.
"Wow, the Emmys are so good this year. Something special about it, I'm not sure what," Colbert joked, thanking his writing team "who give me all the stupidest things to say.
"We want to thank anybody who's willing to come on and talk to that stupid person I play on TV. Personally, I want to thank my wife for being so cruel and sexy."
Colbert also made special mention of his mother, who died earlier this year, and thanked her for "not worrying about me and believing that I'd be OK."
Glee's Jane Lynch led a tribute to her late co-star, Cory Monteith, who died of a drug and alcohol overdose in July.
"Cory was a beautiful soul. He was not perfect, which many of us here tonight can relate to. His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction," Lynch said. "If you were lucky enough to know Cory as we did, and witness firsthand Cory's goofy, breezy sense of humor, his natural instinct for inclusiveness and his unbridled sense of generosity day in and day out, I promise you have loved him even more."
Edie Falco also honored her late co-star on The Sopranos, James Gandolfini: "You all knew James Gandolfini the actor. I was lucky enough to know Jim the man for 10 years as his close colleague and his pretend partner and for many more years as his friend. And it's Jim the man, the very dear man, that i will miss most of all."
The video service Netflix made history by winning its first Emmy: a best directing award to David Fincher for the drama House of Cards. It's the first Emmy to go to a show not aired on a traditional TV station or network.
The Voice won for best reality program and The Hour won for outstanding writing in a miniseries or movie.
Among pre-broadcast awards, Project Runway's Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn won their second straight Emmy for outstanding host of a reality program. Bob Newhart (The Big Bang Theory) and Melissa Leo (Louie) won guest actor and guest actress in a comedy series, respectively, and Carrie Preston (The Good Wife) and Dan Bucatinsky (Scandal) won in the drama guest-star categories.