A night full of surprises finally took a predictable turn in the final stretch when Modern Family and Breaking Bad took the best series honors. ABC’s Modern Family extended its streak to four consecutive best comedy series wins to tie such classics as All In The Family, Cheers and The Dick Van Dyke Show. After getting upset last year, AMC’s Breaking Bad earned its first ever top drama prize. But there were upsets galore, with no The Daily Show as best variety series or The Amazing Race as best reality competition series for the first time in a decade. HBO’s Behind The Candelabra, which had an already insurmountable lead following the Creative Emmys, added three more Emmys to his haul for 11 total, more than twice the next winningest program. HBO once again topped the list of networks with the most trophies, 27. And Saturday Night Live surpassed Frasier with most lifetime Emmys, 40.
Related: Nikki Finke Live-Snarks 65th Emmys
On a night of surprises, the lead actor in a comedy series categories were a rare island of status quo. Frontrunner Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) won his third Emmy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus repeated as winner for Veep. But the supporting comedy acting categories were ripe with upsets. Merritt Wever of Nurse Jackie was so stunned by her win, she just walked offstage with no acceptance speech. Who can blame her — she was a true underdog. Her counterpart, fellow surprise winner Tony Hale of Veep, was a bit more eloquent but only a bit. For the first time ever, Modern Family was shut out from the acting categories with a cast member not taking at least one Emmy (the series’ cast submit themselves as supporting), though the series got a directing award.
The overhaul was even more profound in the drama acting categories. While Claire Danes’ repeat win for Homeland was a shoe-in, The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels’ name drew gasps when read as winner for best actor over frontrunner Bryan Cranston and other heavyweight contenders like Kevin Spacey. Two two-time supporting winners, Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith (she won on the longform side in 2011 and in drama last year) and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, were upset by Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn and Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale, respectively. For a second straight year, former Emmy darling Mad Men was shut out completely.
Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report for the most part have alternated taking the best writing for a variety series category, so it was no surprise when Stephen Colbert led his writing team to the podium to accept the award, which went to The Daily Show last year. The surprise came three categories later when Colbert made a return to the stage to take the award for Variety Series. This is Colbert Report‘s first-ever top variety series award, which had gone to the show that spawned it, The Daily Show, for each of the past 10 years. But Stewart’s streak remained intact as he is executive producing Colbert, earning an 11th consecutive award in the category.
Mark Burnett had never won for Survivor but today he was victorious for NBC’s The Voice, which dethroned The Amazing Race as best Reality Competition Series. It became the first singing show and only the second series besides Top Chef to win over Amazing Race since the category was launched in 2003.
The surprises spilled over to the longform field where British scribe Abi Morgan (The Hour) upset the likes of Richard LaGravenese, David Mamet and Jane Campion. The order was quickly restored, with HBO’s Behind The Candelabra winning for best movie/miniseries, best actor, Michael Douglas, and directing, Steven Soderbergh.
In its first Emmy season, Netflix earned one major award — Directing for a Drama Series for House Of Cards’ David Fincher who scored his first Emmy for the series’ pilot. (The streaming service also won 2 Emmys at the Creative Arts.) The drama writing category produced one of the somber moments of the night as it went to late Homeland scribe Henry Bromell.
Several cancelled series got a final curtain call tonight. Laura Linney, previously nominated in the best actress in a comedy series category, was a surprise winner in the lead actress in a miniseries or movie category for the Showtime series’ four-part conclusion. The supporting actress longform category went to Ellen Burstyn for USA’s Political Animals. And 30 Rock creator Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield won for writing the series finale. The comedy directing prize went to Modern Family‘s Gail Mancuso for a female sweep of the comedy writing and directing categories.