A number of firsts and upsets defined the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, telecast live Sunday night from the Nokia Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, but when it came down to it, the Television Academy once again tuned in to its perennial favorites, Mad Men and Modern Family.
Mad Men was named Best Drama Series for the fourth year in a row, besting Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones and The Good Wife. Exec producer Matthew Weiner called it "an incredible dream."
The dysfunctional Modern Family stole the Outstanding Comedy Series statuette for the second year in a row, this time from Parks and Recreation, Glee, The Office, 30 Rock and The Big Bang Theory. Collecting the award for his extensive cast, exec producer Steven Levitan recalled a time when a gay couple pointed out to him, "You're not just making people laugh, you're making them more tolerant." He then joked that they must be talking about an older man with a much younger, beautiful woman.
Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler found the spotlight for the first time, receiving the statuette for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series over opposing players Michael C. Hall, Timothy Olyphant, Steve Buscemi, Hugh Laurie and Jon Hamm. So sure he wouldn't win, the show's Coach Taylor declared, "I knew for a fact that I would not be standing here," due to his competition. He also thanked "the people of Austin, TX who welcomed us into our homes and filled those stadiums" for the now-cancelled show.
Julianna Margulies was named Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for The Good Wife over Kathy Bates, Mariska Hargitay, Elisabeth Moss, Connie Briton and Mireille Enos. Thanking cast, producers and crew, she beamed to her husband in the audience, "I love being your good wife, and I'm so grateful you have no political aspirations."
Game of Thrones nobleman Peter Dinklage out-jousted John Slattery, Josh Charles, Alan Cumming, Walton Goggins and Andre Braugher for his first win as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, giving a shout-out to the caretaker of his dog and to HBO, saying, "You let artists create, and that's rare, unfortunately." Justified star Margo Martindale was named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, her first nom and win, over Christine Baranski, Kelly Macdonald, Michelle Forbes, Archie Panjabi and Christina Hendricks. "Sometimes things just take time," said the excited veteran actress, "but with time comes great appreciation."
In a surprise upset -- and one of the most emotionally rewarding moments of the night -- Mike & Molly star Melissa McCarthy was named Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, crowned with a tiara and handed roses like a pageant winner. "Wow, it's my first and best pageant ever!" she declared, fighting back tears. "I'm sorry, I'm a cryer -- I'm from Plainfield, IL, I'm standing here and it's kind of amazing." Fellow nominees Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Laura Linney, Martha Plimpton and Edie Falco were all onstage to cheer on her first-ever win.
The Big Bang Theory uber-nerd Jim Parsons was named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, his second consecutive win, and after receiving the award from presenter Charlie Sheen, he declared, "This is so odd for so many reasons." Parsons beat out Big Bang co-star Johnny Galecki, Matt LeBlanc, Steve Carell, Louis C.K. and Alec Baldwin.
In the supporting category for Comedy, Modern Family star Ty Burrell won his first Emmy over co-stars Ed O'Neill and Eric Stonestreet, as well as Chris Colfer and Jon Cryer. Dedicating the win to his late father, Burrell quipped, "If he were here tonight, I think he would say, 'But why the makeup? … Why do you have to look like a harlot?'" Burrell's onscreen Family wife Julie Bowen also earned her first trophy, besting co-star Sofia Vergara as well as Kristen Wiig, Jane Krakowski, Jane Lynch and Betty White.
In the Miniseries/TV Movies category, Downton Abbey was named Outstanding Miniseries, with Maggie Smith named Best Supporting Actress. Abbey also earned accolades for Outstanding Writing and Directing. Kate Winslet was declared Outstanding Lead Actress for her work in Mildred Pierce. Extremely excited, Kate shared her award with her mother, saying, "You never stop needing your mom." Barry Pepper was named Outstanding Lead Actor for his portrayal of Bobby Kennedy in The Kennedys. The Best Supporting Actor nod went to Guy Pearce, his first nom and win, for Mildred Pierce. He joked, "I got to have sex with Kate Winslet many, many times, and I didn't realize it would result in this," then subsequently apologized to his wife.
Other big awards of the night included Emmy stalwarts The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Amazing Race winning yet again for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series and Reality Competition Program, respectively; Friday Night Lights earned Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series; Modern Family picked up additional Comedy Series awards for directing and writing; and Martin Scorsese won his first-ever director Emmy for Boardwalk Empire.
Keeping Emmy night light and energetic, host Jane Lynch tapped her Glee pedigree with an entertaining opening number that imagined the entire world of TV sharing a big apartment building -- from the casts of The Big Bang Theory to Mad Men -- culminating in a face-off between Lynch and her alter ego, Sue Sylvester. Lynch also tapped "The Emmy Tones" (an all-star a cappella group including Zachary Levi and Joel McHale) to introduce all four genres of the awards via song.
Other highlights of the show included Amy Poehler rushing the stage when her name was called as a Best Comedy Actress nominee, prompting her fellow Best Comedy Actress nominees to follow suit; a heavily edited/censored message from Ricky Gervais, who declared that after his Golden Globes hosting gig, he's "not even allowed on American soil"; a version of The Office that included Kim Kardashian and Ashton Kutcher; SNL's The Lonely Island song medley featuring Michael Bolton and Akon; and on a more serious note, a contrite Charlie Sheen declaring, "I want to take a moment to get something off my chest: From the bottom of my heart, I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season. We spent eight wonderful years together and I know you will continue to make great television."
Watch ET for more highlights on the red carpet and backstage at the Emmys!