The kings of Madison Avenue are still lords of the living room.
Mad Men was named Outstanding Drama Series for the third year in a row, showing the upset-craving upstarts, the vampires, the likable serial killers and drug dealers—and Lost—who was boss at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
But though Lost won a sole technical award in in its final season and AMC kicked some major butt across the board, ABC had plenty to celebrate tonight.
Modern Family, the network's one true breakout hit last season, made a nice, fat splash tonight, winning Outstanding Comedy Series and establishing itself as a viable contender in multiple categories for years to come.
In addition to earning a half-dozen Emmys, the most for a broadcast-network series, the very award-worthy ensemble lent itself to one of the show's funniest sketches, a play on a network's idea of how to spice up a show's plotline. (Hint: It involved George Clooney, lots of George Clooney.)
On his first try, Eric Stonestreet earned the win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy, while Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd shared honors for comedy series writing to take Modern Familiy's Emmy tally to six (including last week's Creative Arts wins). It helped power the Alphabet net to 18 total wins, second only to perennial leader HBO's 25.
Going from ABC back to AMC, the men of Breaking Bad proved once again to be total badasses, with Bryan Cranston—once perenially overlooked for his comedic skills in Malcolm in the Middle—winning his third straight Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama and Aaron Paul snagging his first for Supporting Actor as Cranston's right-hand meth cooker.
Mad Men mastermind Matthew Weiner made it three straight wins for Writing for a Drama Series, this time sharing the honor with coscribe Erin Levy. They helped push Mad Men's total to four, and AMC's overall tally to six.
Kyra Sedgwick finally made it happen in the Lead Actress in a Drama category, her fifth nomination the charm for her role as a sticky-sweet-sounding but tough-as-nails detective on The Closer. Plus, we're always happy to see Kevin Bacon (and a Hollywood couple of 20-plus years).
A Big Bang was felt during the first third of the three-hour-plus show (which was handily split up into comedy, drama and movie/miniseries) when Jim Parsons upset, among others, two-time champ Alec Baldwin and Tony Shaloub in his final season as Monk in the race for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy.
Parsons thanked creator Chuck Lorre, his costars, God, et al. for everything. "You are wonderful people, you're so talented, you're such darn hard workers…You're more motivating than I could mention—but I just did," he said, his Sheldon twang totally audible.
Edie Falco returned to the winners' circle, scoring her fourth lead actress Emmy overall but first in the comedy section for her acerbic, drug-addicted titular role in Showtime's Nurse Jackie.
"This is just the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened in the history of this lovely awards show. I'm not funny!" the former Sopranos star insisted. She can protest all she wants, but she is now officially the only actress in history to win both lead acting Emmys for comedy and drama.
Falco's win tonight also gave Showtime—premium cable's ugly stepsister for years—a record seven wins for primetime series. Psst, that's more than HBO ever got in one year for its primetime series.
But though Showtime gained some ground, when you include Creative Arts categories, HBO couldn't help but raise the roof after Temple Grandin (Outstanding TV Movie), The Pacific (Outstanding Miniseries) and other premium productions had amassed another eight trophies tonight for a network-leading total of 25 Emmys.
Claire Danes picked up her first Emmy for playing Temple Grandin, an autistic woman whose work with animals ultimately led to improved slaughterhouse conditions across the U.S.
Other first-time winners included Glee scene-stealer Jane Lynch, winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy; The Good Wife's Archie Punjabi, who topped her Tony- and Emmy-winning costar Christine Baranski for Supporting Actress in a Drama; Julia Ormond, a Supporting Actress in a TV Movie/Miniseries winner for Temple Grandin; veteran character actor David Strathairn took the flip-side of that honor, also for Temple Grandin; and You Don't Know Jack scribe Adam Mazer, the winner for Writing for a TV Movie/Miniseries.
"Jack Kevorkian, I'm so grateful you're my friend, but I'm even more grateful that you're not my physician," Mazer told the infamous euthanasia specialist, who was sitting in the audience.
Another big, momentous first was Top Chef's win for Outstanding Reality Competition series, a category that's been dominated by The Amazing Race for the past seven years.
After shacking up with Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in the Modern Family sketch (not to mention Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara), Mr. Clooney showed up later to become the fourth recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for...well, you know how he rolls in the do-gooder category.
"[Bob and Dolores Hope], they're the best versions of the term celebrity," the real, live movie star said after accepting his Emmy from ER soulmate Julianna Margulies. "There are a lot of you here in the room like that. There are some of you that aren't, a couple of you—you know who you are, don't look around, I don't want to name names."
"It's important to remember how much good can get done, because we live in such strange times because bad behavior suck up all the attention in the press," the ridiculously debonair star continued.
"I've offered to go to the south Sudan and have a wardrobe malfunction, but the consensus was that, I'm 49 and it would just be upsetting and kind of sad," he joked. "When a disaster happens, everyone wants to help…The hard part is seven months later, five years later...and honestly, we fail at that. That's the facts. I fail at that.
"Here's where we let some very bright person here in the room, or at home watching, figure out how to keep that spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations long after the camera goes away. That would be an impressive accomplishment. Thank you."
Other Oscar winners moonlighting as an Emmy winners tonight were Al Pacino, named Lead Actor in a TV Movie/Miniseries for embodying Dr. Kevorkian in You Don't Know Jack, and Tom Hanks, who as a producer accepted the Outstanding Miniseries Emmy for The Pacific.
Alas, there was no awesome awkwardness during the handing out of the Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy Series Emmy, because the Academy opted to hand The Daily Show its seventh win in the category, rather than give Conan O'Brien a microphone with which to delightfully skirt the elephant in the room.
Happily enough, host Jimmy Fallon's earlier jibe—"NBC asking the host of a late-night show to come to L.A. to host a different show, what could possibly go wrong?"—included a nice pan to a beard-sporting Conan.
And speaking of Fallon... Way to go! The at-times too wiggly for his britches Late Night host did a fine, fine job hosting the Emmys, from the opening number featuring the cast of Glee, Betty White, Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, etc. set to "Born to Run" to his three-song tribute to "shows we've lost this year," Law & Order, Lost and 24.
"I thank the Academy for allowing a gay man to host the Emmys two years in a row," offered last year's stellar host, Neil Patrick Harris.
See all the moments of joy in our 2010 Emmys Winners gallery.