Mad Men only won once tonight, but it was the one that mattered.
AMC's critically adored homage to 1960s office politics and sexual mores was named Outstanding Drama at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, its fourth straight win in the top category. To make it happen, Don Draper and his cronies had to muscle aside Golden Globe winner Boardwalk Empire and outgoing sentimental fave Friday Night Lights.
Toppling the Globe-winning leading men from both series, however, was Friday Night Light's Kyle Chandler, who deservingly went out an MVP as Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.
"Wow, thank you to the Academy," the simply tuxedoed actor said humbly. "Thank you to the other actors...I knew for a fact that I would not be standing here."
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series went to Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife, her second Emmy but her first since her ER win in 1995.
Modern Family added to the déjà-vu aspect of the night, taking Outstanding Comedy Series for the second time in a row. (That makes it 2-for-2, just like 30 Rock was back in the day.)
The hit sitcom also accounted for all five of ABC's wins tonight to up the Alphabet Network's total to eight, including last week's Creative Arts Emmy wins. HBO lead the field, as usual, with 19, but only four of those came tonight, and PBS is hot on Mr. Premium's heels this year with 14, thanks to some smashing Masterpiece programming.
The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, a Texan Tony Shalhoub in the making, repeated in the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series, leaving Mike and Molly star Melissa McCarthy to revel in first-time winner glory. (Though Parsons was the one who got to accept an award from Charlie Sheen, winning! "This is just awkward for so many reasons," he remarked, glancing behind him as Sheen left the stage.)
"Holy smokes," said McCarthy, who, also to thanks to her breakout turn in Bridesmaids, is having a hell of a year. "I'm from Plainfield, Illinois, and I'm standing here and it's kind of amazing."
But earlier in the night, the Emmy stage hosted one Family reunion after another: Julie Bowen won her first Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress; her TV hubby Ty Burrell's first win for Supporting Actor, Michael Spiller's for Outstanding Direction, and Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richmond's shared honor for Outstanding Writing.
"Are you kidding me?!" Bowen exclaimed. "I don't know what I'm going to talk about in therapy next week now. I won something!"
Burrell struck a fine chord of sentiment and humor, wishing that his late father could have seen what he had accomplished while also suspecting that his dad would have just asked him, "But why the makeup?"
"And I would say, 'Just think of me as a very masculine lady.' And he would say, ‘I do, son,' " Burrell said frankly.
"Welcome back to the Modern Family Awards," persevering host Jane Lynch announced after the ABC series' rash of wins.
But while ABC and CBS owned the funny, Emmy spells drama...Hmm, usually we'd say H-B-O, but apparently there are many ways to spell drama these days.
Peter Dinklage represented for the estimable HBO fantasy-epic drama Game of Thrones, thrilling George R.R. Martin fans everywhere for his win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for playing the relentlessly self-preserving Tyrion Lannister.
Veteran character thesp but Emmy newbie Margo Martindale was named Outstanding Supporting Actress for the southern-law-and-disorder drama Justified, the sole win for Fox-owned FX tonight.
"Sometimes things just take time!" marveled the 60-year-old scene-stealer. "But with time comes great appreciation."
Indeed it does, say the champagne-popping folks over at Reelz Channel.
The second-thought cable network took in The Kennedys when no one else would and walked away with 10 Emmy nominations and a solid win for Bobby Kennedy, er, Barry Pepper, named Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.
For the record, that's one more win than Showtime had tonight. Burn.
"Oh, I didn't think I was going to win anything!" exclaimed first-time Emmy winner Winslet, taking us briefly back to 2009 when she was joyfully cleaning up for her film work. "Look, I really did win it! This really means such a great deal to all of us. I feel, really, this had nothing to do with me."
"I got to have sex with Kate Winslet many, many times. I didn't realize it would result in this," Pearce quipped. "So Kate, I share this with you...for allowing me to insert myself into your world of Mildred. And to my wife, Kate, who had to listen to me talk about that every day when I came home from work. Thank you, my darling, and I'm sorry.
Mildred was trounced, however, for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie by PBS' Downton Abbey, which scored wins for writing, directing and supporting actress Maggie Smith en route to tying—tying—HBO with four wins tonight.
Mildred Pierce was just no match for Masterpiece, eh? (A question better asked while wearing a monocle or peering over the brim of one's pince nez, of course.)
Boardwalk Empire won seven technical honors last week and didn't leave entirely empty-handed tonight, either: Oscar winner and all-around Hollywood icon Martin Scorsese won his first Emmy for his Oustanding Direction of the series' pilot.
The Daily Show—the Amazing Race of its field—enjoyed its ninth straight win for Outstanding Variety, Comedy or Musical Series, along with yet another win for the writing team.
"The Academy is very good...Thanks for saying to us, 'You are good at writing,'" read the deadpan speech prepared by the illustrious group of scribes. "Most of the time Jon Stewart checks our writing...This will show him. Fox News joke T-K, Emmy is very good, thank you."
Oh, and speaking of The Amazing Race... It returned to the Outstanding Reality-Competition Program winner's circle tonight after a brief blip in the force.
Top Chef was apparently just a flash in the pan.
(Originally published Sept. 18, 2011, at 8:13 p.m. PT)