Of all the surprises delivered by Sunday night's Primetime Emmy Awards, the announcement of the best comedy and drama series winners rated low on the OMG spectrum thanks to Will Ferrell's upstaging, and a slew of recipients nabbing awards out of left field.
Ultimately, AMC's "Breaking Bad" took the statuette for drama for the show's penultimate series - the highly-anticipated final episode airs Sept. 27. "Bad" beat out last year's recipient "Homeland" and other favorites "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones" and "House of Cards."
"Modern Family's" fourth consecutive win for best comedy series placed it alongside other four-timers "All in the Family" and "Cheers." The only program to go one higher is "Frazier," which recorded five wins during its 11 season run. The ABC comedy hit about an extended family of misfits also took the best directing prize for Gail Manusco.
U.S. & World
"No one in America is winning their office pool," joked host Neil Patrick Harris as the show headed into its third hour on CBS.
Harris, whose loose, free-wheeling approach added an overall lightness to the proceedings was spot-on with his humorous assessment. On a night that was touted to be a showdown between digital upstart "House of Cards" and established cable and broadcast fare such as "Homeland," Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey," it soon became apparent that expecting the unexpected was the better bet.
Throughout his too rare appearances, Harris touched on the inclusion of digital streaming service Netflix among the night's nominees ("Tonight we celebrate the best of television, for the younger folks that's the thing you watch on your phones") and his own camp appeal as host (he participated in a tongue-in-cheek musical extravaganza midway through appropriately titled "The Number in the Middle of the Show"). The opening act comedy skit saw him sparring onstage with past Emmy emcees Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmell, and tackling front-row hecklers Amy Poehler and Tina Fey who demanded he remove his pants.
"I come to awards shows for the twerking," shouted Fey through a mouthful of popcorn.
Merritt Wever was the first big surprise of the night when she was named outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for "Nurse Jackie." Wever revealed her shock by delivering one of the shortest acceptance speeches in Emmy history.
HBO's "Veep" was an early leader with Julia Louis-Dreyfus receiving her fourth Emmy award for lead actress in a comedy series. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity to make people laugh," Louis-Dreyfus said. "It's a joyful way to make a living." Tony Hale, who plays the long-suffering assistant to Louis-Dreyfus' Vice President Selena Kyle on "Veep" had only moments before exited the stage after winning for supporting actor in a comedy series. Hale joined his TV boss onstage to whisper parts of her acceptance speech in her ear, a riff on their fictitious, and now award-winning characters.
Marking his third win in the category, Jim Parsons took lead actor in a comedy series for his role of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory," beating out favorites such as Louis C.K. and Alec Baldwin, who was coming off the strong final season of "30 Rock."
Baldwin's "30 Rock" costar Fey later accept the comedy writing award for the NBC series alongside her cowriter Tracey Wigfield.
It was third time lucky for Claire Danes, too, who accepted the lead actress in a drama series for her work on the Showtime espionage drama "Homeland." In her speech, Danes drew attention to the late writer Henry Bromell, who died in March of a heart attack and earlier in the evening had been awarded the outstanding writing for a drama series Emmy. "We think of him everday as we continue to work on this show he helped define," said Danes.
Also surprising was Jeff Daniels' win in the lead actor in a drama series for the Aaron Sorkin/HBO dramedy, "The Newsroom." "Well crap, I didn't expect this," said Daniels. "The last thing I won was a few years ago for 'Squid and the Whale' for best actor over 50 from the AARP. No offense to the AARP, but this is better."
For his win for outstanding writing for a variety series, "The Colbert Report's" Stephen Colbert thanked the program that gave him his start - "The Daily Show." Colbert was awarded the chance to pay double homage to "The Daily Show" and its host Jon Stewart when he returned to the podium to accept the variety series Emmy for his namesake show.
Naming Stewart as "my friend and my brother," Colbert went on to proudly describe his early introduction to the "Daily Show" as a time when Stewart gave "me all the stupidest things to say."
"Breaking Bad" added another notch to their Emmy belt when Anna Gunn was handed the award for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. Bobby Cannavale took home the male equivalent for his portrayal of gangster Gyp Rosetti in the Atlantic City set HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire."
Knocking the "The Amazing Race" off the outstanding reality-competition series pedestal (the global phenomenon from CBS has won the category nine times since 2001) was "The Voice." A reality juggernaut, the talent show with the big red chairs and superstar coaches is coming off its fourth ratings-winning season and returns Monday night.
With the inclusion of the much-binged on Netflix original series "House of Cards," the stage had been set for a showdown never before witnessed at the annual television love fest. The limited-episode series chronicling the voracious ambition of a Washington D.C. power couple played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright garnered nine nominations in total, including acting nods for both leads. But it failed to get the majority votes on the night, though David Fincher walked away with the outstanding directing for a drama series Emmy.
"Behind the Candelabra," the movie chronicling the later life of Liberace went in with 15 nominations and garnered two notable wins on the night: the first for director Steven Soderbergh, and one for star Michael Douglas, who portrayed the flamboyant entertainer in the HBO special.
Douglas couldn't help himself when it came to double entendres in his acceptance speech. He thanked his costar Matt Damon after using the phrase "two-hander," and then continued to raise eyebrows and laughs when he offered Damon half the award, asking, "Do you want the bottom or top?"
The 68-year-old actor also thanked his currently estranged wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, for all her support. Zeta-Jones was noticeably absent from the awards ceremony.