Jeff Daniels and Claire Danes with their respective Emmy Awards...

Jeff Daniels and Claire Danes with their respective Emmy Awards for lead actor and actress in a drama at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. (Sept. 22, 2013) Credit: AP (2)

"Breaking Bad" won best drama Sunday night at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. The AMC show, by critical consensus TV's best show, finally got the industry consensus, too, by winning its first Emmy for best drama after four nominations.

Jeff Daniels of HBO's "The Newsroom" was a surprise winner for lead actor in a drama, upsetting "Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston and "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm. Claire Danes won lead actress in a drama for the second consecutive year for her role as Carrie Mathison on Showtime's "Homeland."

ABC's "Modern Family" won its fourth consecutive best comedy award, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus again winning lead actress in a comedy for her role as Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO's "Veep." Jim Parsons of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" won his third Emmy for lead actor in a comedy.

Among other notable upset winners were "The Colbert Report" (variety series) and "The Voice" (reality competition program), which unthroned the longtime champs in their respective categories, "The Daily Show" and "The Amazing Race."

Other highlights included:

ABOUT THAT OPENING. The opening for any Emmys telecast is perilous terrain, where good and not-so-good hosts stumble and flail through weak material that never quite captures the state of TV. Not so Sunday night: Host Neil Patrick Harris opened with a pretaped bit where he was overwhelmed by a tower of monitors -- and of babble -- reflecting the bewildering diversity of TV circa 2013: "It's more than entertainment, it's education," he deadpanned, as "Duck Dynasty" flashed on a screen -- then segued to hosts of recent Emmys past, with Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien appearing onstage. But the moment was stolen by nominee Kevin Spacey, from the audience, who observed to the camera (as he does in voice-over on "House of Cards"): "It's all going according to plan." Unclear what that meant, but it was still funny.

REMEMBRANCES. The Emmys this year made a controversial decision to break out "in memoriam" tributes to several stars who died during the past year -- controversial because "Glee's" Cory Monteith was among those to be honored, while major TV stars like Jack Klugman or Larry Hagman were not. Robin Williams honored Jonathan Winters ("a brilliant kid who never grew up"), and Rob Reiner closed his tribute to his "All in the Family" co-star Jean Stapleton with this: "Carroll [O'Connor] and Jean, I love you." Lynch said this of her "Glee" co-star: "This gifted and wonderful man was worthy of your love if you were lucky enough to witness his goofy, breezy sense of humor. . . . I promise you, you would have loved him even more." Finally, there was Edie Falco's moving tribute to "Sopranos" co-star James Gandolfini: "Over the years, I was particularly moved by Jim's devotion to his family and his fierce devotion to his friends. If you needed anything at all, ever, Jim was there to take care of it before you had a chance to ask . . . It's Jim, the man, the very dear man, that I will miss most of all."

A HALF-CENTURY AGO. Fifty years ago this November, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Sunday night the Emmys attempted to suture together the horror of that moment with the joy of another, arriving just two and a half months later, when The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Segue to Carrie Underwood singing "Yesterday" -- a nice, understated rendition, but it probably did little to explain why the Emmys chose to yoke these two disparate events into one unwieldy tribute.

PIANO MEN. Liberace, who once sued a tabloid for reporting that he was gay, got a tribute at the Emmys for essentially being a gay icon -- from one of the world's biggest. Elton John offered a memorable Emmy tribute to Liberace, even if it was unclear how the lyrics to the song he sang, "Home Again," referred exactly to the Sequined One.

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