'Breaking Bad,' the brutal saga of an everyman's ambition turned evil, captured its first best drama Emmy Award on Sunday, while 'Modern Family' won its fourth consecutive trophy for top comedy series.
"I did not see this coming," said 'Breaking Bad' creator Vince Gilligan, tipping his hat to competitor "House of Cards," the first online contender for top Emmy honors.
Jeff Daniels won the Emmy for best drama series actor for his portrayal of an idealistic TV anchorman in 'The Newsroom,' with Claire Danes capturing top actress honors for her troubled CIA agent in "Homeland."
Daniels noted that he'd also received an age 50-plus acting honour from AARP, which represents the interests of older Americans.
"With all due respect to the AARP, this is even better," Daniels said.
Danes, who captured her second trophy for the terrorism drama, paid tribute to one of the series' writers, Henry Bromell, who died last March and who received a writing Emmy posthumously on Sunday.
The ceremony often struck a melancholy note with extended tributes to stars and other industry members who died in the past year.
"Well, this may be the saddest Emmys of all time but we could not be happier," said 'Modern Family' executive producer Steve Levitan.
It also included upsets, defying the conventional wisdom in several categories, including acting categories.
"This just in. Nobody in America is winning their Emmy office pool. Surprises galore," host Neil Patrick Harris.
Claire Danes' win ended the hopes that 'Scandal' best actress nominee Kerry Washington would become the first African American to win in the category.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus claimed her second consecutive best comedy actress award for her role as an ambitious political second banana in 'Veep,' with Jim Parsons again claiming the top comedy acting trophy for 'The Big Bang Theory.'
"This is so much good fortune it's almost too much to bear," said Louis-Dreyfus. "I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to make people laugh. It's a joyful way to make a living."
Parsons added to the awards he won in 2011 and 2010 for the role of a science nerd.
"My heart, oh my heart. I want you to know I'm very aware of how exceedingly fortunate I am," he said.
Merritt Wever of 'Nurse Jackie' won the night's first award, for best supporting actress in a comedy series, kicking off the ceremony on a surprising note and with a remarkably brief acceptance speech.
"Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Um, I got to