September 18, 2011
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Modern Family, Mad Men Named Top Series at 63rd Primetime Emmys

ABC leads winners, HBO is first among cable companies. Executive producer Mark Burnett and host Jane Lynch infuse show with energy and surprises.

By Barry Garron

Surprise and spontaneity ruled the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards as broadcast networks and PBS reasserted themselves as winners. Combined, the networks and PBS won 14 of the night’s 25 awards.

At the event, held Sunday, September 18, at NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles, ABC emerged the leader with five Emmys, all of them for Modern Family, chosen best comedy for a second straight year. The sophomore comedy swept the first four awards.

“Are you kidding me?” asked Julie Bown, selected outstanding supporting actress for a comedy. “I don’t know what I’m going to talk about in therapy next week.”

Her husband on the series, Ty Burrell, won for outstanding supporting actor. Michael Alan Spiller won for comedy director and Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman shared the comedy writing Emmy.

That prompted host Jane Lynch to announce after a commercial break: “Welcome back to the Modern Family Awards.”

Academy voters also gave multiple awards to other series: PBS’ Downton Abbey (four Emmys), Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (two), HBO’s Mildred Pierce (two) and DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights, which also ran on NBC.

It was the ninth consecutive win for The Daily Show as outstanding variety, music or comedy series.

The Fox telecast, executive produced by Mark Burnett, featured Lynch in a splashy opening number with characters from more than a dozen series that ultimately led to a slushee-throwing confrontation with cheerleader coach Sue Sylvester, her character on Fox’s Glee.

Burnett didn’t shy away from TV controversy. In a taped piece, Ricky Gervais, who was criticized for remarks he made as host of the Golden Globe Awards, said he had been warned that his comments would be edited if he crossed the line. The edits soon followed, each with surgically precise comic timing.

Charlie Sheen presented the Emmy for lead actor in a comedy, prefacing the nomination with good wishes to the cast of his former show, Two and a Half Men. “I want to take a moment to get something off my chest,” said Sheen, who had been nominated in the category four times previously for his work on the series. “From the bottom of my heart, I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season.”

Ashton Kutcher, added to the cast after Sheen’s departure, had the last word when he and Jon Cryer were presenters. “I’m not Charlie Sheen, and Jon, I want to tell you something,” he said, referring to a remark Sheen made earlier this year. “I do not think you are a troll.”

Sheen presented the Emmy to Jim Parsons of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory — his second straight win in the category.

It was the first of four Emmys for CBS, each for a different program. The Amazing Race won for outstanding reality show, Melissa McCarthy won for lead actress in a comedy for Mike and Molly and Julianna Margulies for lead actress in a drama for The Good Wife.

McCarthy claimed her Emmy surrounded by the five other nominees in her category, all of whom came onstage when their names were read. In addition to an Emmy, she was given a tiara and a bouquet of roses.

"Wow. It’s my first and best pageant ever," she exclaimed.

Amazing Race had won eight consecutive Emmys before being bested last year by Top Chef.

Outstanding lead actor in a drama series was captured by Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights — prevailing in the show's final season after earning a nomination in the category last year.

The show was also a winner for outstanding writing for a drama series, a prize captured by executive producer-writer Jason Katims.

HBO, which led all networks in nominations, won four primetime Emmys. In addition to lead actress Kate Winslet and supporting actor Guy Pearce in the miniseries Mildred Pierce, awards went to Martin Scorsese for directing the pilot of Boardwalk Empire and to Peter Dinklage for outstanding supporting actor in a drama, for Game of Thrones.

AMC’s Mad Men continued its string of outstanding drama Emmys with a fourth consecutive win. That tied the show with Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and The West Wing for most outstanding drama statuettes.

“I did not think that was going to happen,” said Mad Men's executive producer and creator, Matthew Weiner.

Other winners:

Margo Martindale for outstanding supporting actress for the FX drama Justified.

Barry Pepper for outstanding lead actor in the ReelzChannel miniseries The Kennedys.

Director Don Roy King won for his work on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Burnett’s innovations were apparent throughout the telecast. Digital stars twinkled and descended behind presenters and Emmy winners. A chorus of singers dubbed “The Emmytones” — made up of Kate Flannery (The Office), Taraji P. Henson (Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story), Joel McHale (Community), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) and Wilmer Valderrama (Awake) — provided a musical opening to each TV genre. A taped segment poked fun at the large number of reality shows originating in New Jersey.

This year’s “In Memoriam” segment featured a performance by the singing group the Canadian Tenors, who sang the song “Hallelujah.” The accompanying video included clips of many television figures who died since last year's Emmys, including performers James Arness, Peter Falk and Barbara Billingsley, producer Bob Banner and writer-producer Stephen J. Cannell.

Between the Primetime Emmys and the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, held on September 10, HBO led all cable networks with 19 Emmys, top among broadcasters was PBS, with 14.

A complete list of winners is available here.

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