Jeff Daniels won the Emmy Award on Sunday 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 honor 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 Brommell, who died last March and who received a writing Emmy posthumously Sunday.
Danes' win ended the hope that "Scandal" best actress nominee Kerry Washington would become the first African-American to win in the category since Cicely Tyson in 1995 for "Sweet Justice."
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 go, bye," Wever told the audience after besting a field that included two-time winner Julie Bowen of "Modern Family."
"Merritt Wever, best speech ever," host Neil Patrick Harris said.
Backstage, she offered an explanation: "I'm sorry I didn't thank anyone. I was going to cry."
Tony Hale of "Veep" claimed the trophy for best supporting actor in a comedy, a category that has been the property in recent years of the men of "Modern Family."
"Oh, man.... This is mindblowing, mindblowing," Hale said.
Laura Linney was named best actress in a miniseries or movie for "The Big C: Hereafter." "The Voice" won best reality-competition program, "The Colbert Report" was crowned best variety show and Tina Fey won for writing "30 Rock."
Bobby Cannavale, from "Boardwalk Empire," won as best supporting actor in a drama, and Anna Gunn from "Breaking Bad" won the best actress award in the same category.
The ceremony's first hour was relatively somber, with memorial tributes and a doleful song by Elton John in honor of the late musical star Liberace, the subject of the nominated biopic "Behind the Candelabra."
"Liberace left us 25 years ago and what a difference those years have made to people like me," said John, who is openly gay in contrast to the closeted Liberace portrayed in the TV movie.
Robin Williams offered another tribute. "Jonathan Winters was my mentor," Williams said of the actor-comedian. "I told him that and he said, `Please, I prefer `idol."'
Also honored was Cory Monteith, the "Glee" star who died at age 31 in July of a drug and alcohol overdose.
"Cory was a beautiful soul," said his co-star Jane Lynch. "He was not perfect, which so many of us here tonight can relate to. His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction."
Harris started out the ceremony with help - and harassment - from past hosts including Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch and Conan O'Brien. When they started to squabble, nominee Kevin Spacey of the online show "House of Cards" got a close-up.
"It's all going according to my plan. I was promised the hosting job this year and they turned me down," Spacey said, channeling the scheming politician he plays on the digital series.
All eyes were on "House of Cards" from Netflix. The political thriller, the first online program to compete for the top trophy, is part of a video universe explosion that's added streaming services including Netflix and websites like YouTube to broadcast, cable and satellite TV delivery.
ABC's "Modern Family" has the chance at its fourth consecutive best comedy series trophy.
"House of Cards" faces tough opposition. AMC's "Breaking Bad" is after its first best drama award as it nears the end of its five-season run, and "Mad Men" would like to claim a fifth honor to set a record for most wins in the category.
AMC's "Mad Men" is tied with past greats "Hill Street Blues," `'The West Wing," and "L.A. Law." Last year, Showtime's "Homeland" played spoiler by taking the trophy and is nominated again along with PBS' "Downton Abbey" and HBO's "Game of Thrones."
This segment aired on September 23, 2013.
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