LOS ANGELES — “Modern Family” won a record-tying fifth best comedy series Emmy Award — but the dominant force was “Breaking Bad,” which captured the top drama award and a trio of acting honors in Monday’s ceremony, proving that established broadcast and cable series retain the power to fend off challenges from upstart online series like “Orange Is the New Black.”
The ceremony’s emotional high point came with Billy Crystal’s restrained and graceful remembrance of Robin Williams, who died Aug. 11 by suicide. “He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him,” Crystal said at the conclusion of a tribute to industry members who died within the past 12 months. “Robin Williams, what a concept.”
ABC’s “Modern Family” tied the comedy record set by “Frasier,” while the final season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” captured the top drama award and a trio of acting honors for its stars. Netflix’s freshman “Orange Is the New Black,” which competed for best comedy series despite its dark prison setting, failed to sway Emmy voters, as did Netflix’s sophomore series “House of Cards.”
Bryan Cranston was honored as best actor in a drama for “Breaking Bad,” proving that “True Detective” nominee Matthew McConaughey’s movie-star appeal couldn’t conquer all. “I have gratitude for everything that has happened,” Cranston said. His victory ties him with four-time best drama actor champ Dennis Franz. Cranston’s co-stars Aaron Paula and Anna Gunn were honored in categories for best drama supporting acting.
A broadcast win was scored by ABC’s “The Good Wife” star Julianna Margulies, honored as best lead actress in a drama series. “What a wonderful time for women on television,” Margulies said.
McConaughey was the object of too-handsome jokes by presenter Jimmy Kimmel and adoration by winner Gail Mancuso, honored as best director for an episode of “Modern Family.” It was one of the better gags of the night.
“If you don’t mind, Matthew McConaughey, I’m gonna make eye contact with you right now,” she said from the stage, making good by holding the actor’s gaze for much of her speech.
The ceremony honoring the best of TV wasn’t shy about playing the movie-star card. “Six minutes to Woody Harrelson” flashed on screen during Colin Bucksey’s acceptance speech for best miniseries direction for “Fargo.” Harrelson and his “True Detective” co-star were given time to banter before announcing that Benedict Cumberbatch of “Sherlock: His Last Vow” was the winner of the best miniseries actor award. “So you won Oscar, (People magazine’s) Sexiest Man Alive and now you want an Emmy, too. Isn’t that a little bit greedy?” Harrelson teased his fellow nominee.
CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons was crowned as best comedy series actor, giving him his fourth Emmy and putting him in league with all-time sitcom winners Kelsey Grammer and Michael J. Fox.
“The Colbert Report” was honored as best variety series for its farewell season, with its star departing to take over for David Letterman on CBS’ “Late Show.”
Meyers kicked off the ceremony by tweaking his home network, NBC, and other broadcasters for being eclipsed in the awards by cable series and online newcomers like “Orange Is the New Black.”
Noting that the Emmys moved to Monday night to avoid a conflict with Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, he said that MTV doesn’t really specialize in videos anymore.
“That’s like network TV holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and Netflix. That would be crazy,” Meyers joked — but the outcome proved him wrong.
The ceremony’s traditional “in memorian” tribute to industry members who have died in the past year flashed images of stars including James Garner, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, Carmen Zapata and Elaine Stritch.