'Homeland' Wins Best Drama Series Emmy, Claire Danes, Damian Lewis Take Home Lead Actor Emmys

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"Modern Family" wins its third consecutive outstanding comedy Emmy, while Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet earn acting honors.

President Obama is a fan. Now Showtime's freshman hit Homeland, which revolves around America's ongoing war on terror, can boast a shelf full of Emmys. The series won the trophy for outstanding drama, snapping Mad Men's four-year winning streak in the category, while Claire Danes and Damian Lewis took home statuettes for lead actress and actor and series co-creators  Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon earned the Emmy for outstanding writing. 

Lewis, who plays a Marine sergeant who was turned by Al-Qaeda during eight years as a prisoner of war, said, "I don’t really believe in judging art, but I thought I’d show up just in case."

He then asked for a round of applause for his fellow nominees, who included Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, who has now been nominated in the category five times without winning.

Danes, who was considered a shoo-in for her searing portrayal of an emotionally unstable CIA officer, complimented Lewis for achieving the "magic trick of turning a villain into someone human and someone we feel so deeply about." And she called co-star Mandy Patinkin one of the most "beautiful, generous, loving, imaginative actors I’ve ever come across."

ABC's Modern Family won its third consecutive outstanding comedy Emmy and also won supporting acting honors for Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen and directing for series co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan.

They were the second consecutive Emmys for the Modern Family stars.

Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with a bit that had a bevy of actresses including Mindy Kaling, Zooey Daschanel and a naked (but pixilated) Lena Dunham whipping (and punching and slapping) the first-time host into shape. The beating must have worked because Kimmel kept the show moving along at a brisk pace, wrapping it a few minutes before 11 p.m. on the East Coast, a rare early finish for an awards show. 

The Emmys for lead actor and actress in a comedy series were something of a surprise. "This is crazy," Jon Cryer said as he snagged only his second Emmy for CBS' long-runing Two and a Half Men. Cryer won a supporting actor Emmy for Men in 2009 when he was playing Charlie Sheen's foil. 

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home the top comedy acting Emmy for her portrayal of a bungling vice president of the United States in HBO's Veep. She teamed with oft-nominated Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler to poke a little fun at the Television Academy's track record of snubbing Poehler by pretending to mix up her acceptance speech with Poehler's.

"I would like to thank NBC, Parks and Rec ...," said Louis-Drefus. As she trailed off, Poehler got up from her seat to switch speeches with Louis-Dreyfus.

"It really is in fact tremendous to be in the same category with these women who are so powerful and wonderful and know what they’re doing," said Louis-Dreyfus, before adding, "Lastly, isn't it a shame that Amy Poehler didn't win?"

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Stonestreet beat out three of his Modern Family co-stars -- Ed O'Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ty Burrell -- as well as Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader and New Girl's Max Greenfield

He thanked his fellow nominees and noted that he "wouldn't be here without Jesse Tyler Ferguson," who plays his partner on the ABC comedy.

"There is no Mitch without Cam," he said from the podium, adding that he's honored to "show America and the world what a loving couple can be."

And he admitted that he never thought his breakthrough role would come playing a gay man, "but i love the pictures of hairy chests you guys are sending me."

Bowen also beat our her co-star Sofia Vergara, as well as the late Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), 
Merritt Wever, (Nurse Jackie) and 
Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live).

STORY: Complete Emmys Winners List

She thanked Modern Family co-creators Levitan and Christopher Lloyd and self-depricaitngly suggested that her performance amounts to "me falling down while making faces and wearing nipple covers."

Levitan also struck a modest tone. Accepting the directing Emmy, he admitted that one of the show's guest directors once said to him, "With your cast and your crew and your writers, a complete idiot could direct an episode of Modern Family."

And when he took the stage a second time to receive the outstanding comedy Emmy, he noted that the cast and crew know that they "are so lucky to have jobs in these challenging times ... and to have jobs that we love."

Louis C.K. took home the Emmy for writing for his FX comedy Louis

The reality competition category saw yet another win for CBS' The Amazing Race. But Tom Bergeron snagged the Emmy for best reality host for ABC's Dancing With the Stars. A satisfied Bergeron thanked Survivor host Jeff Probst "for not being nominated. That helped," he said. 

Aaron Paul won his second supporting actor Emmy for AMC's Breaking Bad beating out multiple actors for PBS' Downton Abbey who competed in the drama series category for the first time this year. In fact, though Downton came into the night with 16 nominations, Maggie Smith -- who was not in attendance -- earned the show's only major award for supporting actress for her portrayal of the show's sharp-tongued dowager countess.  

Jessica Lang landed the Emmy for supporting actress in a miniseries for FX's American Horror Story, though Lang will be back for the second installment of the thriller. And Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger nabbed Emmys for lead and supporting actor for the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, which pulled in record ratings for History.

Accepting his Emmy for Hatfields, Berenger noted that his character in the Western was "a cross between a raccoon with rabies and a demented garden gnome."

Meanwhile, HBO, which had 81 nominations, more than any other network, was all but shut out of the major series categories, though Tim Van Patten earned the Emmy for drama series directing for Boardwalk Empire.

But as usual, HBO had a good showing in the movie or miniseries category with Game Change -- about the McCain-Palin campaign -- landing the Emmy for outstanding made-for-TV-movie as well as writing for Danny Strong, directing for Jay Roach and best actress for Julianne Moore, who played former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin

"I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down!" said Moore, whose only other Emmy was in 1988 for the daytime soap opera As the World Turns

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart won its 10th consecutive Emmy for outstanding variety show. Announcing the award, Ricky Gervais sighed, "Not again." And Jimmy Fallon tried to physically restrain Stewart from reaching the stage. 

"We make topical comedy which has the shelf life of egg salad," said Stewart.

Ron Howard offered a moving tribute to his former co-star Andy Griffith to open the In Memoriam segment.  The late Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Way We Were” played over the video montage, which included Sherman Hemsley, Phyllis Diller, Celeste Holm, Michael Clarke Duncan, Heavy D, Don Cornelius, Andy Rooney, Steve Jobs, Gil Cates, Patrice O’Neal, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Tony Scott, Mike Wallace, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Morgan and Dick Clark.