In an uncanny repeat of last year, the same two shows and three performers again took top honors at the "The 61st Primetime Emmy Awards" Sunday night.
"Mad Men" and "30 Rock" won as best drama and comedy, respectively, while Bryan Cranston, of AMC's "Breaking Bad," and Glenn Close, of FX's "Damages,"won as best actor and actress in a drama series. Alec Baldwin, of "30 Rock," repeated as best comedy actor.
What are the odds?
But there was one new and big winner: the telecast.
The program began on a cool and swinging note with host Neil Patrick Harris singing a Las Vegas-style opening number. Striding onstage in a white tuxedo jacket, Harris instantly took control of the Nokia Theatre -- acting as if he had been hosting the show for years. And he never let go of the throttle
No opening nerves with this Tony Awards show veteran, and as the evening wore on, several Emmy winners, ranging from comedian Jon Stewart to reality show host Jeff Probst, praised Harris for his work.
The first awards for "Mad Men" didn't come until 10:35 p.m., and it looked like it could be a long and unrewarding night for the celebrated drama. But with the Emmy as best drama, as well as one for best writing, The evening was a victorious for writer-producer Matt Weiner and his team.
While "30 Rock" creator and star Tina Fey, who won last year as best comedy actress, lost out to Toni Collette, of Showtime's "United States of Tara," Baldwin's win as best comedy actor helped make it another big night for the NBC sitcom.
The awards began with a bit of glamour and glitz and a nod to the nominations run up by the two series as Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") and Fey were the first presenters. they wound up handing out the award for best supporting actress to Kristin Chenoweth, of the cancelled ABC series "Pushing Daisies."
A tearful and somewhat disjointed Chenoweth thanked the academy for "giving an award to a show no longer on the air."
She also did a little advertising for herself, saying, "I'm unemployed now, so I'd like to be on 'Mad Men.' I also like 'The Office' and '24.'"
Best Comedy Performers
But it didn't take long for the first big surprise and upset of the night with Collette, winning as best actress in a comedy series. Fey was the hands-down favorite going into the telecast.
Fey's "30 Rock" soon struck back, though, with Baldwin's win. In his acceptance speech, Baldwin dedicated his award to executive producer Lorne Michaels.
In an effort to widen the field, the Emmys had increased the number of nominees in major categories this year, and there were seven for best drama and best comedy each. The change seemed to help network TV be more competitive with cable in the early going.
Coming into the night, Fey's stellar NBC sitcom 30 Rock led all shows and made history with a record 22 nominations.
It took the second award of the night, for Best Writing in Comedy, with the Emmy going to Matt Hubbard for the episode of "30 Rock" titled "Reunion."
Jon Cryer, of the CBS sitcom "Two And A Half Men," took the third award, for best supporting actor in a comedy series.
"Well, the night could have gone in two directions," Harris said when the show came back from a break after his loss to Cryer. "The host lost. ... It's going to go a little faster than expected."
But Harris did a great job of turning his defeat into a running gag with Cryer. They did a funny back-and-forth with Harris onstage and Cryer in the backstage interview room celebrating his victory.
Reality TV Winners
"Neil Patrick Harris, this is the way you host the Emmys -- nice job," Jeff Probst said as he accepted the award for best reality show host for his work on "Survivor." Probst was one of the five reality show hosts who were roundly panned for their performance as hosts at last year's Emmy telecast.
"Amazing Race," to no one's surprise, won as best reality series again.
"Unbelievable, guys -- upsets at every turn," Harris said drawing another big laugh.
NBC's "The Office" took the award for best comedy direction -- with the trophy going to Jeffrey Blitz. It looked like the networks might have a very good night in comedy -- a category many analysts had ceded to cable.
Movies and Miniseries: HBO and PBS
Cable still dominated the nominations coming into the night, and started scoring big once the telecast got around to movie and minseries -- with HBO taking the first two.
Ken Howard won as best supporting actor in a movie or miniseries, and Shohreh Aghdashloo won as best supporting actress for "Grey Gardens" and "House of Saddam," respectively.
Brendan Gleeson, of HBO's "Into the Storm," won as best actor in a movie or miniseries, while Jessica Lange, of HBO's "Grey Gardens," took home the Emmy as best actress in the movie and miniseries category.
Lange's acceptance speech was a classy one, saying half the award belonged to her co-star, Drew Barrymore, who was fantastic and was thought to be the favorite by many pundits.
"Grey Gardens" took one of the most coveted awards of the evening winning for best movie -- a category packed from top to bottom.
PBS cut into a major sweep by HBO with three prestigious awards for "Little Dorrit" -- for best miniseries, as well as for best writing and direction in a miniseries. The production beat out HBO's "Generation Kill" in two of those categories.
HBO led the field coming into the telecast with a total of 99 nominations, while NBC was second with 67.
Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" won another of the industry's most highly prized trophies when it took the Emmy as variety, music or comedy series beating out tough competition from "Late Show With David Letterman" "the Colbert Report" and "Saturday Night Live."
Stewart's show also won for best writing in the catregory.
In accepting the best show award, Stewart also praised Harris for the job he was doing as host.
"Neil Patrick Harris, you're doing a wonderful job... You're tremendous. These shows, they usually suck -- let's be honest."
This category far and away had the best clips of the evening.
One of the telecast's most touching moments came with Sarah McLachlan singing "I Will Remember You" as a montage played behind her of performers who had died this year.
Best Drama Performers
The networks started strong in the drama category, taking both the supporting actor and actress awards for Micahel Emerson, of "Lost," and Cherry Jones, of "24."
The big prizes for best dramatic actress and actor went to Glenn Close, of FX series "Damages," and Bryan Cranston, of AMC's "Breaking Bad." It was the second win in a row for both of them. Close called her role, "probably, maybe the character of a lifetime."
Matthew Weiner and Kater Gordon, of "Mad Men," won in the best writing for a drama category. But it was the show's first Emmy and didn't come until 10:35 p.m. -- and this for one of the most nominated shows of the year with 16.