'MAD MEN,' '30 ROCK' WIN BIG

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In an uncanny repeat of last year, the same shows and many of the same performers again took top honors at "The 61st Primetime Emmy Awards" Sunday night.

"Mad Men" and "30 Rock" won as best drama and comedy, respectively, while Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" and Glenn Close of "Damages" won as best actor and actress in a drama series. Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock" again took home the Emmy for best comedic actor.

What are the odds? But there was one new and big winner on CBS Sunday: 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. Harris 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 him for his work.

The first award for "Mad Men" didn't come until 10:35 p.m. Sunday, and it looked like it could have been a long night for the celebrated drama. But winning the top honor, as well as the trophy for best drama writing, made for a victorious evening.

In one the few changes from last year, Toni Collette of Showtime's "United States of Tara," won for best actress in a comedy series, beating out the favorite, Tina Fey.

For a little fast glamour and glitz, Fey and Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") were the first presenters, handing out the award for best supporting actress to Kristin Chenoweth, for "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.' "

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. It was a major coup for Showtime, which has been consistently overshadowed by HBO. 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.

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.

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.

"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 as hosts at last year's Emmy telecast.

Cable dominated the nominations coming into the night, and started scoring big once the telecast got around to movie and miniseries - with HBO taking the first two.

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.

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.

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" won another of the industry's most highly prized trophies when it took the Emmy for 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 category. 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."

Select winners

Drama Series: : "Mad Men," AMC

Comedy Series: : "30 Rock," NBC

Actor, Drama: : Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad," AMC

Actress, Drama: : Glenn Close, "Damages," FX

Actor, Comedy: : Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock," NBC

Actress, Comedy: : Toni Collette, "United States of Tara," Showtime

Supporting Actor, Drama: : Michael Emerson, "Lost," ABC

Supporting Actress, Drama: : Cherry Jones, "24," Fox

Supporting : Actor, Comedy: Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men," CBS

Supporting Actress, Comedy: : Kristin Chenoweth, "Pushing Daisies," ABC

Miniseries: : "Little Dorrit," PBS

Reality Competition Program: : "The Amazing Race," CBS

Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program: Jeff Probst, "Survivor," CBS

Made-for-TV Movie: : "Grey Gardens," HBO.

Actor, Miniseries or Movie: : Brendan Gleeson, "Into the Storm," HBO

Actress, Miniseries or Movie: : Jessica Lange, "Grey Gardens," HBO

Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: : Ken Howard, "Grey Gardens," HBO

Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: : Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Saddam," HBO

Writing, Drama Series: : "Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency," Kater Gordon, Matthew Weiner, AMC

Writing, Comedy Series: : "30 Rock: Reunion," Matt Hubbard, NBC

Writing, Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special: : "Little Dorrit," Andrew Davies, PBS

Variety, Music or Comedy Series: : "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central

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