LOS ANGELES - The terrorism thriller "Homeland" and "Modern Family" were the top winners at Sunday's Emmy Awards in a ceremony that veered between daring and predictability in honors and Jimmy Kimmel's turn as host.
The four awards for "Modern Family" included a three-peat as best comedy series, although there was a minor backlash online as some Emmy watchers questioned whether the show had a deserving season.
"Homeland," whose four trophies for its freshman season included honors for stars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, stopped "Mad Men" in its tracks, denying the show a record-setting fifth best drama trophy.
Turns out the TV academy wasn't ready to crown the Madison Avenue saga as best ever. Instead, "Mad Men" walked away without a single statuette despite a leading 17 nominations, making it Emmy's biggest loser ever, said Tom O'Neil of the awards website Gold Derby.
Showtime's "Homeland," the cable channel's first best drama winner, also kept Bryan Cranston from his fourth consecutive best acting award for "Breaking Bad" and made "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm an also-ran once more.
"I'm one of those pesky Brits, I apologize," said Lewis, who plays an American. "I don't really believe in judging art, but I thought I'd show up just in case."
Danes, eye-catching in a bright yellow dress that gracefully draped the pregnant actress, was effusive.
"My husband, my love, my life, my baby daddy, this doesn't mean anything without you," she said to her spouse, actor Hugh Dancy.
Backstage, Danes said she particularly appreciated one fan: President Barack Obama has said he's an admirer of "Homeland," about a Marine and former POW who's suspected of working for al Qaeda.
"No pressure," the actress said. "It's way cool that he is a fan. It speaks to the relevancy of the show and it's hugely validating."
The acting trophies, along with a best writing award for the show, gave "Homeland" momentum as it headed toward the best drama award.
Kimmel, in his first turn as Emmy host, fielded some clever videos (no surprise given the famed Matt Damon-Sarah Silverman romp he inspired) but wasn't memorable on stage as the three-hour ceremony unfolded.
Aaron Paul won best supporting drama actor for "Breaking Bad."
"Thank you so much for not killing me off," Paul said of his drug-dealing character's lucky survival. "Thank you Hollywood for allowing me to be part of your group," he added, noting he'd moved from Idaho to pursue his dreams.
In a surprise on the comedy side, Emmy voters decided that "Two and a Half Men" with Jon Cryer and without Charlie Sheen is really good, as Cryer claimed the best comedy actor trophy.
"Don't panic, people. Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I'm stunned," said Cryer, who on the red carpet before the show has expressed confidence he wouldn't win. Among others, he beat out two-time winner Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory."
Ashton Kutcher, who joined the show after Sheen was fired, wasn't nominated.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was honored as best actress in comedy for "Veep."
Andy Griffith topped a segment honoring industry members who died during the previous year. Ron Howard, who played Griffith's son Opie in "The Andy Griffith Show," said he belonged "in the pantheon."
"Dang if he didn't make it look powerful easy while he was going about it," Howard said.
Phyllis Diller, Davy Jones of "The Monkees," Sherman Hemsley and Richard Dawson were among the others honored in a montage.
Earlier in the show, Kimmel dared to mock the in memoriam package that typically airs at awards shows with one showing him in various guises. Josh Groban sang a mournful "You're Beautiful" in background.
"I will be missed," Kimmel said.
Perhaps Kimmel's most notable achievement was a prank: Inviting "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan to lie on the stage, then asking viewers to post on Facebook and tweet that Morgan "just passed out" and turn on ABC right now to see it. It worked, with the message going viral and maybe even boosting the Emmy audience for a few moments.
Maggie Smith was honored as best supporting drama actress for her tart-tongued dowager in "Downton Abbey," unhurt by the program's move from the miniseries category.
"Modern Family" made it look easy as the comedy won the best directing trophy and Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen claimed supporting actor awards.
Stonestreet was funny and touching as he accepted for his role as half of a devoted gay couple.
"I wouldn't be standing here without Jesse Tyler Ferguson, there is no Cam without Mitch," he said, saluting his co-star. "We get the awesome opportunity to play these two characters on TV and show America and the world what a loving couple we can be just like everybody else."
Then he turned saucy: "I never knew I'd be on TV as a gay man, but I love the pictures of hairy chests you guys are sending me, it's really amazing. Thank you for those."
Among reality competitors, "The Amazing Race" was honored as best reality series, ninth time in 10