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Emmy Awards 2012: "Homeland," "Modern Family" win top honors

Actress Claire Danes, winner Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for "Homeland," and actor Damian Lewis, winner Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for "Homeland," pose in the press room during the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 23, 2012, in Los Angeles. Getty

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - Updated 11:20 p.m. ET

"Homeland" bested "Mad Men" as best drama series at Sunday's Emmy Awards, while "Modern Family" won its third-straight award for best comedy.

"Mad Men" was seeking its record fifth-straight Emmy, but was beaten by the first-season Showtime drama starring Claire Danes as a CIA agent and Damian Lewis as her investigation target.

Pictures: Emmy Awards red carpet
Pictures: Highlights from the Emmys ceremony
Pictures: Stars in the press room
Complete Coverage: 2012 Emmy Awards

The Emmys refused to play it predictably, with awards going to Damian Lewis and Claire Danes of "Homeland" and Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men," while Jimmy Kimmel proved to be a game but uneven host.

Lewis' win denied Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" his fourth Emmy Award as lead actor in a drama series, 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 in Showtime's espionage thriller. "I don't really believe in judging art, but I thought I'd show up, just in case."

A pregnant Danes, eye-catching in a bright yellow dress, was effusive, thanking husband Hugh Dancy during her acceptance speech.

"My husband, my love, my life, my baby daddy, this doesn't mean anything without you," she said.

Aaron Paul won best supporting drama actor for "Breaking Bad," and "Homeland" won the best writing award.

"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.

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. She was not on hand to accept the honor.

On the comedy side, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jon Cryer were among the winners. She picked up the outstanding lead actress in a comedy series award for "Veep," while he won the acting honor for "Two and a Half Men."

"Don't panic, people. Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I'm stunned," said Cryer, who on the red carpet before the show had expressed confidence he wouldn't win. Among others, he beat out two-time winner Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory."

"Modern Family" stars Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen claimed supporting actor awards.

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," Sheman Hemsley and Richard Dawson were among the others honored in a montage.

Earlier in the show, Kimmel dared to mock the in memorian package with one showing him in various guises. as Josh Groban sang a mournful rendition of One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" in background.

"I will be missed," Kimmel said.

Among reality competitors, "The Amazing Race" was honored as best reality series, ninth time in 10 nominations for the award. Tom Bergeron of "Dancing With the Stars" won as best host of a reality series.

Julianne Moore's uncanny take on Gov. Sarah Palin in the TV movie "Game Change," about the 2008 presidential campaign, earned her best actress honors.

"I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down," Moore said, beaming.

Kevin Costner was named best actor for the history-based miniseries "Hatfields & McCoys," while Tom Berenger was named best supporting actor for the project and Jessica Lange won supporting actress honors for "American Horror Story." ''Game Change" was crownd best miniseries/movie.

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" proved unstoppable, winning its 10th consecutive best variety show trophy. Stewart, discussing the lasting value of his show, apparently forgot that what flies on free-wheeling cable gets censored on network television.

"Years from now when the Earth is just a burning husk and aliens visit, they will find a box of these, and they will know, just how predictable these (several bleeps) can be," he said.

Standup comic Louis C.K. won the Emmy for best comedy writing for "Louie" and for the special "Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre." Said the comedian after his second win: "Thank you to audiences around the country who still go to see live comedy."

Kimmel, who played it clean, set up one of the night's best filmed comedy bits by musing on what "Breaking Bad" would have been like, had it aired in a G-rated, pre-cable era.

The answer: a spoof of the opening to "The Andy Griffith Show," with "Breaking Bad" stars Cranston and Paul, fully suited up to cook crystal meth, out at the lake with their fishing poles as the "Andy Griffith" whistling theme song was heard.

As a pungent punchline, they shot dead an unexpected witness: a friendly deputy billed as co-star Don Knotts.

The ceremony started with bathroom humor: A filmed bit with Kathy Bates, Zooey Deschanel and other nominees prepping in the restroom, then discovering a weeping Kimmel lamenting a Botox reaction he said would keep him off stage as host.

"You look beatiful," he was reassured. "You look like a 'Real Housewife.'"

Viewers of the skit may have been puzzled by a nude Lena Dunham, the creator-star of "Girls," unless they're aware she's routinely brave about showing skin on the HBO comedy.

Not all his material worked. One bit that fell flat had Kimmel's parents, or so the host said, escorted out of the theater because they promised he would win an Emmy and he didn't.

"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane found presenting can be tricky.

"Oh, the mic's over there," he said, after discovering he was on the wrong side of the stage. "This is what happens when you don't come to rehearsal," MacFarlane said.

HBO came into the night with a leading 17 creative arts Emmys from a Sept. 15 ceremony honoring technical and other achievements. CBS was second with 13, followed by PBS with 11. Discovery received six awards, NBC got five and ABC and the Cartoon Network won four each. Fox received two trophies.

Emmy has to prove herself a winner with the audience. After rebounding somewhat to 13.5 million viewers in 2010 after an all-time low in 2008 of 12.3 million, last year's show drew 12.4 million viewers airing on Fox. The ceremony rotates annually among the four major networks.

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