"The Office" was honored as best comedy although its star, Steve Carell, lost the award for best actor in a comedy series to Tony Shalhoub of "Monk."
Sutherland and Shalhoub picked up their statuettes in front of an average of 16.1 million viewers — a 14 percent decrease from last year — according to Nielsen Media Research.
One Emmy frontrunner, the sexy medical drama "Grey's Anatomy," was shut out from the awards.
"Every once in a while you'll have an evening that just reminds you that you're given too much and this is that evening," Sutherland said. "This experience on '24' has been nothing but remarkable for me."
Backstage, he told The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman, "On a night like tonight, you just can't help but be really humbled by it, which is very if funny, because normally, you kinda think you would stick your chest out. But, I got up there, and all the oxygen had left my body."
For "24," the three Emmys it won Sunday, including a directing trophy, were vindication after five seasons of keeping audiences on the edge of their couches as stalwart agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland) saved America from terrorism.
Although Emmy nomination rule changes left some grumbling about snubbed shows including "Lost," the revisions may have opened the door for an offbeat series like "The Office," a smart satire about cubicle life, and for "24" to prevail.
Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the freshman comedy "The New Adventures of Old Christine" struck Emmy gold with lead actress awards for drama and comedy, respectively.
2"Well, I'm not somebody who really believes in curses — but curse this, baby!" said Louis-Dreyfus, hoisting her trophy as she scoffed at the so-called "Seinfeld curse" said to have prevented the stars of the '90s hit comedy from launching successful shows of their own.
In addition, she told Kauffman it was a big deal because, "I've never been a lead actress before, to tell you the truth!"
The Emmy ceremony initially followed a predictable path Sunday as Shalhoub won his third acting trophy for "Monk" and departed series "Will & Grace," "The West Wing" and "Huff" earned bittersweet toasts.
Until the finale, the surprises in the ceremony were courtesy of host Conan O'Brien and his comedy bits, including a running gag that had Bob Newhart's life threatened if the show ran long.
Winning didn't take the sting out of cancellation for at least one star.
"It's not supposed to work this way, is it, when you say goodbye to something?" said Blythe Danner, named best supporting actress in a drama for "Huff."
"I guess I have to thank Showtime, even though they canceled us," Danner said, with a smile.
5A teary-eyed Megan Mullally was honored for her supporting actress work in the sitcom "Will & Grace," which wrapped up its eight-year run.
Alan Alda was named best supporting actor in a drama for his role as a Republican presidential candidate on "The West Wing," canceled after seven seasons.
Alda wasn't on hand to accept the award. But he might have become blasé: In recent years, he also had an Oscar nomination for his role in Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator," a Tony nomination for his Broadway performance in David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," and another Emmy bid for "West Wing" — none of which he won.
His win was the 26th Emmy for the White House drama, a drama series record. The show had been tied with "Hill Street Blues" and "L.A. Law" with 25.
Jeremy Piven of "Entourage" was named best supporting actor in a comedy.
The ceremony opened with a taped comedy bit in which O'Brien was seen sipping champagne aboard a jetliner. "What could possibly go wrong tonight?" he says — before the plane crashes onto an island resembling the one in ABC's drama.
After being greeted by "Lost" star Jorge Garcia, O'Brien fled through a mysterious hatch and ended up crashing through other series such as "The Office," "24" and "House."
"Subject could be anemic, possibly albino," was the diagnosis of "House" star Hugh Laurie.