'Homeland' also won top acting awards for Claire Danes and Briton Damian Lewis as Showtime's first-ever best drama honoree prevented 'Mad Men' from winning its fifth straight best drama Emmy.
"Modern Family" continued its run as television's most honored comedy at the Emmys, winning the best comedy award for the third year in a row, while the terrorism thriller "Homeland" won critical praise and the best drama Emmy.
Once showered with honors, "Mad Men" set a record Sunday with 17 nominations and zero wins, said Tom O'Neil of the Gold Derby website, which follows awards shows.
"We didn't make our show just to undermine them," Danes noted backstage. "We're delighted and thrilled and a little startled by this. I don't think anyone expected to be recognized like this right off the bat, but it feels pretty nice."
"I was quite convinced he would be walking up tonight," he said.
"Modern Family" also brought a directing honor for co-creator Steve Levitan and acting trophies for Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet. They were already conscious that such success bring an inevitable backlash.
"I'm praying that everybody doesn't get sick of us," Levitan said backstage.
Across the theater was a reminder that things change: one-time Emmy darling Tina Fey sitting trophy-free as her show "30 Rock" is coming to an end. She was one of the quickest people to bolt from her seat and head for the exit when the three-hour telecast ended.
Along with the awards, there were a few cultural moments that lit up social media:
— Jon Stewart punctuating his acceptance speech with an f-bomb, resulting in the only bleep of the evening.
Stewart's "The Daily Show" is one of the Emmy Awards' sure things. It won the award for best variety show for the 10th straight year. CBS' "The Amazing Race" won its ninth award for best reality show in 10 years.
Probably the least-predicted winner was Jon Cryer of CBS' "Two and a Half Men" as best comic actor. He's won the best supporting actor award in the past, deferring to Charlie Sheen. But with Ashton Kutcher replacing Sheen in the cast last season, Cryer moved up in class. Even he was taken aback by the win, saying he figured two-time trophy winner Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" would get it.
"Don't panic, people. Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I'm stunned," Cryer said after the award was announced.
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. The political film from HBO was also honored in the best miniseries-movie category.
"I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down," Moore said, beaming.