Who knew the Cinderella story of the Emmy Awards would center on a drama about a U.S. Marine turned into a double agent by terrorists in the Middle East? • But Showtime's Homeland managed to run the table at Sunday's Emmy awards in its first eligible year, winning the first best drama series award in the premium cable channel's history and keeping rival show Mad Men from a historic fifth honor in the category.
Besides the best drama win, Homeland also took home trophies for best writing, best actress (Claire Danes, bottom right, as a bipolar CIA agent) and best actor in a drama, London-born Damian Lewis, top right, who plays the marine double agent.
"I'm one of those pesky Brits," cracked Lewis, noting Emmy host Jimmy Kimmel had already cracked wise about how many British actors were up for awards. "I don't believe in judging art. But I showed up just in case."
Kimmel needn't have worried. Homeland's success kept the British actors of Downton Abbey from nailing many awards, limiting the tally to Maggie Smith's win as best supporting actress in a drama (the Dame Smith didn't even show for her award).
But even as the Emmy academy was honoring new names in its drama categories, it returned to the tried and true in comedy, handing ABC's Modern Family its third consecutive award as best comedy series, while stars Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen got their second consecutive awards as best supporting actor and actress in comedy.
"My job really amounts to me falling down while wearing lipstick and nipple covers," cracked Bowen during her acceptance speech; Stonestreet, who isn't gay but plays a gay man on the show, thanked his fans for "the pictures of the hairy chests you're sending me."
Modern Family also provided the best moment of the night, as 4-year-old co-star Aubrey Anderson-Emmons stole the show in a skit portraying her as the show's diva, insulting the other cast members and eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich in front of a gay co-star.
Emmy also went for HBO's Game Change, handing the movie about Sarah Palin and John McCain's failed presidential bid honors for best writing, best miniseries or movie, and best actress in a miniseries (Julianne Moore as Palin). "I feel so validated, because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down," Moore said from the stage.
Another Emmy veteran, Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus, won as best actress in comedy for her new HBO series Veep. "People say that this show is a comedy, and yet I don't see anything funny about me being vice president of the United States," Dreyfus said, right after pretending she had mistakenly begun reading an acceptance speech from another nominee, Amy Poehler.
Rising comedy star Louis C.K. also got a few nods, winning two Emmys for writing in comedy and variety shows, while Comedy Central's the Daily Show took home its 10th consecutive Emmy award for best variety series.
Even Daily Show host Jon Stewart seemed thrown by the streak, passing out compliments to his fellow nominees and then joking about how space aliens would find the pile of awards in the future and realize "just how predictable these f---ing things can be" (luckily, ABC censors cut out almost all of his f-word line).
Host Kimmel offered a mix of sarcasm and oddball humor that rode the line between inspired and just strange, including asking comic Tracy Morgan to lie down on the stage so fans on Twitter could spark a hoax that he had passed out onstage (Morgan handing Kimmel his nunchucks was the funniest part of that bit).
Overall, the Emmycast was a bit like Kimmel's patter: An odd mix of new faces and old hands, with just enough new blood to keep it interesting and just enough tradition to let you know you weren't watching the Golden Globes.
Still, this critic hopes that next year, the Emmy academy makes time to watch a couple of comedies besides Modern Family.