LOS ANGELES - "Homeland," which puts the battle against terrorism on American soil, was honored as best drama series at Sunday's Emmys and earned trophies for stars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. "Modern Family" was named best comedy.
"We feel so lucky, lucky not only to have jobs in these challenging times, but to have jobs that we love with people we love," said Steven Levitan, co-creator of "Modern Family."
The drama "Homeland" stopped "Mad Men" in its tracks, denying the show a record-setting fifth trophy and kept Bryan Cranston from his fourth consecutive best drama award for "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm an also-ran once more.
The Emmys refused to play it predictably Sunday, with Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men" earning a best actor award and Jimmy Kimmel proving a game but uneven host.
"I'm one of those pesky Brits, I apologize," said Lewis, who plays an American in the espionage thriller. "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 a fan 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.
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.
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," 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 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.
"Homeland," the domestic espionage thriller, won the best drama writing award.