"Modern Family" actor Eric Stonestreet, left, "Homeland"… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)
With the presidential election just six weeks away, it was only fitting that politics took center stage at the 64th Emmy Awards.
Showtime's political thriller "Homeland" made television history Sunday evening when it delivered the cable network's first dramatic series Emmy for the show about a Marine under suspicion of being an Al Qaeda operative. The freshman series won four Emmys. Besides the top prize, it also won in the drama categories for best actress for Claire Danes, best actor for Damien Lewis and for writing.
HBO's controversial "Game Change," which revolves around Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, won for best miniseries or movie, director, writing and best actress for Julianne Moore, who played Palin. Of course, if Palin was watching Sunday night, she probably wasn't clapping. Many thought Moore turned in an uncanny performance, but apparently Palin was not among them. "I feel so validated," Moore said, clutching her Emmy, "because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down."
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On the comedy side, Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the Emmy for best actress playing the vice president of the United States in HBO's satirical "Veep." Comedy Central's highly politicized "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," picked up the Emmy for best variety series for the 10th year in a row. And ABC's "Modern Family," which won best comedy series for the third straight year, just happens to be the favorite show of Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"It's an amazing time in politics," Louis-Dreyfus said backstage at the Nokia Theatre, after accepting her trophy. "It seems front-and-center right now in our lives, and there's a lot of good, rich material out there from which to glean -- and not parody. But [there are] little morsels that we can take away almost every day."
Along with "Homeland," "Game Change" and "Modern Family" were the big winners Sunday night, also taking home four trophies apiece.
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In addition to winning the top comedy trophy, ABC's ensemble comedy "Modern Family" also won awards for directing, supporting actor for Eric Stonestreet and supporting actress for Julie Bowen.
There were a few surprises and upsets Sunday night, including "Mad Men" failing to earn a single Emmy. That was a shocker considering how the AMC period drama has dominated the awards shows in recent years, winning best drama series for the past four years running.
Perhaps not so surprising: Jon Hamm once again went home empty-handed, after his fifth nomination in the best actor in a drama category for his starring turn in the series.
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The Emmys kicked off with the now-traditional awards comedy intro, this time with host Jimmy Kimmel crying in the ladies room after his face was warped by too much Botox, only to end up borrowing Ellen DeGeneres' tuxedo pants. Comedy moments aside, one of the most poignant moments of the night saw director Ron Howard choke back emotion while introducing the annual memorial to those entertainment figures who have died during the past year.
Howard recalled growing up on the set of "The Andy Griffith Show," where he played Opie to Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor, and learning everything that the meticulous actor had to teach him. "Dang, if he didn't make it look easy," Howard said of Griffith, who died this past summer.
In other wins Sunday night, Kevin Costner's return to a familiar genre -- the Western -- earned him his first Emmy, for best actor in a miniseries or movie for the History channel's blockbuster "Hatfields & McCoys." Ironically, said Costner, "We had to go all the way to Romania to film this very American story." The miniseries also netted a supporting actor trophy for Tom Berenger.
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In a stunning feat, CBS' reality competition "The Amazing Race" won its ninth Emmy. The show that sends competitors racing around the world in pursuit of a $1 million prize has dominated this category since it was introduced in 2003: It has won every year except 2010, when Bravo's "Top Chef" shoved it out of the way. Tom Bergeron won his first Emmy for hosting a reality or reality competition series for ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and Glenn Weiss won for directing the 65th annual Tony Awards.
In other top comedy awards, Jon Cryer won lead actor in a comedy series for the CBS sitcom, "Two and a Half Men." He'd previously won for supporting actor, but he was given a promotion of sorts (after Charlie Sheen left the series) and was nominated for lead actor.
"Something has clearly gone terribly wrong," Cryer joked, clearly surprised. "I'm stunned."
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It was a good night too for comedian Louis C.K. The star, writer, director and editor of the FX series "Louie" won two writing Emmys. One for his comedy series and one for his variety special "Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater."