Brian Truitt, USA TODAY 12:13 a.m. EDT September 23, 2013
As Breaking Bad continues its intense journey to its final moments, its cast and crew were all smiles at the Emmy Awards.
With its series climax airing in a week, the AMC show won best drama series on Sunday night.
"Man, I did not see this coming," said creator Vince Gilligan, whom star Anna Gunn called a "mad genius" when accepting her outstanding supporting actress Emmy.
"I thought this was gonna be House of Cards," Gilligan added, "or it could've been Homeland, or it could've been Mad Men, or it could've been Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, could've been any of 'em, and even some others who were not nominated in this golden age of television that we feel so proud to be a part of."
On the more humorous side, Modern Family pulled off its fourth consecutive win for best comedy series, and also added an Emmy for best directing.
"I cannot begin to express to you how surreal this ride has been, because none of us grew up feeling like winners," said Modern Family creator Steven Levitan. "So thank you to the bullies, to the popular kids, to the gym teachers who taunted us, who rejected us and who made fun of the way we ran. Without you we never would have gone into comedy!"
HBO's Behind the Candelabra won three Emmy Awards for best miniseries or movie, outstanding director for Steven Soderbergh and lead-actor honors for Michael Douglas, who played the flamboyant piano superstar Liberace.
"I hope all the people that deserve to be thanked will understand if I say that no matter what we all did, and no matter how well we did it, and no matter how much support we got, if Michael and Matt (Damon) don't show up with those performances, we don't have a movie," Soderbergh said.
In his acceptance speech, Douglas thanked his co-star, fellow nominee Matt Damon.
"You're magnificent," he said to Damon, "and the only reason I'm standing here is because of you, so you really deserve half of this, so do you want the bottom or the top? The top? I figured that."
In a bit of an upset over the likes of Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, Homeland's Damian Lewis and Mad Men's Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels won his first Emmy as Newsroom's larger-than-life cable newsman Will McAvoy.
"Well, crap! Didn't expect this, I usually don't win anything," Daniels said. "The last thing I won was a few years ago for Squid and the Whale. I won the best actor over 50 from the AARP. With all respect to the AARP, this is better."
Claire Danes won her second straight award for lead actress in a drama as CIA agent Carrie Mathison on Homeland. She took time on stage to acknowledge Henry Bromell, the Homeland producer who died of a heart attack at age 65 in March and was posthumously awarded with a best writing Emmy.
"We just love him so much. We think of him every day," said Danes, who thanked her cast and husband, actor Hugh Dancy, "for making me so whole and happy so I can be unhappy in the land of make-believe."
Oscar-winning actress Ellen Burstyn picked up her second Emmy for her supporting role on the miniseries Political Animals.
"I'm just glad I was on screen long enough for you to vote for me," Burstyn said. "I want to thank USA for putting this smart show on the air" as well as the creative team "who had the wisdom to write a woman over 65 who still had a lot of juice."
American Horror Story, which led all nominees with 17 total, was honored with a supporting actor Emmy for James Cromwell, who called the win "very strange."
Daniels Emmy 3
Jeff Daniels poses with his first Emmy Award for "The Newsroom."(Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN AFP/Getty Images)
Boardwalk Empire star Bobby Cannavale also won his first Emmy, for supporting actor in a drama series.
"I didn't write anything down, I can't believe I get to get mentioned with these other really incredible actors," he said.