The final season of Breaking Bad proved a winner at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, with star Bryan Cranston winning again as best dramatic actor, and the show taking home best drama honours.

Bryan Cranston won for the fourth time for his portrayal of meth kingpin Walter White, following earlier acting nods for supporting actors Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn. The show also won for best writing in a drama series.

"Thank you for this wonderful farewell to our show," creator Vince Gilligan said of the series about a teacher-turned-drug kingpin.

The show's gains came at the expense of critically acclaimed True Detective, which won a directing award for Cari Joji Fukunaga, but was otherwise left out.

Cranston was chosen as best actor over the likes of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey of True Detective, with McConaughey looking to win an Oscar and Emmy in the same year.

Cranston previously won three years in a row beginning in 2008.

Repeat winners in fashion

Modern Family was once again the king of comedies, winning for a fifth consecutive year, tying a winning streak set by Frasier.

Julianna Margulies picked up her second Emmy for her portrayal of The Good Wife. Margulies now has three career Emmys, having won earlier in her career on ER.

She was among a number of repeat winners on Monday night.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus-Emmys

Julia Louis-Dreyfus accepts the award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her role in HBO's 'Veep' onstage during the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Jim Parsons was back on familiar ground as well. The star of The Big Bang Theory on CBS won for best actor in a television comedy, his fourth Emmy. That tied Parsons on the all-time comedy list with Michael J. Fox and Kelsey Grammar.

Parsons was up against Ricky Gervais, Matt LeBlanc, Don Cheadle, Louis C.K. and William H. Macy

Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home her fifth career Emmy, a third consecutive best actress in a comedy win for HBO's Veep. She previously won Emmys for Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

The comedy veteran beat out Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy and Taylor Schilling.

Ty Burrell and Allison Janney received Emmys for their supporting work in comedies.

Burrell, the Modern Family dad, notched his second win and fifth nomination. 

Janney won as best supporting actress in a comedy, for the first season of CBS's Mom.

Louis C.K. was also rewarded early on in the show, with an outstanding writing nod for his FX series Louie.

Fargo, Normal Heart recognized

Paul won for the third consecutive time for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, beating out the likes of Peter Dinklage, Jon Voigt and Josh Charles.

Emmys-Paul-Cranston-Gilligan

Aaron Paul, left, Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston pose at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles after Breaking Bad broke away in the awards tally. (Casey Curry/Invision for the Television Academy/AP )

Paul was followed on the podium minutes later by co-star Gunn, a winner for supporting actress in a drama for the second consecutive year. Her competition included Christina Hendricks, Maggie Smith and Christine Baranski.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who was not in attendance, was deemed the best actor in a miniseries or movie winner for Sherlock: His Last Vow on PBS.

Jessica Lange was named best actress in a miniseries or movie for American Horror Story: Coven, an FX production.

Fargo landed the Emmy Award for this year's best miniseries. The FX drama, inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers film, was chosen over American Horror Story: Coven, Bonnie & Clyde, Luther, Treme and The White Queen.

The Normal Heart, the HBO production featuring Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo in starring roles and based on Larry Kramer's 1980s play about the beginning of the AIDS crisis, was named best television movie.

The other contenders for TV movie were Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, Killing Kennedy, Sherlock and The Trip to Bountiful.

'Brightest star': Crystal salutes Williams

Billy Crystal followed the "in memoriam" segment by paying tribute to longtime friend and occasional collaborator Robin Williams, who died earlier this month.

Crystal-Williams-Emmys

Billy Crystal, right, first met Robin Williams when both were standup comedians in the mid-1970s. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

"I used to think if I could put a saddle on him and stay on for eight seconds, I'd be OK," said Crystal of performing onstage with Williams.

"It's very hard to talk about him in the past, because he was so present in all of our lives," Crystal added. "For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy."

The "in memoriam" tribute to industry members who have died in the past year flashed images of stars including James Garner, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, Carmen Zapata and Elaine Stritch as singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles sang Smile.

Late Night host Seth Meyers presided over the showcase for television's best at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, held on a weeknight for the first time in 40 years.

Noting that the Emmys moved to Monday night to avoid a conflict with Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, host Meyers said that MTV doesn't really specialize in videos anymore.

"That's like network TV holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and Netflix. That would be crazy," Meyers joked.

Netflix had two shows poised to make history as the first ever produced for the internet to take home a top series honour: Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Other notable winners on Monday:

  • Directing, Comedy Series: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family, ABC.
  • Directing, Drama Series: Cari Joji Fukunaga, True Detective, HBO.
  • Reality-Competition Program: The Amazing Race, CBS.
  • Writing Drama Series: Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad, AMC.
  • Writing, Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special: Stephen Moffat, Sherlock: His Last Vow, PBS.
  • Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven, FX.
  • Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow, PBS.
  • Variety Series: The Colbert Report, Comedy Central.
  • Writing, Variety Special: Sarah Silverman, Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles, HBO

With files from The Associated Press