Tina Fey, who accepted the award for best comedy for 30 Rock, arrives at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. ((Matt Sayles/Associated Press))

Cable TV cemented its hold on Emmy drama awards Sunday night, with AMC's Mad Men winning best TV drama for the second year in a row at the Emmy Primetime ceremony.

The period drama about Madison Avenue ad executives has been a critical darling and was the first basic cable series to win the award last year. Its status as a cable drama means it has fewer viewers than most network shows.

Bryan Cranston won the best actor Emmy for the second consecutive year for another AMC drama Breaking Bad, in which he plays a high school science teacher turned drug dealer.

Calling the show "courageous," he said the series "is a story about a good man who makes bad decisions and I stand before you a humbled man thanking the academy for making this decision."

Glenn Close was crowned best actress for the second year in a row for her role in FX legal drama Damages.

The only major acting wins for network TV in drama were in the supporting actor and actress categories, with Michael Emerson winning for Lost and Cherry Jones for 24, in which she plays President Allison Taylor. 


 Primetime Emmys selected winners
 Best drama: Mad Men
 Best actress in a drama: Glenn Close, Damages
 Best actor in a drama: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
 Best comedy: 30 Rock
 Best actress in a comedy: Toni Collette, United States of Tara
 Best actor in a comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
 Best TV movie: Grey Gardens
 Best miniseries: Little Dorrit
 Best actress in a TV movie/miniseries: Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
 Best actor in a TV movie/miniseries: Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm
 Best reality TV show: The Amazing Race
 Best variety, music or comedy series: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Network comedy had a better showing with NBC's 30 Rock taking the best comedy Emmy for the third year in a row. It also won for best writing and Alec Baldwin was deemed best actor in a comedy.

Matt Hubbard won the award for best writing in a comedy series for 30 Rock, which had four nominations in the same category.

In accepting his award, Baldwin said he had the "best job in the world.

"I especially want to dedicate this award to Lorne Michaels, who is the best boss you could ever have and believed in me for all these years," Baldwin told the Los Angeles audience.

Canadian-born Michaels also is the long-time producer on Saturday Night Live.

30 Rock actress Tina Fey missed out on the best actress award for comedy, but won an award for a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live and also thanked Michaels, saying she wouldn't be there on stage without him. Justin Timberlake won the male guest star honours.

Australian actress Toni Collette of the Showtime series United States of Tara won her first Emmy as best actress in a comedy. The series is written by Oscar-winner Diablo Cody.


Pushing Daisies co-star Kristin Chenoweth won for best supporting actress in a comedy series. ((Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press))

Kristin Chenoweth, who plays waitress Olive Snook on Pushing Daisies, won the first award of the evening for best supporting actress in a comedy.

A tearful Chenoweth made reference to the end of the show, which aired its last episode in May. "I'm not employed now so I would like to be on Mad Men. I also like The Office and 24. Thank you so much to the academy for recognizing a show that's no longer on the air," she said.

The Emmy Awards were hosted by How I Met Your Mother co-star Neil Patrick Harris, who has also hosted the Tony Awards.

An otherwise lacklustre ceremony was hijacked briefly by Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, the Joss Whedon comedy created during the writers' strike and put on the internet.

Harris, playing Dr. Horrible, warned that TV is dead and the future of home entertainment is the internet, as his taped skit parodied many of the problems of internet TV viewing, including breaking up in mid-stream.

There were a couple of jokes at Kanye West's expense, referring to his interruption of Taylor Swift's awards speech at the recent MTV music awards.

"Let's hope Kanye likes 30 Rock," Harris quipped.

And actor Ken Howard, who won a best supporting actor award for HBO's Grey Gardens, went one better.

"I'll make my speech as brief as possible so it won't be interrupted by a congressman or a rapper," he  said.

Grey Gardens, the movie about true-life eccentric Big Edie Beale and her daughter, won three awards, including best made-for-TV movie.


Jessica Lange, named best actress in a miniseries for Grey Gardens, arrives at the Emmys. ((Chris Pizzello/Associated Press))

Jessica Lange won her first Emmy for playing Big Edie in the series. Little Edie was played by Drew Barrymore. 

"This part was a gift and they don't come around that often for me anymore and I'm thrilled to be here tonight," she said in accepting the award.

There was a strong showing from the Irish contingent with Irish actor Brendan Gleeson winning a best-actor nod for Into the Storm and Dearblha Walsh for direction for Little Dorrit.

Into the Storm, the HBO miniseries about Winston Churchill, looked at the former British prime minister's life after the Second World War.

Gleeson thanked his vocal coach for helping him rise to the challenge of Churchill's distinctive speaking style. Walsh directed the PBS miniseries Little Dorrit, based on the Charles Dickens satire. It won three Emmys, including best miniseries.

"I'd like to thank [the producers] for trusting a girl from the west of Ireland with a story from Dickens," she said.

Andrew Davies won the Emmy for best writing for Little Dorrit, but was not there to accept the award.

Emmy organizers had threatened to move eight awards out of the televised broadcast in an effort to keep the attention of viewers.

They were forced to reverse that decision because of an outcry from writers and directors.

Later in the ceremony, Hollywood highlighted its continuing love for its own awards show by awarding an Emmy to the Oscar telecast's opening song and dance routine performed by host Hugh Jackman.

A group of five writers put together the tribute to 2008 films that Jackman performed at the opening of the 2009 Academy Awards ceremony. It won the Emmy for outstanding music and lyrics.

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with files from the Associated Press