The big awards at the Emmys went to the usual suspects: Mad Men took best drama for the fourth year in a row and Modern Family won the best comedy prize for the second year.

But the night’s big winners were Modern Family, which took five awards and Downton Abbey, which won four.

Several new shows also stepped up for Emmy glory, including  Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and Justified.

Canadian actor Barry Pepper took the award for best actor in a mini-series for The Kennedys, the Toronto-shot series in which he played Robert Kennedy. The British Columbia-based actor was not present to receive the Emmy.

The award ceremony was hosted by Glee’s Jane Lynch, who kept the tone light and the pacing fast. Although she seldom gets to sing on Glee, she started the show with a musical number that saw her roaming across the sets of some of the nominated shows.

Modern Family gets five

Modern Family was a leading winner from the start of Sunday's gala. Best director went to Michael Alan Spiller and outstanding writing in comedy to Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman.

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Julie Bowen accepts the award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for Modern Family. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Julie Bowen won best supporting actress in a comedy for her role as Modern Family’s Claire Dunphy.

"I don’t know what I’m going to talk about in therapy next week — I won something," a surprised Bowen said as she accepted her award. She thanked her TV husband, Ty Burrell, as well as her real-life husband, Scott Phillips.

Just minutes later Burrell won best supporting actor in a comedy.

"I got kind of a late start in acting and my dad passed away before he saw me perform. I wonder what he would think about this — that every day I go to work in full makeup," he said before thanking his fellow cast members.

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He was one of four Modern Family supporting actors to earn nominations in the same category —Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill and Eric Stonestreet also were nominated.

Levitan, accepting the night’s top award — for best comedy — paid tribute to the new portrait of American families the show’s writers had put on the air.

"People say ‘You’re not just making people laugh — you’re making them more tolerant,’" he said.

Mildred Pierce and Downton Abbey

In the miniseries category, ratings winners such as Mildred Pierce and Too Big to Fail went up against Pillars of the Earth and The Kennedys.

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Kate Winslet accepts the award for outstanding lead actress in a mini-series or movie for Mildred Pierce. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Mildred Pierce took two awards — best actress for Kate Winslet and best supporting actor for Guy Pearce.

But Downton Abbey won the trophy haul, with best miniseries, best supporting actor, best supporting actress and best writer.

British screenwriter Julian Fellowes accepted the award for best miniseries.

"None of us know what is going to be a hit. We make these shows, we hope for the best but we never know if it will come right," Fellowes said. "This means so much because this time it has come right."

Fellowes, who won an Oscar for another drama set in an English manor house, Gosford Park, acknowledged the American industry for fostering his career as a screenwriter.

"I would like to thank the American industry —10 years ago you kickstarted my second career with an Oscar. Now you have sealed it," Fellowes said.

Emmy Awards
Best drama: Mad Men
Best comedy: Modern Family
Best miniseries: Downton Abbey

Best  variety or comedy show: The Daily Show

Best actress, drama: Julianne Margulies, The Good Wife
Best actor, drama: Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights

Best actress, miniseries: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Best actor, miniseries: Barry Pepper, The Kennedys

Best lead actress in a comedy: Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly

Best lead actor comedy: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Supporting actress in a comedy: Julie Bowen, Modern Family

Supporting actor in a comedy: Ty Burrell, Modern Family.

Best direction in a comedy: Michael Spiller, Modern Family.

Best reality competition: The Amazing Race

 

Martin Scorsese's first Emmy

Big screen legend Martin Scorsese stepped up to take his first Emmy Sunday night, the directing award for his work on Boardwalk Empire.

Although Scorsese won an Oscar for The Departed and is best known for his films, he had never won TV's biggest award. Boardwalk Empire, the gangster tale of early Atlantic City, scooped seven Creative Arts Emmys before the gala Sunday night.

The surprise winner for best actor in a drama was Kyle Chandler, who plays coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights. He came out ahead of Mad Men's Jon Hamm, who was widely expected to win. Friday Night Lights has not taken an Emmy since 2007, but on Sunday, it had two — the second for writing.

"I knew for a fact that I would not be standing here, so I didn’t write it out and now I’m in trouble," Chandler said as he accepted his award.

Julianna Margulies won best lead actress in a drama for the second year in a row for her role in The Good Wife, while Margo Martindale was winner of best supporting actress for Justified. 

Martindale, 60, who has starred in Weeds and films such as Million Dollar Baby, was thrilled with her win.

"Sometimes things just take time," she said. "I’m so honoured to be nominated with this group of great actresses.

"The writing was amazing and I would like to thank the great Graham Yost. I Iove you Graham, even though you killed me," she said, acknowledging Canadian-born scriptwriter Yost.

Peter Dinklage won best supporting actor for his role in Game of Thrones. He acknowledged the network that backed the sex-and-swords drama.

"HBO you are the greatest place to work for. You let artists create and that is rare indeed," Dinklage said.

Charlie Sheen made a conciliatory speech about Two and a Half Men before presenting the best comedy actor award to Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory.

Mock beauty pageant

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Melissa McCarthy is seen backstage after winning the award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Best actress in a comedy went to Melissa McCarthy of Mike & Molly.  All of the contenders for the award came to the stage, standing in line as if in a beauty pageant before the winner was crowned with a tiara and presented with a bouquet.

"Holy smokes. Wow, it's my first and best pageant ever. I'm from Plainfield, Ill., and I'm standing here and it's kind of amazing,"  she said before thanking her co-workers on the new comedy series.

The evening began on a controversial note when it was revealed that a taped comedy routine by Alec Baldwin was cut from the telecast because it contained a joke about the News Corp. telephone hacking scandal.

The actor was to be part of an opening video for Sunday night's ceremony airing on Fox, a News Corp.-owned network. But he tweeted before the awards that the network had killed his joke about the hacking scandal in Britain involving the now-closed News of the World tabloid.

Fox said it believed the joke made light of an issue being taken very seriously by the company.

With files from The Associated Press