As usual, the awards were maddeningly inconsistent, sometimes honoring excellent and deserving but obscure shows, sometimes just traveling the same old roads.
Friday Night Lights, a low-rated series loved by many TV insiders, got some wonderful, and surprising, parting gifts after five years. Kyle Chandler won as outstanding dramatic actor, and Jason Katims was named for outstanding writing in a drama series.
In the show's first half-hour, it appeared there was only one series on television. "Welcome back to the Modern Family awards," host Jane Lynch said after the commercial break just past 8:30 p.m., which followed four consecutive Emmys for the show.
Jaws dropped across the country as the show's first Emmy, for best supporting actress in a comedy, went to Julie Bowen, the glue in the goofy sandwich that is the sitcom. She thanked her TV husband, Ty Burrell, among others. Minutes later, Burrell was named best supporting actor in a comedy.
Modern Family director Michael Spiller took the Emmy in his category, and the show's Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman, were named best comedy writers.
Two distinguished Brits won Emmys for work on "Downton Abbey." Double Oscar-winner (California Suite, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) Dame Maggie Smith was named outstanding supporting actress in a movie or mini-series, and single Oscar-winner (Gosford Park) Julian Fellowes, Baron of West Stafford, was named for best writing for a movie or mini. Director Brian Percival also won.
Jim Parsons, from CBS's The Big Bang Theory, won his second straight Emmy as outstanding lead actor in a comedy. The Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy went to Melissa McCarthy, of the CBS series Mike & Molly. McCarthy was touted by many as a dark horse nominee after her great success in the big-screen feature Bridesmaids this spring. Was it a surprise that the Emmy show's next commercial pod included an ad for the movie's DVD?
After getting overlooked last year, Julianna Margulies won for her work in the title role in another CBS series, broadcast TV's best drama, The Good Wife.
Including creative-arts Emmys, HBO led the Emmy parade with 19. PBS had 14, CBS 11, Fox 9, ABC 8, and NBC 8.
As usual at the Emmys, acceptance speeches were rarely memorable.
"Sometimes things just take time," said Margo Martindale. No, she wasn't talking about the awards show. She was talking about her award, after more than 20 years in the business. The veteran character actor, who tripped on her way to the stage, was named best supporting actress in a drama for her role as one of TV's greatest villains, Mags Bennett, in FX's Justified.
Peter Dinklage, a little guy who supplies a huge dose of energy to HBO's Game of Thrones won the supporting-actor Emmy for movies and mini-series. Barry Pepper, who played Robert Kennedy, was named outstanding lead actor in the category for The Kennedys, a controversial mini-series dumped by the History Channel and picked up at the last minute by little Reelz.
HBO's Mildred Pierce propelled two actors to Emmys. Kate Winslet was named best movie-or-mini actress, and Guy Pearce, no relation to Mildred, as the show announcer said, took the award in the category as outstanding supporting actor.
Emmy voters obviously have little taste for variety or reality shows. Their choices were as predictable as the sunrise. The Daily Show won its ninth straight award as best musical, variety, or comedy show. It also won for best writing.
The Amazing Race, after an off year, was named best competition-reality show for the eighth time. Take that, American Idol.
Jonathan Storm: Notable Emmy Awards
A partial list of winners at Sunday night's 63d Annual Primetime Emmy Awards:
Drama Series: "Mad Men."
Comedy Series: "Modern Family. "
Miniseries or Movie: "Downton Abbey."
Variety, Music or Comedy Series: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy.
Reality-Competition Program: "The Amazing Race"
Host, Reality-Competition Program: Jeff Probst, "Survivor."
Actor, Drama Series: Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights."
Actor, Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory. "
Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Barry Pepper, "The Kennedys."
Actress, Drama Series: Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife."
Actress, Comedy Series: Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly."
Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce."
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Ty Burrell, "Modern Family. "
Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones."
Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Guy Pearce, "Mildred Pierce."
Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Margo Martindale, "Justified."
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Julie Bowen, "Modern Family."
Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey."
Guest Actor, Comedy Series: Justin Timberlake, "Saturday Night Live."
Guest Actress, Comedy Series: Gwyneth Paltrow, "Glee."
Guest Actor, Drama: Paul McCrane, "Harry's Law."
Guest Actress, Drama: Loretta DeVine, "Grey's Anatomy."
Directing, Drama Series: Martin Scorsese, "Boardwalk Empire."
Directing, Comedy Series: Michael Spiller, "Modern Family."
Directing, Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special: Brian Percival, "Downton Abbey."
Directing, Variety, Music or Comedy Program: Don Roy King, "Saturday Night Live. "
Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: Lonny Price, "Sondheim! The Birthday Concert (Great Performances)."
Writing, Comedy Series: Steven Levitan, Jeffrey, Richman, "Modern Family. "
Writing, Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special: Julian Fellowes, "Downton Abbey."
Writing, Variety, Music or Comedy Series: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."
Writing for a Drama Series: Jason Katims, "Friday Night Lights."
Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special: David Boone, "64th Annual Tony Awards."
Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618
Read his recent work at http:// go.philly.com/jonathanstorm.