Bryan Cranston prevailed over the True Detective twins (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) as best actor. Anna Gunn repeated as best supporting actress; Aaron Paul took best supporting actor. The show also won for writing. The only major award it did not take, best actress, was one for which it didn't have a candidate. The nod went to Juliana Margulies for her work on The Good Wife.
Seth Meyers proved to be a very engaging host for the Emmy Awards, broadcast on NBC, in the Johnny Carson mold: hip, urbane, and very funny. His monologue was expertly tailored for the occasion.
"We had comedies that made you laugh," he said, "and comedies that made you cry. Because they were dramas submitted as comedies." (Take a bow, Orange Is the New Black.)
He also quipped, "The Emmys are on a Monday in August this year, which, if I know TV, means the Emmys are about to be canceled."
Jimmy Kimmel used the pretext of presenting best supporting actress in a comedy to tee off on McConaughey, a presumptive favorite for best actor in a drama later in the evening.
"You just won the Oscar, like, five months ago," Kimmel said. "How many of your acceptance speeches do we have to sit through?"
The show was handsome and nicely paced, but there was still padding. Do we really need to meet the accountants from Ernst & Young? Weird Al's weak theme song medley was two minutes we'll never get back. For that matter, all the variety-show categories could have been sorted out off-camera. But the Emmys, as always, digress.
It was a ceremony tinged in sadness, due to a touching In Memoriam segment capped by Billy Crystal's very personal salute to Robin Williams, whom he termed "for 40 years, the brightest star in the comedy galaxy."
The winners in the comedy categories were almost cliched. Jim Parsons won for the fourth time for playing Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, putting him in a tie with Kelsey Grammer and Michael J. Fox. Julia Louis-Dreyfus won for the third consecutive year for playing Selena in Veep. Modern Family won for best sitcom for the fifth consecutive year. Come on, Academy; spread the wealth around.
The drama categories were more volatile from the very first award, best supporting actress in a miniseries or movie, which went to Kathy Bates of American Horror Story: Coven over The Normal Heart's Roberts.
American Horror Story also gave us as best actress in a miniseries or movie Jessica Lange, a victory which seemed to take Lange genuinely by surprise.
MAJOR EMMY WINNERS
66th Primetime Emmy Awards
Drama Series: Breaking Bad (AMC)
Comedy Series:Modern Family (ABC)
Movie: The Normal Heart (HBO)
Variety Series:The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Reality-Competition Program:The Amazing Race (CBS)
Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC)
Actor, Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
Actress, Drama Series: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS)
Actress, Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad (AMC)
Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow, (PBS)
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC)
Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad (AMC)
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven (FX)