LOS ANGELES — The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out.
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season.
Bryan Cranston, who starred in the series as the teacher, Walter White, won the award for best lead actor in a drama series, his fifth Emmy win. The award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series went to Aaron Paul for his role as the former student. Anna Gunn, who played Walter’s wife, Skyler, won the award for outstanding supporting actress.
In his acceptance speech for the award, Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, said it was “a wonderful time to be working in television.” AMC has won six of the last seven Emmy Awards for best drama series, a first for any network.
Charlie Collier, president of AMC, said: “If anyone deserves Emmy bookends, it’s Vince Gilligan. He’s family, and he taught us all to never underestimate chemistry.”
The Emmy Award for best comedy series went to the ABC sitcom “Modern Family.” The series tied “Frasier” for a record five consecutive wins. Ty Burrell, who stars as the show’s grumpy patriarch, won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series.
Julianna Margulies won the award for best actress in a drama series for her role in the CBS legal drama “The Good Wife,” about a woman dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s sex and corruption scandal.
The awards represented a win for traditional television, with Netflix being shut out for its political drama “House of Cards” and winning only one award for its prison comedy, “Orange Is the New Black.”
Despite the broader upheaval across the television world, several award winners on Monday night had taken home the award in years past.
Jim Parsons, of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” won the award for lead actor in a comedy series for his role as a scientist with minimal social skills in the most-watched comedy on television. The award was his fourth Emmy win. It comes weeks after Parsons, along with two other stars of “The Big Bang Theory,” agreed to new contracts worth $1 million per episode per actor.
The award for lead actress in a comedy series went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for her performance as a fictional vice president in HBO’s “Veep.” The award was the third consecutive Emmy win for Dreyfus and her fifth Emmy win ever. On her way to the stage to accept the award, Cranston gave her an 11-second-long kiss. (While presenting an award together, Louis-Dreyfus had pretended not to remember his guest appearance on the long-running sitcom “Seinfeld,” when their two characters dated.)
Seth Meyers, a first-time host, began the evening by talking about what many are calling a new golden age for television. He said earlier that his role model for the evening was comedian Steve Martin and that he had recruited Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to help write jokes for the monologue. Fey and Poehler have experience in the area, having hosted the Golden Globes on highly rated back-to-back broadcasts.
“They both jumped at the chance,” he said, adding that they had responded to a text with the message: “New phone. Who dis?”
Held at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, this year’s ceremony was the first time since 1976 that the Emmy Awards had been on a Monday. Some Hollywood journalists had taken to calling the scheduling Emmygeddon because of the potential for horrific traffic to snarl arrivals. In attempts to avoid gridlock, the Television Academy took a number of measures, among them changing the red-carpet arrival area and serving refreshments to early arrivals. The Academy also reduced the number of limousine passes it issued.
The primary reason for the Monday night broadcast was football, among other scheduling headaches.
The Emmy Awards ceremony has gained popularity in recent years. About 17.8 million viewers tuned into the broadcast last year, when Neil Patrick Harris hosted. That was up 34 percent from 2012 and the highest since 2005, according to Nielsen.
The three-hour show set the stage Monday for a number of battles. Broadcasters tried to defend their turf against being completely shut out of the top series categories. HBO, the perennial leader, with 99 nominations this year, fought to hold on to its claim of winning more Emmys than any broadcast network. And the streaming service Netflix posed a growing threat to the industry establishment with its 31 nominations.
The late-night wars also took center stage. Meyers, known for his longtime “Weekend Update” segment on “Saturday Night Live,” took over as host on NBC’s “Late Night” in February after Jimmy Fallon left to host “The Tonight Show.” Meyers called on a parade of other late-night hosts to present during the ceremony, including Fallon; Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; and Stephen Colbert, who will succeed David Letterman as host of CBS’ “The Late Show” in 2015. His Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report, ” won the award for outstanding variety series.
Though the evening’s focus was on comedy, the ceremony also took on a more somber note. Billy Crystal paid tribute during the show’s in memoriam segment to Robin Williams, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor and comedian, who died this month.
“As genius as he was onstage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine,” Crystal said. “It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy.”
Monday’s awards showed how the lines between television and film had been blurring, especially as Hollywood stars increasingly took on television projects.
Matthew McConaughey, who won an Academy Award for best actor this year (for “Dallas Buyers Club”), was nominated for his performance in HBO’s “True Detective.” The Oscar winner Julia Roberts was also nominated, for her role as a pioneering doctor in HBO’s television movie “The Normal Heart,” about the AIDS crisis (Neither McConaughey nor Roberts won).
Taking home the prize for Roberts’ category was Kathy Bates, for FX’s “American Horror Story.”) “The Normal Heart,” based on Larry Kramer’s award-winning play, was named best television movie.
McConaughey was the butt of several jokes on Monday night. Kimmel poked fun at him, saying he probably didn’t even own a television. “That is not a television face. That is a movie star face,” he said, telling the audience to look instead at Ricky Gervais, who was nominated for best actor in a comedy series for his Netflix show “Derek.” “That is not even really a television face,” Kimmel said. “That is a Netflix face.”
McConaughey presented the award for lead actor in a mini-series or movie with his “True Detective” co-star Woody Harrelson. Harrelson mocked McConaughey’s “alright alright alright!” catchphrase before saying: “You won an Oscar, sexiest man alive, and now you want an Emmy, too?”
McConaughey responded, “I think you should have gratitude for what you have and not envy what I do.”
The award for outstanding writing for a comedy series went to Louis CK for the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of “Louie” on the FX network.