Mad Men didn’t quite make history.
No series has ever won five consecutive best series Emmys–and after four Best Drama wins in a row, the AMC period series fell to Showtime’s counterterrorism thriller Homeland. The first-season drama made history of its own; it’s the first Showtime series to win a top prize, after comedy series like Weeds and Nurse Jackie have failed to cross the finish line. (Also of note: not a single broadcast-TV series was nominated for Best Drama this year, and no broadcast series has won the prize since Fox’s 24 in 2006.)
Homeland also picked up prizes for its lead actress–Claire Danes, who had been heavily favored–and its lead actor, Damian Lewis, who beat longtime champ Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and sentimental favorite/perennial loser Jon Hamm of Mad Men (no actor from Mad Men has ever won an Emmy). Homeland got a writing prize as well, while Boardwalk Empire won Best Directing for a second year in a row.
On the comedy side, familiar faces ruled the day, with ABC’s Modern Family picking up a third consecutive prize against newer competition like HBO’s Veep and Girls. The top acting prizes went to past winners Jon Cryer, who helped carry Two and a Half Men through the post-Charlie Sheen era, and Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who’s won twice before for two different shows (Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine). Notably, the two supporting-actor trophies on the comedy side both went to Modern Family performers who have won before, Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen, whose speech was interrupted by castmate and fellow nominee Sofia Vergara screaming from her seat.
But the story of the night may have been edgy comedian Louis C.K., who won two Emmys for writing two different projects: his series Louie (the first time a show has beaten Modern Family during that show’s run) and his special Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre, a project that originated online and that, as the Observer first reported, was brought to television with the express purpose of winning an Emmy. Mission accomplished!