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Image: The cast and crew of "Modern Family"
Kevin Winter  /  Getty Images
The cast and crew of "Modern Family" accept the outstanding comedy series award onstage during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on Sept. 18 in Los Angeles
updated 9/19/2011 12:07:00 AM ET 2011-09-19T04:07:00

The Emmys went for a family-friendly theme Sunday. The big-hearted romp "Modern Family" claimed the best comedy trophy for the second year in a row, while AMC's "Mad Men" won its fourth consecutive best drama series award.

"Modern Family" producer Steve Levitan, whose picture of the American family today includes gay couples and interracial families, told of being approached during shooting by a real-life gay couple who wanted to say thanks.

"They said, 'You're not just making people laugh, you're making them more tolerant,'" said Levitan, whose show received a total of five awards.

While "Mad Men" gained the top comedy award, it couldn't pull honors for stars Jon Hamm or Elisabeth Moss. It also lost in the supporting drama actor and actress, and writing categories.

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Kyle Chandler was the surprise winner in the best drama actor category for the last season of Texas football drama "Friday Night Lights," blocking odds-on favorites among his fellow nominees, including Hamm.

Story: Emmy Awards show felt like a rerun

"I knew for a fact I would not be standing here. I did not write anything and now I'm starting to worry," said Chandler, who also beat out Steve Buscemi of "Boardwalk Empire."

It was a fitting victory for Chandler and "Friday Night Lights," which was critically acclaimed but struggled for an audience, and whose high school football team's motto was, "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."

Julianna Margulies won top drama acting honors for "The Good Wife." Margulies, who navigates politics, law and family in the show, added to her Emmy stash. As part of the "ER" medical drama cast, she won a supporting actress Emmy in 1995.

Melissa McCarthy of "Mike & Molly" was honored as best lead actress in a comedy series with an Emmy and a glitzy prom queen's crown, while Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" earned his second trophy in the best actor category.

"Holy smokes. Wow, it's my first and best pageant ever," said a beaming McCarthy. "I'm from Plainfield, Ill., and I'm standing here and it's kind of amazing."

Story: Sheen wishes 'Men' cast well from Emmy stage

Moments earlier, she and her fellow nominees had broken with tradition by jumping up on stage as their names were called, led by Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation."

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They earned a standing ovation from many in the audience, which seemed fitting in a year in which TV shows and movies are giving women edgier leading roles. Among them is the box-office hit "Bridesmaids," which featured McCarthy.

Parsons looked genuinely surprised at his victory. "This is so odd for so many reasons. I was assured by many people in my life that this wasn't happening," he said.

The first awards in the drama category went to Jason Katims of "Friday Night Lights" for outstanding writing, and Margo Martindale, named best supporting actress for the show "Justified."

"Sometimes, things just take time. But with time comes great appreciation," said the veteran actress.

Peter Dinklage, the winning actor in the category for sci-fi fantasy "Game of Thrones," was awed by another winner, filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who received a directing trophy for "Boardwalk Empire."

"Thanks. Wow. Wow. I followed Martin Scorsese. My heart is pounding. You are a legend," Dinklage said.

Story: Emmy red carpet sees some bold moves

The ceremony aired by Fox opened with a pre-taped comedy sketch that generated controversy because Alec Baldwin's part was cut after he included a joke about the News Corp. phone hacking scandal. Fox is a unit of News Corp.

Baldwin tweeted that Fox killed the joke about the hacking scandal in Britain involving the now-closed News of the World tabloid. Fox said it believed the joke was inappropriate to make light of an issue being taken very seriously by the company.

Leonard Nimoy stepped in and the bit was retaped. It featured host Jane Lynch celebrating television in a musical number, singing about TV as "a vast wonderland, a kingdom of joy in a box."

"Oh, there's Betty White. She's the reason we start the show at 5 p.m." Lynch cracked during her opening monologue.

Charlie Sheen presented the lead actor award, using his time onstage to make nice with his former "Two and a Half Men" colleagues. He was fired from the show after bitterly clashing with its producer and studio, and was replaced by Ashton Kutcher.

"From the bottom of my heart, I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season," he said. "I know you will continue to make great television."

"Modern Family" won the first four Emmys, capturing best supporting comedy actress, best supporting comedy actor, best writing for a comedy and best direction for a comedy series.

Story: Kathy Griffin forces Ryan Seacrest to kiss her

Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell, who play husband and wife on the series, won best supporting actor honors for a comedy series.

"Oh, my God, I don't know what I'm going to talk about in therapy next week," said a shocked-looking Bowen. "I won something."

Burrell spoke of his own father in accepting his best supporting actor award.

"I actually got kind of a late start in acting. My dad actually passed away before he ever saw me perform and I can't help but wonder what he would think about all this ... going to work in full makeup," Burrell said.

Story: Memorable quotes from the Emmys

Steve Carell of "The Office" made his last Emmy stand for his fifth and final season as clueless manager Michael Scott, but lost again.

A new category, which combines the previously separate best miniseries and made-for-TV movie nominees, included the miniseries "Mildred Pierce," with Kate Winslet nominated in the role of an embattled mother, and the movie "Too Big to Fail," about the U.S. fiscal crisis in 2008.

Film star Winslet, an Oscar winner, captured the trophy for lead actress, while her co-star Guy Pearce won the award for best supporting actor.

Barry Pepper, who played Robert F. Kennedy in the controversial miniseries "The Kennedys," won the best supporting actor award. Maggie Smith won supporting actress honors for the miniseries "Downton Abbey," which also was named best in its category.

Story: What you didn't see on the Emmy telecast

In the reality-competition category, perennial winner "The Amazing Race" returned to triumph Sunday after losing last year to "Top Chef." "American Idol" lost its ninth shot at winning, this time for a season in which it successfully navigated the loss of key judge Simon Cowell.

HBO had a leading 19 awards, including trophies given Sunday and at last week's creative arts awards for technical and other achievements. PBS, which had a hit with "Downton Abbey," earned 14 to shoulder past the commercial networks and come in second, ahead of CBS with 11, Fox with nine, ABC with eight and NBC with six.

Peculiar photos from the red carpet

After hitting an all-time viewership low of 12.3 million in 2008, the Emmys rebounded somewhat in the last two years and drew a 2010 audience of 13.47 million, compared to 26.7 million for this year's Grammys and nearly 38 million for the Oscars.

Which show do you think will be the big winner at the Emmys? Share your thoughts on the Facebook page for our TV blog, The Clicker.

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Photos: 2011 Primetime Emmy winners and presenters

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  1. 'Modern Family'

    The cast and crew of "Modern Family" accept the outstanding comedy series award at the 2011 Primetime Emmys in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 18. The show was the night's big winner, with five honors. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen

    Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen both won Emmys for their work on "Modern Family." (Jae Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Mad Men'

    The cast and crew of "Mad Men" accept the outstanding drama series award. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Charlie Sheen

    Some were surprised that Charlie Sheen, formerly of "Two and a Half Men," presented the award for outstanding actor in a comedy series. But Sheen didn't say anything negative and in fact wished his former castmates well. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Kate Winslet

    Kate Winslet accepts the award for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie for "Mildred Pierce." (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Entourage'

    The cast of "Entourage," from left, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Dillon, present the Emmy award for outstanding writing for a miniseries, movie or a dramatic special. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Amazing Race'

    "Amazing Race" creator Bertram van Munster and cast accept the award for outstanding reality competition. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Guy Pearce

    Actor Guy Pearce accepts the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or movie for his role in "Mildred Pierce." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Kyle Chandler

    Actor Kyle Chandler accepts the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his work on the final season of "Friday Night Lights." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor, Drew Barrymore

    Actresses Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor, who star in the new reboot of the "Charlie's Angels" series, join up with Drew Barrymore, who starred in the "Charlie's Angels" movies, to present the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Julianna Margulies

    Actress Julianna Margulies accepts the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama for "The Good Wife." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Peter Dinklage

    Actor Peter Dinklage of "Game of Thrones" won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series. He plays Tyrion Lannister on the HBO show, based on the novels by George R. R. Martin. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Martin Scorsese

    Director Martin Scorsese accepts the award for outstanding directing for a drama series for "Boardwalk Empire." (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The Lonely Island

    Comedy troupe The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) joined with other performers to present a comedy medley. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Jim Parsons

    Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" won the Emmy for oustanding lead actor in a comedy. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Jane Lynch

    Jane Lynch of "Glee" hosted the show for the first time. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Comedy actress nominees

    The nominees for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series -- Tina Fey, Martha Plimpton, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Edie Falco and Laura Linney -- all stood on stage together and mimicked a beauty pageant crowning. McCarthy took home the award. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher

    Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher, the stars of "Two and a Half Men," presented an award. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. 'Daily Show'

    The cast of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" accept the award for outstanding variety, music or comedy program. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Margo Martindale

    Actress Margo Martindale accepts the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama for her work on "Justified." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Rob Lowe and Sofia Vergara

    Actors Rob Lowe and Sofia Vergara presented an award. Jon Stewart joked later that if the earth needed repopulating, the two would make "very fortunate children." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon

    Talk-show hosts Jimmy Kimmel, left, and Jimmy Fallon wrestled on stage before presenting the award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Emmy Tones

    Zachary Levi, Cobie Smulders, Taraji P. Henson, Kate Flannery, Wilmer Valderrama, and Joel McHale played the a capella group the Emmy Tones, and performed intermittently on the awards show. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: The cast & crew of "Modern Family"
    Kevin Winter / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (23) 2011 Primetime Emmy winners and presenters
  2. Image: Julianna Margulies
    Chris Pizzello / AP
    Slideshow (30) Fashions of the 2011 Primetime Emmys

Video: ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Mad Men’ come up big at Emmys

  1. Closed captioning of: ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Mad Men’ come up big at Emmys

    >>> we're back now at 7:50 with highlights from the 63rd prime time emmy awards that included a surprise appearance from charlie sheen . we have the latest on this. kristen, good morning.

    >> good morning, matt. tv's biggest night. some the stars in hollywood still celebrating this morning. this year's emmys had everything, surprise, upsets and one heartfelt moment that nobody expected.

    >> reporter: after the first few awards were handed out you would have thought "modern family" was the only thing on tv.

    >> oh, my god.

    >> julie bowen kicked off the night as outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series . her tv husband won for supporting actor .

    >> "modern family."

    >> reporter: "modern family" won five awards including a repeat win for outstanding comedy series .

    >> we've decided to throw them into the drama pa category just to see what happens.

    >> reporter: there was little drama in the drama category. "mad money" won for the fourth year in a row. julianna margulies won best actress for "the good wife." but kyle chandler was the surprise winner for lead actor for the critically acclaimed "friday night lights."

    >> wow!

    >> reporter: the biggest snub of the night steve carell of "the office" losing to jim parsons who won for his role in " big bang theory ."

    >> this is so odd.

    >> reporter: odd perhaps because the award was presented to him by charlie sheen who provided the highlight of the night wishing luck to the cast and crew of "two and a half men," the show that fired him last season.

    >> from the bottom of my heart, i wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season.

    >> reporter: sheen even posted pictures on twitter taken backstage with ashton kutcher who replaced him on "two and a half men." he also tweeted a message to kutcher that read "great talking to you. we'll be watching. make us proud."

    >> now on to the emmy. [ applause ]

    >> reporter: all six nominees for best actors in a comedy series took to the stage and brought the crowd to its feet before melissa mccarthy of "mike & molly" was crowned the winner.

    >> my first and best pageant ever.

    >> reporter: and though she didn't win for best supporting actress first time host "glee's" jane lynch is getting rave reviews for a fun-filled show, matt.

    >> kristen dahlgren out in los

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