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Los Angeles - Jeff Daniels, who plays a jaded anchorman in HBO's The Newsroom, scored an upset win for the best actor in a drama at the Primetime Emmys on Sunday, while Claire Danes was a return winner as best drama actress for her role as a bipolar CIA agent in Homeland.
Daniels beat front-runner Bryan Cranston, who was looking for this fourth best actor Emmy in his role as unlikely drug kingpin Walter White in the AMC drama Breaking Bad, and Kevin Spacey, who made waves as a cutthroat congressman in House Of Cards, from online streaming company Netflix.
“I didn't expect this,” Daniels said. “I usually don't win anything. The last thing I won was for The Squid And The Whale, best actor over 50 from the AARP. With all due respect to the AARP, this is better.”
TV's top honours both celebrated and mocked the latest trends of an industry in transition, like binge-watching, mobile viewing and online streaming pioneered in the last year by Netflix.
Making light of the television fads of the day, host Neil Patrick Harris opened the televised ceremony enclosed in a room trying to catch up on every episode.
“Right now, I am watching an episode of American Horror Story: Asylum on my contact lens,” Harris joked with the audience at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
The lead comedy acting awards were less of a surprise than the drama category.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the best comedy actress Emmy for the second year in a row for her role as hapless US Vice-President Selina Meyer on HBO's Veep.
Jim Parsons picked up his third lead comedy actor win for his role as the nerdy and neurotic Sheldon Cooper on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory.
But the awards kicked off with upsets in the two supporting actor awards in comedy going to first-time Emmy winners.
Merritt Wever, who plays a quirky nurse on Showtime's dark comedy Nurse Jackie, won best supporting actress in a comedy series and gave a novel acceptance speech. “Thank you so much. I've got to go, bye,” Wever said.
Tony Hale took best supporting actor for comedy for his role as a body man for the US vice-president in HBO's Veep.
Actress and comedian Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield won best writing for a comedy for NBC's 30 Rock, which ended this year.
The best writing award for drama went to Homeland writer Henry Bromell, who died this year. His father was a CIA station chief and Bromell was credited by his fellow Homeland writers for bringing CIA bona fides to the story.
Anna Gunn won best supporting actress in a drama for her role as Skyler White on Breaking Bad. Best supporting actor in a drama series went to Bobby Cannavale for his role as a ruthless Prohibition-era gangster in HBO's Boardwalk Empire.
The Emmys are handed out by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in a televised ceremony from Los Angeles.