LOS ANGELES - AMC's gritty drug drama Breaking Bad was honoured at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday as the top drama series on United States television for the second consecutive year, and picked up three top acting awards.
The series about schoolteacher Walter White, who begins making and selling methamphetamines to care for his family after a terminal cancer diagnosis, concluded last year after five seasons.
"Holy cow!" exclaimed Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan when accepting the Emmy statuette, US television's highest honour.
"This is indeed a wonderful time to be working in television... we're all lucky to be working now," added Gilligan, whose show picked up five Emmys for cable network AMC.
Breaking Bad held off upstart True Detective, Netflix's online political thriller House Of Cards, HBO mediaeval fantasy Game Of Thrones, PBS British period series Downton Abbey and AMC ad world portrait Mad Men.
The annual Emmys, which are handed out by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, pitted cable and online newcomers against traditional cable and network heavyweights, with the academy picking old favourites over cable and Internet upstarts.
In comedy, ABC's Modern Family about unconventional families won Best Comedy Series for the fifth consecutive year, tying 1990s NBC sitcom Frasier for the most comedy victories.
"Modern Family has been a big, beautiful dream for the last five years and we thank you for not waking us up," said series co-creator Steven Levitan.
Breaking Bad streaked through its final Emmys as Bryan Cranston, who portrays Walter White, won for Best Actor in a Drama while co-stars Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn each won for their supporting roles.
Juliana Margulies won for Best Actress in a Drama for her role as lawyer Alicia Florrick in CBS's The Good Wife.
Although the big broadcasters were shut out of the nominations for Best Drama and have taken a backseat to cable and Netflix in recent years, they notched several early wins among comedies, with CBS picking up a leading five wins alongside AMC and FX. HBO earned four wins, while broadcasters ABC and PBS each earned three.
Netflix, which earned nominations for House Of Cards and comedy Orange Is The New Black, was shut out in top awards.
Jim Parsons won his fourth lead acting Emmy for playing the pedantic nerd Sheldon in the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her third consecutive Emmy for her role as the foul-mouthed, gaffe-prone US Vice-President Selina Meyer on HBO's political satire Veep.
Fargo gave FX Networks its first Emmy for a programme, but actors from the critically acclaimed miniseries lost out on awards despite being heavy favourites, especially lead actor Billy Bob Thornton.
The Emmys, hosted by comedian Seth Meyers in Los Angeles, were moved up from their usual Sunday night spot in September so as not to conflict with NBC's ratings-powerhouse Sunday Night Football and MTV's Video Music Awards.
The celebratory programme assumed a sombre tone when actor Billy Crystal paid a cosmic tribute to friend and comedian Robin Williams, who died in an apparent suicide two weeks ago.
In the comedy awards, comedian Louis C.K. won his second writing award for his FX show Louie, and Stephen Colbert's Comedy Central fake news show The Colbert Report won the Emmy for Best Variety Programme for the second consecutive year.
British miniseries Sherlock: His Last Vow won three Emmys for US public broadcaster PBS. HBO's The Normal Heart earned Best TV Movie honours for its depiction of the early fight against Aids.