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Emmys fete a threesome of big winners with four statues each

Claire Danes accepts her Emmy for Homeland. Photos: Ed Bark

"Television's biggest night," annually outdrawn in the ratings by the Oscars, Grammys and assorted country music awards shows, ended precisely on schedule Sunday night with Homeland and Modern Family taking the two biggest prizes.

Showtime's first-year drama and ABC's already much-lauded comedy were named best in their fields while HBO's Game Change won earlier in the best movie or miniseries category. All three won a total of four Emmys apiece, double the number for any other nominee.

HBO's late rally for Game Change again enabled it to top all networks with six statues. ABC had five and a plucky Showtime nabbed four, including best actress and actor wins for Homeland's two principals, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis.

The History network stole some of HBO's usual thunder by winning the two male acting awards in the movie/minisiseries category. Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger both were first-time Emmy winners for their bearded role playing in Hatfields & McCoys. Another Tom, Dancing with the Stars mainstay Tom Bergeron, also broke through for the first time for a win as best host.

Two of the Big Four broadcast networks -- NBC and Fox -- were entirely shut out during a three-hour ABC telecast in which 26 awards were bestowed. And The CW wasn't even nominated, either in the so-called major categories or in a "creative arts" Emmy competition for which trophies were handed out in comparative secrecy a week earlier.

Jimmy Kimmel presided for the first time, pledging to "host this show until it's pregnant" before delivering an opening burst of jokes preceded by an amusing taped spot in which various female TV stars "punched" his Botoxed mug back into submission.

Kimmel actually wasn't around all that much after that. And he probably should have re-thought a questionable "In Memoriam" bit in which singer Josh Groban eulogized him before his death. "I will be missed," Kimmel said, trivializing the eventual real-life "In Memoriam" segment in which Ron Howard began by fondly remembering Andy Griffith before a film clip ended with a trademark salute from the late Dick Clark.

An earlier gambit worked a bit better. Kimmel invited comedian Tracy Morgan onstage and urged viewers and the Hollywood swells in attendance to "prank" non-Emmy viewers by using Twitter or Facebook to tell them Morgan had just passed out onstage. He then obliged by lying on his back with arms outstretched for the next 10 minutes or so before being carried off.

Jon Steward and Daily Show staff won for 10th straight time.

In the numbing familiarity department, CBS' The Amazing Race won for the ninth time in 10 tries as Emmy's best "reality-competition" series. Its only hiccup was two years ago, when Bravo's Top Chef triumphed.

Comedy Central's The Daily Show trumped even Amazing Race by winning for the 10th consecutive time. But the program's longtime leading man, Jon Stewart, pulled it off and got the night's biggest laugh by saying at speech's end, "Years from now, when the earth is just a burning husk and aliens visit, they will find a box of these and they will know just how predictable these (f-bomb) things can be." Via the miracle of five-second delays, ABC censors caught the expletive in time to mostly bleep it out.

Stewart earlier had staged a fake tussle with losers Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, both of whom tried to block his progress to the stage by tackling him to the floor. It left the winner sweaty and winded by the time he made it to the podium and joked, "Free sandwich after 10."

Julianne Moore won for playing Sarah Palin in Game Change

Host Kimmel set the stage for the politically charged quote of the night when he asked during his monologue, "Are any of you voting for Mitt Romney?"

The question actually drew more than a smattering of cheers and applause, but Kimmel already had his followup line at the ready.

"See," he said, "that's why Kelsey Grammer didn't come here tonight."

Grammer won a Golden Globe earlier in the year for his portrayal of a corrupt Chicago mayor in Starz's Boss. But he wasn't even nominated for an Emmy, prompting Grammer to tell Jay Leno on The Tonight Show that it was probably because he's an openly Republican conservative.

Julianne Moore then twisted the knife at the start of her acceptance speech for Game Change, in which she played 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

"Wow, wow," she began. "I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs-down!" The line received heavy applause.

Michael J. Fox presented the closing Emmy for best comedy series.

The night's biggest reception, however, was saved until last. That's when Michael J. Fox took the stage to present the show-ending Emmy for best comedy series.

"I'm steady as a rock," he said to a prolonged standing ovation.

Fox has signed to star in a new NBC comedy series next fall after finding a mix of medications that control the tremors he suffers from Parkinson's Disease.

You can find the Academy of Television Arts & Science's complete list of Emmy winners on its official site. And if you'd like to rewind your friendly content provider's stream of live tweets Sunday night, go to @unclebarkycom.