'Modern Family's' Burrell wins Emmy

By Todd Leopold

(CNN) -- "Modern Family" got off to a quick start at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, with Ty Burrell winning outstanding supporting actor.

The show, which has won a ton of honors in the past -- including four straight Emmys for outstanding comedy -- is once again in the running for the big prize.

Allison Janney of "Mom" won outstanding supporting actress. It's her second Emmy of the season, since she won for a guest spot on "Masters of Sex" at the Creative Arts Emmys a week ago.

Louis C.K. won for writing for a comedy series.

Host Seth Meyers opened the show with pokes at "Game of Thrones," broadcast television and the very timing of the Emmys itself.

Noting that the awards show is on a Monday night in August -- so it didn't conflict with Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards and an NFL game on Emmy network NBC -- the host noted that could only mean one thing: it's "about to get canceled."

As for "GoT," which led all programs with 19 nominations, he noted that such shows save money by killing off all its main characters. Better that, said Meyers, than having to pay $1 million an episode for its star -- a joke on "Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons, who recently received a contract for that big money.

But Meyers noted that TV is not only "always there," it's at the top of its game.

"Let's give it up for TV, everyone," he concluded.

Indeed, the leading nominees, including "Breaking Bad," "True Detective" and "House of Cards," exemplify the resurgence of television, a part of what's come to be thought of as the medium's new golden age.

Along with "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men," "Louie," "Orange Is the New Black," "Veep" and "Parks and Recreation," among many standouts, "must-see TV" isn't just an old NBC slogan, it's a reality across the dial. Indeed, NBC -- and the rest of the broadcast networks -- have found themselves marginalized by the ever-increasing stock of the cable networks and their programs.

In fact, one problem with having so many worthy nominees is that the competition is stiffer than ever. (If you're the Emmys, it's a good problem to have.) Shows have always wanted to win prizes, but these days, the awards are more valuable than ever, points out Deadline.com's Pete Hammond.

"The Emmys have always been a big help to newcomers, but in terms of what they're worth to the industry now, it seems like they've become a much, much bigger deal," he said.

With all that in mind, here are some key races to watch: (You can make your vote for who you think will win in the polls below.)

Outstanding drama series

For most prognosticators, this has turned into a two-show race between AMC's "Breaking Bad," which wrapped up its final season last year amid almost universal praise, and HBO's "True Detective," which earned raves in its early-2014 run and will be back for its second season soon, though with a different cast.

"Bad" could benefit from goodwill, but if "Detective" wins in other categories, watch out.

Outstanding lead actor in a drama

Like this category, for example. Just because "Bad's" Bryan Cranston has been a consistent winner over the years -- he has three Emmys for his role as Walter White -- doesn't mean he can overcome the "McConaissance," as the rise of "Detective's" Matthew McConaughey has been termed. After all, the guy won the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Oscar earlier this year.

"How many of those speeches should we have to sit through?" ribbed Jimmy Kimmel.

McConaughey has a chance to become the first actor to win an Oscar and Emmy in the same year since 1971, when George C. Scott pulled off the trick for the 1970 film "Patton" and his performance in "The Price," from the "Hallmark Hall of Fame." Unlike Scott, who declined his Oscar and didn't show for the Emmys, McConaughey was very much present, wearing a black shirt, a midnight-blue jacket and equally blue shoes.

The other nominees include "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm (seven nominations, no wins), "The Newsroom's" Jeff Daniels (who won last year), "House of Cards' " Kevin Spacey and McConaughey's "Detective" co-star, Woody Harrelson.

Outstanding lead actress in a drama

"Homeland's" Claire Danes has won before. "The Good Wife's" Julianna Margulies has won before. Both could win again -- but that means beating "Scandal's" Kerry Washington, "Downton Abbey's" Michelle Dockery, "Masters of Sex's" Lizzy Caplan and "House of Cards' " Robin Wright.

The nimble Washington, who handles "Scandal's" ever-interesting plot lines with aplomb, could be this year's golden girl.

Outstanding comedy series

"Modern Family" has won this award four years in a row and is up again this year. But all the buzz belongs to "Orange Is the New Black," Netflix's comedy set in a women's prison.

"Louie" has a strong following, "Veep" is strong and "The Big Bang Theory" is one of the most popular comedies on television. As with drama, other categories might provide clues as to which way Emmy is leaning.

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy

"Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons has taken home the Emmy three times, but this could be Louis C.K.'s year.

The other nominees -- Don Cheadle ("House of Lies"), Ricky Gervais ("Derek"), Matt LeBlanc ("Episodes") and William H. Macy ("Shameless") -- don't have series up for the big prize.

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy

Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Veep") won this award last year, but there's that "Orange" buzz again -- this time for star Taylor Schilling.

And what of Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation"), the Jon Hamm of comedic lead actresses in that she's been nominated five times with zero wins? Observers have said she's overdue for years -- but they've said the same thing about her show, which was overlooked again in the series category.

Outstanding reality-competition program

"The Voice" won last year. "Top Chef" won in 2010. Other than that, this category has been all about "The Amazing Race." Another win for "The Voice" would indicate a change of the guard.

Tonight's Emmys aren't just about trophies and speeches, of course. Billy Crystal will preside over a tribute to the late Robin Williams. Seth Meyers will preside over the whole shebang -- and he plans to be a low-key host, he's told reporters. (Also, he claims he won't sing.)

And there almost certainly be a few moments that will be all the chatter tomorrow, even if they're not of the level of Nicki Minaj cavorting with a snake. Though you never know.

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will air from Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre on NBC.


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