(CNN) — “Breaking Bad” is in blue heaven.
The AMC series — about a chemistry teacher-turned-drug lord who rides powerful methamphetamine called “Blue” to wealth and pain — concluded its triumphant run last year as one of the most-lauded TV series of all time: the story of “Mr. Chips turning into Scarface,” as creator Vince Gilligan liked to describe it. On Monday, the show received one more set of honors: a slew of nods at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, including the Emmy for outstanding drama series.
The show won six Emmys total, second only to “Sherlock: His Last Vow’s” seven among all programs.
There was some tough competition this year, notably from “True Detective,” the moody HBO detective series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Bryan Cranston won the lead actor Emmy for his performance as meth king Walter White, beating out the Oscar-winning McConaughey, who was the subject of laudatory and humorous remarks all night long.
“Even I thought about voting for Matthew,” joked Cranston, and then turned serious.
“My own family nicknamed me Sneaky Pete,” he said, noting he didn’t expect he’d find his niche. And then he found acting.
He dedicated the Emmy to “all the Sneaky Petes of the world. … Take a chance, take a risk. It’s really worth it.”
Aaron Paul got his third win for playing Jesse Pinkman, White’s sometimes undependable right hand.
“I’ve learned so much, on screen and off,” he said to Cranston, sitting in the audience.
And Anna Gunn won for outstanding supporting actress for her performance as White’s wife. She also won last year.
Show writer Moira Walley-Beckett also won.
“Detective” wasn’t completely shut out. It won four technical awards at the Creative Arts Emmys on August 16 and another one on the telecast, the latter for director Cary Joji Fukunaga.
“Breaking Bad’s” win wasn’t its first; it also won best drama last year. And many of Emmy’s other winners may have seemed equally familiar.
“Modern Family” won outstanding comedy series for the fifth straight year, despite stiff competition. In addition, the show’s Ty Burrell won outstanding supporting actor and Gail Mancuso won for directing.
Backstage, Mancuso hoped her Emmy gave young girls a sign that there were jobs for them besides acting.
“Seeing a woman winning an Emmy is a wonderful image to project to young girls who think they can do something besides in front of the camera,” she said.
Julianna Margulies won outstanding lead actress in a drama for her performance in “The Good Wife.” She won in 2010 and has been nominated each year since.
Jim Parsons won the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy. It’s his fourth win in the category, all for his performance in “The Big Bang Theory.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) earned an Emmy for lead actress in a comedy, her second straight. In congratulations, Cranston — a former “Seinfeld’ co-star — gave her a passionate kiss. (It was OK — they checked with their spouses beforehand.)
“He went for it. He goes for it in everything he does,” she said later.
And “The Amazing Race” won for reality competition, a return to the winner’s circle after losing to “The Voice” last year. It’s now won 10 of the 12 Emmys given out in the category.
However, the Emmys weren’t entirely surprise-free. Despite 16 nominations, the HBO TV movie “The Normal Heart” — based on Larry Kramer’s 1985 play about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis — won just two Emmys. It did win in the most important of its categories, that of outstanding TV movie.
“This is for all of the hundreds of thousands of artists who have passed from HIV/AIDS since 1981,” said director Ryan Murphy.
But it was “Sherlock: His Last Vow” that took home many of the genre’s awards. Lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch, supporting actor Martin Freeman and writer Stephen Moffat all took home trophies, with Freeman beating out four performers from “The Normal Heart.”
“Fargo” won two Emmys, including an award for outstanding miniseries, and “American Horror Story: Coven” picked up two awards, for actresses Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange.
Asked backstage if she had any other goals, Lange offered an unlikely objective: “I want to win the Belmont Stakes,” she said.
Williams: ‘He made us laugh’
The “In Memoriam” tribute was set to the music of “Smile,” sung by Sara Bareilles. It concluded with Robin Williams.
“He made us laugh — hard — every time you saw him,” said Billy Crystal, telling stories about Williams’ quick wit in a broadcast booth and at a family gathering.
“It’s very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives,” he said.
Backstage, Kathy Bates remembered Williams’ good nature.
One year at the Golden Globes, in a time before cell phones were commonplace, she was waiting at a pay phone to call her mother — and didn’t have change. It was Williams who gave her a quarter. Years later, he was presenting the Oscar for supporting actress, for which Bates was nominated. She didn’t win that time.
“I won this time, and this is for you,” she said, getting choked up.
Louis C.K. also reflected on Williams.
“I grew up watching him. He was somebody who worked so hard at it and was explosive with energy,” he said. “He was a beacon when I was a kid.” The two became friendly later, with Williams telling Louis C.K. he was a fan of “Louie.”
“He was a big influence on me as a person and comedically,” he said.
Host Seth Meyers kept things lively with some winning skits and a brisk monologue. He opened the show with pokes at the very timing of the Emmys itself.
Noting that the awards show was 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.”
“Breaking Bad” never had to undergo that indignity. The show simply got better throughout its five-season run, gaining audience, gripping fans, leaving on its own terms.
“This is a wonderful icing on the cake,” said creator Gilligan. “The cake itself, the substance, was getting to work with these wonderful people for six years.
“It’s going to be a tough one to top, that’s for sure.”
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