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‘Modern Family’ Leads ABC to 5 Emmys, Ends 8-Year HBO Streak

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Modern Family TV Actors Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen
Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen of Modern Family. Photographer: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The comedy “Modern Family” led Walt Disney Co.’s ABC to five Emmy awards, the most of any network, ending an eight-year winning streak by Time Warner Inc.’s HBO.

“Modern Family,” the ensemble satire that looks at the complicated makeup of families today, won as best comedy series a second straight year, garnering supporting-actor statuettes for Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen, plus best writing and directing.

The recognition for “Modern Family” will help lift ratings for the show and for third-place ABC, said Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media Inc. in New York.

“Situation comedy is the only category cable can’t crack,” Adgate said.

AMC Networks Inc.’s “Mad Men” captured the award for best dramatic series for a fourth year during Fox’s telecast of the 63rd prime-time Emmy awards last night at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. CBS, HBO and PBS each garnered four wins.

The relative parity underscores resurgent artistic competition in television. PBS’s “Downton Abbey” miniseries from Masterpiece won four awards, beating HBO’s “Mildred Pierce” head-to-head, including for overall show, writing and directing.

The success of “Downton Abbey” is a “David and Goliath” story, Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton said to reporters backstage.

“HBO has tremendous marketing muscle,” Eaton said. “When a program like ‘Downton Abbey’ wins, it stands on its own merits, and the Academy recognized this.”

Film Heavyweights

HBO relied on big-screen heavyweights like Martin Scorsese and Kate Winslet for its wins. Scorsese won his first Emmy, for directing the pilot of “Boardwalk Empire,” and Winslet won for best actress in a miniseries for “Mildred Pierce.”

Working on a television series gives the director more freedom than film, Scorsese said to reporters backstage. He said developing long-form movies for television has been an aim since the 1960s.

“I personally feel that this is the opportunity,” Scorsese said. “Maybe even more so than in independent cinema.”

In “Modern Family,” Burrell and Bowen play husband and wife Phil and Claire Dunphy. The show also follows a gay couple and a heterosexual couple with decades in age between them. Michael Allen Spiller won for directing and Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman for writing on the ABC show.

“We all fear the quality dipping so we work extra hard,” Levitan said backstage. “When we feel a scene or a storyline that doesn’t quite work, we won’t settle.”

Competition for Viewers

Last night’s telecast vied for viewers with NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which pitted the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick against his old team, the Atlanta Falcons.

The game, which Atlanta won with a late, fourth-quarter touchdown, was the most-watched show last night, giving NBC an average of 18 million viewers in prime time, compared with 10.4 million for Fox, according to updated Nielsen ratings data supplied by the networks.

Fox said in a statement the Emmys had a 4.2 rating among adults ages 18 to 49 years old, the group advertisers target. That represented a 2 percent increase from last year’s telecast, the network said.

CBS’s Emmys

CBS’s four Emmys came from comedy, drama and reality programs. Melissa McCarthy won best lead comedy actress for playing Molly Flynn in “Mike & Molly,” and Jim Parsons took lead comedy actor Emmy for his role as Sheldon Cooper in “The Big Bang Theory.” Julianna Margulies won best lead drama actress for playing Alicia Florrick in “The Good Wife,” and “The Amazing Race” took the Emmy for best reality show.

“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” from Viacom Inc.’s Comedy Central, ran its streak to nine in the outstanding variety, music or comedy series category. The show also won a writing award.

Jane Lynch, the actress who was nominated for her role on Fox’s “Glee,” hosted the Emmys for the first time. The awards, which drew their biggest audience in four years in 2010, have grown in importance for networks promoting the TV season that started this month, said media analyst Hal Vogel in New York.

“This is an important show and also a showcase,” Vogel said in an interview before the program. “It is one of the few big-show audiences left.”

The Emmys are organized by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. This year’s executive producer was “Survivor” creator Mark Burnett.

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