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LOS ANGELES – “Breaking Bad,” the brutal saga of an everyman’s ambition turned evil, captured its first best drama Emmy Award on Sunday, while “Modern Family” won its fourth consecutive trophy for top comedy series.

Jeff Daniels won the Emmy for best drama series actor for his portrayal of an idealistic TV anchorman in “The Newsroom,” with Claire Danes capturing top actress honors for her troubled CIA agent in “Homeland.”

Daniels noted that he’d also received an age 50-plus acting honor from AARP, which represents the interests of older Americans.

“With all due respect to the AARP, this is even better,” Daniels said.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus claimed her second-consecutive best comedy actress award for her role as an ambitious political second banana in “Veep,” with Jim Parsons again claiming the top comedy acting trophy for “The Big Bang Theory.”

Merritt Wever of “Nurse Jackie” won the night’s first award, for best supporting actress in a comedy series, kicking off the ceremony on a surprising note and with a remarkably brief acceptance speech.

“Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Um, I got to go, bye,” Wever told the audience.

“Merritt Wever, best speech ever,” host Neil Patrick Harris cracked.

Tony Hale of “Veep” claimed the trophy for best supporting actor in a comedy, a category that has been the property in recent years of the men of “Modern Family.”

Laura Linney was named best actress in a miniseries or movie for “The Big C: Hereafter.” “The Voice” won best reality-competition program, and Tina Fey won for writing “30 Rock.”

Michael Douglas was honored as best actor for his portrayal of Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra.” The film also captured a top trophy as best movie or miniseries.

Bobby Cannavale, from “Boardwalk Empire,” won as best supporting actor in a drama, and Anna Gunn from “Breaking Bad” won the best actress award in the same category.

Derek Hough of “Dancing with the Stars” won the trophy for best choreography.

In the variety show category, “The Colbert Report” broke a 10-year winning streak held by “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” It also won for best writing for a variety show.

The ceremony’s first hour was relatively somber, with memorial tributes and a doleful song by Elton John in honor of the late musical star Liberace.

Robin Williams offered another tribute. “Jonathan Winters was my mentor,” Williams said of the actor-comedian. “I told him that, and he said, ‘Please, I prefer ‘idol.’ ”

Also honored was Cory Monteith, the “Glee” star who died at age 31 in July.

Diahann Carroll, the first African-American Emmy nominee in 1963 for “Naked City,” created one of the night’s most heartfelt moments when she took the stage with Kerry Washington and noted the importance of diversity in the industry and Emmys.

“Tonight, she better get this award,” Carroll said of Washington, who covered her eyes in embarrassment.

Danes’ victory as best actress in a drama denied Washington a chance to end a 45-year drought for black women winning the best drama award.