Homeland, which puts the battle against terrorism on American soil, was the big success story of the night at the Emmys, closely followed by comedy Modern Family.

Homeland picked up gongs for its main stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, and stopped Mad Men in its tracks, denying the show a record fifth trophy, and kept Bryan Cranston from his fourth consecutive best drama award for Breaking Bad. Homeland also won the best writing gong.

Aaron Paul won best supporting drama actor for Breaking Bad, and upon receipt of the gong said of his drug-dealing character: "Thank-you so much for not killing me off."

On the comedy side, Emmy voters decided that Two And A Half Men with Jon Cryer and without Charlie Sheen is really good, as Cryer claimed the best comedy actor trophy.

"Don't panic, people. Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I'm stunned," said Cryer, who on the red carpet before the show has expressed confidence he wouldn't win. shton Kutcher, who joined the show after Sheen was fired, was not nominated.

Modern Family made it look easy as the comedy won the best directing trophy and Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen claimed supporting actor awards.

Stonestreet was touching as he accepted for his role as half of a devoted gay couple.

"I wouldn't be standing here without Jesse Tyler Ferguson, there is no Cam without Mitch," he said, saluting his co-star. "We get the awesome opportunity to play these two characters on TV and show America and the world what a loving couple we can be just like everybody else."

Julianne Moore's uncanny take on Governor Sarah Palin in the TV movie Game Change, about the 2008 presidential campaign, earned her best actress honours. "I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down," Moore said, beaming.

Kevin Costner was named best actor for the history-based mini-series Hatfields & McCoys, while Tom Berenger was named best supporting actor for the project and Jessica Lange won supporting actress honours for American Horror Story. Game Change was crowned best series.