LOS ANGELES » Network comedies including "The Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family" started out strong at Monday’s Emmy Awards, which took a somber turn as Robin Williams was remembered with restraint and grace by his longtime friend, Billy Crystal.
"He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him," Crystal said of Williams at the conclusion of a tribute to industry members who died last year. "Robin Williams, what a concept."
Matthew McConaughey, bringing movie-star sizzle to the ceremony, was the object of too-handsome jokes by presenter Jimmy Kimmel and adoration by winner Gail Mancuso, honored as best director for an episode of "Modern Family."
"If you don’t mind, Matthew McConaughey, I’m gonna make eye contact with you right now," she said from the stage, making good by holding the actor’s gaze for much of her speech.
The ceremony honoring the best of TV wasn’t shy about playing the movie-star card. "Six minutes to Woody Harrelson" flashed on screen during Colin Bucksey’s acceptance speech for best miniseries direction for "Fargo."
Harrelson and his "True Detective" co-star were given time to banter before announcing that Benedict Cumberbatch of "Sherlock" was the winner of the best miniseries actor award.
"So you won Oscar, (People magazine’s) Sexiest Man Alive and now you want an Emmy, too. Isn’t that a little bit greedy?" Harrelson teased his fellow nominee.
"Fargo" was named best miniseries, and the award for best miniseries actress went to Jessica Lange of "American Horror Story: Coven."
Buffering the miniseries awards was a parody routine about top nominees by "Weird Al" Yankovic. Musical numbers usually look out of place at the Emmys, and this one was no different.
CBS’ "The Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons was crowned as best comedy series actor, giving him his fourth Emmy and putting him in league long with all-time sitcom winners Kelsey Grammer and Michael J. Fox.
Besides Mancuso’s award, ABC’s "Modern Family" also captured a best comedy supporting actor trophy for Ty Burrell. Allison Janney was honored as best supporting comedy actress for CBS’ "Mom," adding to the trophy she’d already picked up as guest actress on "Masters of Sex."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who received her third consecutive best comedy actress Emmy for the political comedy "Veep," drew big laughs as she stopped to exchange faux heated kisses with "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston, who earlier was her co-presenter and who appeared with her on "Seinfeld."
Host Seth Meyers kicked off the ceremony by tweaking his home network, NBC, and other broadcasters for being eclipsed in the awards by cable series and online newcomers like "Orange Is the New Black."
Noting that the Emmys moved to Monday night to avoid a conflict with Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, he said that MTV doesn’t really specialize in videos anymore.
"That’s like network TV holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and Netflix. That would be crazy," Meyers joked.
First-time host Meyers was unflappable, even when comedy bits fell flat. There was muted laughter when he bantered with stars in the audience — including Melissa McCarthy, who asked if her illegally parked car would be towed — although Andre Braugher asking to use the bathroom and getting a key with an Emmy attached from Josh Charles was cute enough.
All eyes were on the telecast for more history to be made. Netflix’s freshman comedy series nominee "Orange Is the New Black" and sophomore drama series contender "House of Cards" could score breakthroughs as the first online shows to capture top Emmy Awards.
The ceremony’s traditional "in memorian" tribute to industry members who have died in the past year flashed images of stars including James Garner, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, Carmen Zapata and Elaine Stritch as singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles sang "Smile." It concluded with the tribute to Williams.
Among other potential history-making wins:
— A victory for Cranston would give him a tie with four-time best drama actor champ Dennis Franz.
— McConaughey will join an exclusive club if he wins, according to awards historian Tom O’Neil, joining Helen Mirren, Helen Hunt, Liza Minnelli and George C. Scott as the fifth actor to win both an Emmy and Oscar in a single year. In March, McConaughey nabbed the best actor Academy Award for "Dallas Buyers Club."
— "Modern Family" could tie "Frasier" as the all-time sitcom champ with five statuettes if it wins.
— "Scandal" star Kerry Washington would be in a class by herself if she receives the best drama series actress award, becoming the first African-American to conquer the category.
AP Entertainment Writers Anthony McCartney and Beth Harris contributed to this report.