Alec Baldwin and Australian actress Toni Collette were among early Emmy winners on Sunday as U.S. television handed out its highest honors.
Collette took home the best comedy actress Emmy for playing a woman with multiple personalities who is suffering from an identity disorder in Showtime's United States of Tara, beating favorite Tina Fey of 30 Rock.
Baldwin, who plays Fey's egotistical boss in NBC's self parody of network TV, won his second best comic actor Emmy for the role.
30 Rock went to Sunday's 61st Primetime Emmy Awards with a leading 22 nominations and is still in the running for one of the biggest prizes -- best comedy series -- which will be handed out at the end of the three-hour ceremony.
Kristen Chenoweth won best supporting comic actress for Pushing Daisies, which was canceled by ABC earlier this year.
I'm unemployed now, so I'd like to be on 'Mad Men', Chenoweth joked, adding Thank you so much to the Academy for recognizing a show that's no longer on the air.
In the drama categories, Mad Men, the low-rated but acclaimed AMC series set in the 1960s advertising industry, has 16 nominations and is favored to repeat its win last year when it became the first series from a cable network other than HBO to win the Emmy for best drama.
Host Neil Patrick Harris, star of the CBS series How I Met Your Mother, kicked off the live telecast with a comic song and dance routine called Put down the Remote that urged viewers to resist the urge to switch channels or go online.
Last year's Emmy telecast attracted the smallest audience in the awards show's history, with just 12.2 million viewers.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences expanded the number of nominees this year in a bid to acknowledge the range of offerings on more than 120 network and cable channels available to American viewers.
The move brought in fresh faces like Fox's irreverent cartoon series Family Guy and HBO's polygamy drama Big Love.
Family Guy -- which was rescued by fans from cancellation in 2005 -- is the first animated series to be nominated for a primetime Emmy comedy award since The Flintstones in 1961. A win later on Sunday would make Emmy history.
With the Emmys becoming increasingly a winner's feast for cable shows with modest audiences, Emmy organizers gave popular reality shows their own category six years ago. The nominees this year are The Amazing Race, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Top Chef and Project Runway.
In the drama awards, Glenn Close is favored to repeat her best drama actress win for the FX legal series Damages.
The race looks tighter for best drama actor, with Hugh Laurie's grouchy doctor in the Fox medical series House posing the strongest challenge to last year's surprise winner Bryan Cranston, who plays a drug-dealing teacher in AMC's Breaking Bad.
Many (Emmy) voters may ... keep in mind that Hugh Laurie is way overdue for an Emmy win, and this year might be the perfect time to do so, said Rob Licuria of www.awardsheaven.net.
Jon Hamm's dapper ad executive on Mad Men, In Treatment therapist Gabriel Byrne, Michael C. Hall's serial killer in Dexter, and Australian Simon Baker of The Mentalist are also in the running for best actor in a drama.
HBO went into the Emmys with a leading 99 nominations, including 17 for its TV movie Grey Gardens, and is expected to be the biggest overall winner on Sunday.
HBO is a unit of Time Warner Inc. ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co; NBC is a division of the NBC Universal unit of General Electric Co; Fox and FX are part of News Corp. CBS is part of CBS Corp; AMC is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp.