The evening began with several TV actors reciting classic lines from past television series. Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey took center stage as she welcomed the audience and talked about the power of television. She also introduced the night's hosts, all of whom are nominees for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Program.
Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Jeff Probst were all in their tuxedos as they went on for several minutes talking about basically nothing. After Tom and Heidi were left on stage, William Shatner came up to help Tom strip Heidi of her suit-and-tie.
The first award given out was Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, presented by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Jeremy Piven poked fun on the hosts' ceremony opening as he accepted his award.
The first memorable TV moment, a Monk's Diner clip from Seinfeld's "The Contest" episode, was shown before Seinfeld star Julia-Louis Dreyfus presented the Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Jean Smart won the award and acknowledged the presence of Christina Applegate, who plays the title character on their show.
A clip from Desperate Housewives was played before the women of Wisteria Lane presented the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, which was won by Damages' Zeljko Ivanek. Five-time nominee Ricky Gervais read the winner of the Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program Emmy (Louis J. Horvitz) after he pestered stern-looking Steve Carell, who was sitting on front row. He also gave out award acceptance speech tips and showed a video of past acceptance speeches.
A Simpsons clip of Bart and Conan O'Brien segued to the introduction of the late night talk show host, who revealed this year's Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Dianne Wiest, who was not present, won the award. Afterwards, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Hayden Panettiere presented the nominees and winner in the Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program category. Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report took the trophy, in behalf of the writers.
The accountants of Ernst & Young, accompanied by Deal or No Deal models, paraded the stage before Steve Martin awarded Tommy Smothers this year's Commemorative Writing Achievement Emmy. Seacrest and Klum gave way to Josh Groban who prepared and sang a medley of TV's popular theme songs including The Simpsons, Happy Days, M*A*S*H, Cheers, and many others.
Alec Baldwin was up next to present the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie to Laura Linney, who won her third Emmy. She played the wife of US President John Adams in the HBO miniseries John Adams. Tom Bergeron then did a bit about the NBC comedy/variety show from the late '60s, Laugh-In. Cast members Joanne Worley, Ruth Bruzzi, and Lily Tomlin performed and presented the Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart accepted the award and made a short comment about the upcoming US elections.
The Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series, read by David Boreanaz and Lauren Conrad, went to Tom Conway and Kathryn Joosten respectively. Joosten then presented Barry Sonnenfeld the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for his work on Pushing Daisies. Boreanaz and Conrad continued by presenting Tina Fey the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, her first of two Emmys for the night.
Martin Sheen sat in a recreated set of the Oval Office as he spoke about nomination conventions and urged Americans to vote in the November elections. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences President and CEO John Shaffner went onstage and talked about the new television season and the Nokia Theater, which is the new home of the Emmys.
After Christian Slater and Christina Applegate handed out to the producers of Recount the Emmy for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, William Petersen and soon-to-be CSI lab successor Laurence Fishburne accepted the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie award in behalf of winner Tom Wilkinson.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who took a shot at US presidential candidate John McCain as he was eating prunes, gave out the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special. Jay Roach received the award for Recount. Kirk Ellis (John Adams), whose speech was cut short, won for Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special.
Howie Mandel erupted with a spate of medical jargon as he talked about St. Elsewhere and M*A*S*H before onscreen doctors Sandra Oh and Patrick Dempsey read the nominees and winner of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. Eileen Atkins was not present to receive the award. Kathy Griffin and Don Rickles handed out the Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, which went to The Amazing Race for the sixth consecutive year.
Sally Field had the honor of awarding Tom Hanks and his John Adams cast and crew with the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries. Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chenoweth, themselves nominees in the Comedy genre, gave Don Rickles his award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. "Mr. Warmth" received a warm applause and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Glynn Turman and Cynthia Nixon, winners for Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress for a Drama Series, presented the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Emmy to Greg Yaitanes for House while Kate Walsh and Wayne Brady handed Matthew Weiner of Mad Men his Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.
Glenn Close then presented Paul Giamatti his award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie and Candace Bergen handed out Alec Baldwin his Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Baldwin gave special thanks to Tina Fey whom he called "the Elaine May of her generation." Glenn Close came back onstage, this time to receive her award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She portrayed the ruthless yet vulnerable lawyer in Damages.
Speeding things up, Kiefer Sutherland just read the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and gave Bryan Cranston, the Emmy winner, enough time to credit and thank the cast and crew of Breaking Bad for his win. Tina Fey took her second Emmy of the evening, this time for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Jimmy Kimmel acted as reality TV show host as he parodied several reality television shows when he announced the nominees Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. In the tradition of reality TV, a commercial break ensued prior to the awarding of the trophy to Jeff Probst of Survivor.
Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White, who worked together on The Mary Tyler Moore Show handed out the second-to-the-last Emmy of the night, Outstanding Comedy Series. 30 Rock, considered a big winner for this year's Emmys, snagged the award. Mad Men brought home the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, presented by Tom Selleck. The cast and crew of both shows went onstage as Tina Fey and Matt Weiner, respectively, spoke in their behalf.
Jeff Probst thanked the viewers and closed out the show without his co-hosts.
Winners and Nominees:
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
• Jon Cryer as Alan Harper, Two and a Half Men
• Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama, Entourage
• Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother
• Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold, Entourage
• Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, The Office
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
• Kristin Chenoweth as Olive Snook, Pushing Daisies
• Amy Poehler as Performer, Saturday Night Live
• Jean Smart as Regina Newly, Samantha Who?
• Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper, Two and a Half Men
• Vanessa Williams as Wilhelma Slater, Ugly Betty
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
• Ted Danson as Arthur Frobisher, Damages
• Michael Emerson as Ben, Lost
• Zeljko Ivanek as Ray Fiske, Damages
• William Shatner as Denny Crane, Boston Legal
• John Slattery as Roger Sterling, Mad Men
Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music Or Comedy Program
• Louis J. Horvitz, "80th Annual Academy Awards"
• Jim Hoskinson, The Colbert Report - "#4051"
• Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live - "Host: Tina Fey"
• Chuck O'Neil, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart - "#13050"
• Lonny Price, "Company (Great Performances)"
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
• Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt, Boston Legal
• Rachel Griffiths as Sarah Walker-Whedon, Brothers & Sisters
• Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang, Grey's Anatomy
• Dianne Wiest as Dr. Gina Toll, In Treatment
• Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey, Grey's Anatomy
Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music Or Comedy Program
• The Colbert Report
• The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
• Late Night With Conan O'Brien
• Late Show with David Letterman
• Saturday Night Live
Commemorative Writing Achievement Award
• Tommy Smothers, for his work on the cutting-edge and controversial Tommy Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries Or a Movie
• Dame Judi Dench as Miss Matty Jenkyns, Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre)
• Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, John Adams
• Phylicia Rashad as Lena Younger, A Raisin in the Sun
• Catherine Keener as Gertrude Baniszewski, An American Crime
• Susan Sarandon as Doris Duke, Bernard and Doris
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series
• The Colbert Report
• The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
• Late Show with David Letterman
• Real Time with Bill Maher
• Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
• Will Arnett as Devin Banks, 30 Rock
• Shelley Berman as Nat David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
• Steve Buscemi as Len, 30 Rock
• Tim Conway as Bucky Bright, 30 Rock
• Rip Torn as Don Geiss, 30 Rock
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
• Polly Bergen as Stella Wingfield, Desperate Housewives
• Edie Falco as Celeste 'C.C.' Cunningham, 30 Rock
• Carrie Fisher as Rosemary Howard, 30 Rock
• Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey, Desperate Housewives
• Sarah Silverman as Marci Maven, Monk
• Elaine Stritch as Colleen Donaghy, 30 Rock
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
• Dan Attias, Entourage
• James Bobin, Flight of the Conchords
• Michael Engler, 30 Rock
• Paul Feig, The Office
• Paul Lieberstein, The Office
• Barry Sonnenfeld, Pushing Daisies
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
• Tina Fey, 30 Rock - "Cooter"
• Jack Burditt, 30 Rock - "Rosemary's Baby"
• James Bobin/Jemaine Clement/Bret McKenzie, Flight Of The Conchords - "Yoko"
• Lee Eisenberg/Gene Stupnitsky, The Office - "Dinner Party"
• Bryan Fuller, Pushing Daisies - "Pie-Lette"
Outstanding Made for Television Movie
• Bernard and Doris
• Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
• A Raisin in the Sun
• The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
• Bob Balaban as Ben Ginsberg, Recount
• Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams
• Denis Leary as Michael Whouley, Recount
• David Morse as George Washington, John Adams
• Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie Or a Dramatic Special
• Bob Balaban, Bernard and Doris
• Mikael Salomon, The Company
• Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant, Extras: The Extra Special Finale
• Tom Hooper, John Adams
• Jay Roach, Recount
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie Or a Dramatic Special
• Hugh Costello, Bernard and Doris
• Heidi Thomas, Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre)
• Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
• Kirk Ellis, John Adams
• Danny Strong, Recount
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries Or a Movie
• Eileen Atkins as Miss Deborah Jenkyns, Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre)
• Laura Dern as Katherine Harris, Recount
• Ashley Jensen as Maggie Jacobs, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
• Audra McDonald as Ruth Younger, A Raisin in The Sun
• Alfre Woodard as Edna Reilly, Pictures Of Hollis Woods (Hallmark Hall Of Fame Presentation)
Outstanding Reality-competition Program
• The Amazing Race
• American Idol
• Dancing with the Stars
• Project Runway
• Top Chef
• The Andromeda Strain
• Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre)
• John Adams
• Tin Man
Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety Or Music Program
• Jon Stewart, "80th Annual Academy Awards"
• David Letterman, Late Show With David Letterman
• Don Rickles, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project
• Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
• Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
• Charles Durning as John Gavin, Sr., Rescue Me
• Robert Morse as Bertram Cooper, Mad Men
• Oliver Platt as Freddie Prune, Nip/Tuck
• Stanley Tucci as Dr. Kevin Moretti, ER
• Glynn Turman as Alex Sr., In Treatment
• Robin Williams as Merritt Rook, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
• Ellen Burstyn as Nancy Dutton, Big Love
• Diahann Carroll as Jane Burke, Grey's Anatomy
• Cynthia Nixon as Janis Donovan, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
• Anjelica Huston as Cynthia Keener, Medium
• Sharon Gless as Colleen Rose, Nip/Tuck
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
• Arlene Sanford, Boston Legal - "The Mighty Rogues"
• Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad - "Pilot"
• Allen Coulter, Damages - "Pilot"
• Greg Yaitanes, House - "House' Head"
• Alan Taylor, Mad Men - "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
• Michael Angeli, Battlestar Galactica - "Six of One"
• Todd A. Kessler/Glenn Kessler/Daniel Zelman, Damages - Pilot
• Matthew Weiner, Mad Men - "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Pilot)"
• Matthew Weiner/Robin Veith, Mad Men - "The Wheel"
• David Simon/Ed Burns, The Wire - "30"
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries Or a Movie
• Ralph Fiennes as Bernard Lafferty, Bernard and Doris
• Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
• Paul Giamatti as John Adams, John Adams
• Kevin Spacey as Ron Klain, Recount
• Tom Wilkinson as James Baker, Recount
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
• Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
• Steve Carell as Michael Scott, The Office
• Lee Pace as Ned, Pushing Daisies
• Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, Monk
• Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper, Two and a Half Men
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
• Glenn Close as Patty Hewes, Damages
• Sally Field as Nora Holden-Walker, Brothers & Sisters
• Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
• Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko, Saving Grace
• Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, The Closer
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
• Gabriel Byrne as Paul, In Treatment
• Bryan Cranston as Walt White, Breaking Bad
• Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, Dexter
• Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Mad Men
• Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, House
• James Spader as Alan Shore, Boston Legal
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
• Christina Applegate as Samantha Newly, Samantha Who?
• Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
• Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell, The New Adventures Of Old Christine
• America Ferrera as Betty Suarez, Ugly Betty
• Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin, Weeds
Outstanding Host for a Reality Or Reality - Competition Program
• Tom Bergeron, Dancing with the Stars
• Heidi Klum, Project Runway
• Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal
• Jeff Probst, Survivor
• Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Outstanding Comedy Series
• 30 Rock
• Curb Your Enthusiasm
• The Office
• Two and a Half Men
Outstanding Drama Series
• Boston Legal
• Mad Men