(CNN) — If the winners at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards looked familiar, it's because many of them had visited the podium before -- including last year.
Jim Parsons won the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy. It's his fourth win in the category, all for his performance in "The Big Bang Theory."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus also repeated. She now has two Emmys in a row for lead actress in a comedy for her performance in "Veep."
"The Amazing Race" won for reality competition, a return to the winner's circle after losing to "The Voice" last year.
And "Modern Family" got off to a quick start, with Ty Burrell winning outstanding supporting actor and Gail Mancuso winning for directing.
The show, which has won a ton of honors in the past -- including four straight Emmys for outstanding comedy -- is once again in the running for the big prize.
Backstage, Mancuso hoped her Emmy gave young girls a sign that there were jobs for them besides acting.
"Seeing a woman winning an Emmy is a wonderful image to project to young girls who think they can do something besides in front of the camera," she said.
Allison Janney of "Mom" won outstanding supporting actress. It's her second Emmy of the cycle, since she won for a guest spot on "Masters of Sex" at the Creative Arts Emmys a week ago.
Louis C.K. won for writing for a comedy series.
"American Horror Story: Coven" picked up two awards, for actresses Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange.
Lange also won two years ago for a different chapter of "American Horror Story."
Not all the faces were familiar. In a mild upset, "Sherlock: His Last Vow" took home three Emmys, including one for supporting actor Martin Freeman -- who defeated four performers from the film "The Normal Heart" -- and for star Benedict Cumberbatch. "Fargo" won two, including Emmy for outstanding miniseries.
Host Seth Meyers kept things lively with some winning skits and a brisk monologue. He opened the show with pokes at "Game of Thrones," broadcast television and the very timing of the Emmys itself.
Noting that the awards show is on a Monday night in August -- so it didn't conflict with Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards and an NFL game on Emmy network NBC -- the host noted that could only mean one thing: it's "about to get canceled."
And even if "Weird Al" Yankovic never gets to play the Super Bowl, he can now say he had a notable spot at the Emmys, providing lyrics for theme songs that don't have them, including "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones."
'A much, much bigger deal'
The leading nominees, including "Breaking Bad," "True Detective" and "House of Cards," exemplify the resurgence of television, a part of what's come to be thought of as the medium's new golden age.
Along with "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men," "Louie," "Orange Is the New Black," "Veep" and "Parks and Recreation," among many standouts, "must-see TV" isn't just an old NBC slogan, it's a reality across the dial. Indeed, NBC -- and the rest of the broadcast networks -- have found themselves marginalized by the ever-increasing stock of the cable networks and their programs.
In fact, one problem with having so many worthy nominees is that the competition is stiffer than ever. (If you're the Emmys, it's a good problem to have.) Shows have always wanted to win prizes, but these days, the awards are more valuable than ever, points out Deadline.com's Pete Hammond.
"The Emmys have always been a big help to newcomers, but in terms of what they're worth to the industry now, it seems like they've become a much, much bigger deal," he said.
For most prognosticators, outstanding drama -- the top prize -- has turned into a two-show race between AMC's "Breaking Bad," which wrapped up its final season last year amid almost universal praise, and HBO's "True Detective," which earned raves in its early-2014 run and will be back for its second season soon, though with a different cast.
"Bad" could benefit from goodwill, but if "Detective" wins in other categories, watch out.
Such as lead actor in a drama, for example. Just because "Bad's" Bryan Cranston has been a consistent winner over the years -- he has three Emmys for his role as Walter White -- doesn't mean he can overcome the "McConaissance," as the rise of "Detective's" Matthew McConaughey has been termed. After all, the guy won the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Oscar earlier this year.
"How many of those speeches should we have to sit through?" ribbed Jimmy Kimmel.
McConaughey has a chance to become the first actor to win an Oscar and Emmy in the same year since 1971, when George C. Scott pulled off the trick for the 1970 film "Patton" and his performance in "The Price," from the "Hallmark Hall of Fame." Unlike Scott, who declined his Oscar and didn't show for the Emmys, McConaughey was very much present, wearing a black shirt, a midnight-blue jacket and equally blue shoes.
The other nominees include "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm (seven nominations, no wins), "The Newsroom's" Jeff Daniels (who won last year), "House of Cards' " Kevin Spacey and McConaughey's "Detective" co-star, Woody Harrelson.
In presenting an award with McConaughey, Harrelson did get off a line that highlighted a "Detective" controversy: that some of its philosophical speeches were cribbed from other works.
"I'm grateful you had all the plagiarized lines," he said impishly.
The show is airing on NBC.
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.