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'Fargo' wins Emmy for TV miniseries

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Fargo," the TV re-imagining of the Coen brothers' cult film, won best miniseries at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, while HBO's "The Normal Heart" earned best TV movie honors for its depiction of the early fight against AIDS.

"Fargo" gave FX Networks its first Emmy for a program, but actors from the critically acclaimed miniseries lost out on awards despite being heavy favorites, especially lead actor Billy Bob Thornton.

"Who else can I thank but Joel and Ethan Coen, who don't watch the Emmys," said "Fargo" creator Noah Hawley of the directors of the 1996 Oscar-winning film who granted him creative freedom to recreate the snowy psychological thriller.

"The Normal Heart" was based on the play by Larry Kramer, who wrote about his own fight against the spread of AIDS as a gay activist in New York City.

"This is for all of the hundreds of thousands of artists who have passed from HIV/AIDS since 1981. Your memory and your passion burns on in us," said Ryan Murphy, director of “The Normal Heart."

Actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Parsons were repeat Emmy winners, taking the top comedy acting honors and beating newcomer nominees during television's biggest night.

Louis-Dreyfus won her third consecutive Emmy for her role as the ambitious and foul-mouthed U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO's political satire "Veep." Parsons won his fourth lead acting Emmy for playing the pedantic nerd Sheldon in CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory."

In a year in which newcomers and cable and streaming company Netflix Inc have dominated the conversation about television's top honors, the big broadcast networks fared well in the awards handed out by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Ty Burrell won best supporting actor in a comedy for his role as the hapless father Phil Dunphy on ABC's hit show "Modern Family," while Allison Janney won best supporting actress in a comedy as the ditsy mother on the CBS series "Mom."

One of the surprise winners of the night was "Sherlock: His Last Vow" from PBS, which took awards for best actor in a miniseries or movie for Benedict Cumberbatch, best supporting actor for Martin Freeman and best writing in a miniseries or movie.

The evening's host, late-night talk show comedian Seth Meyers opened the show with knocks to the industry about the threat of online-streaming service Netflix to cable networks and the submission of its jailhouse series "Orange Is the New Black" as a comedy rather than a drama.

"We had comedies that make you laugh, and comedies that make you cry. Because they’re dramas submitted as comedies," said Meyers in his opening monologue at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

"Orange Is the New Black," featuring a diverse group of characters in a women's prison, has helped cement Netflix's reputation at a quality producer of original content and will challenge the best comedy series reign of ABC's "Modern Family."

DRAMA OVER DRAMA RACE "Orange" is one of the three television upstarts that could shake up the Emmys in a validation of the industry's move toward sophisticated, long-form storytelling.

Led by Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson from HBO's murder mystery "True Detective," a new breed of TV backed by film stars and cinematic vision will square off against Emmy stalwarts "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" for the night's top honor, best drama series.

"We are in a time when television is the best that it's ever been, so just look around and realize that everyone who's here deserves an award," said Beau Willimon, the creator of Netflix's Emmy-nominated political thriller "House of Cards."

With big broadcast networks again shut out from the best drama series race, AMC's drug tale "Breaking Bad" will defend its title against "House of Cards," AMC ad world portrait "Mad Men," PBS British period series "Downton Abbey," HBO's fantasy epic "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective."