The Showtime thriller about a CIA agent trying to prove that a returning war veteran has been turned by the enemy was the surprise winner on TV’s biggest night in Los Angeles.

Homeland won the Outstanding Drama Series award at the Emmys, at the Nokia Theatre in downtown LA, and its two stars, the British actor Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, won their respective categories. The only other British winner of the night was Dame Maggie Smith, as the best supporting actress in a drama series, for Downton Abbey. Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul was the best supporting actor in a drama.

The other British hopes – for shows including Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Luther and The Hour – failed to pick up awards.

Downton Abbey – along with four time winner Mad Men – was beaten to the top drama prize by Homeland, while Sherlock and Luther lost out in their category to the American political satire Game Change, which also won awards for Julianne Moore, who played Sarah Palin, for the director Jay Roach and the writer Danny Strong.

Modern Family won the Outstanding Comedy Series award, as well as the supporting acting trophies. The best leading actor in a comedy was Two and a Half Men’s Jon Cryer, demonstrating that there’s life in the show after Charlie Sheen. The best leading actress in a comedy went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for Veep, the political satire that marks Armando Ianucci’s first foray into American TV.

There were big hopes for some of the British shows in contention, particularly Downton Abbey, with its sixteen nominations, but in reality, the prospect of the American television academy picking it over a show about the US protecting itself against the Taleban was always a bit of a stretch.

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