9:18: AWARD: Maggie Smith wins the supporting dramatic actress Emmy for Downton Abbey and then disappoints everyone by not showing up to insult everyone to their faces.
9:15: AWARD: Homeland earns its first Emmy for writing.
's Aaron Paul keeps up the streak of repeat winners when he picks up his second supporting drama actor Emmy. He seems more surprised than anyone -- perhaps he believed USA TODAY critic Robert Bianco when he predicted Paul's co-star Giancarlo Esposito would win. However, Bianco also said Paul
9:00: AWARD: Dancing With the Stars host Tom Bergeron wins on his fifth try. "This is particularly satisfying because Betty White always kicks my ass in our mixed martial arts class."
8:50: AWARD: The Amazing Race adds to its streak of reality series Emmy wins.
8:48: AWARD: Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins the lead comedy actress Emmy for Veep. "Our show is a comedy," she admits, "but I don't see anything funny about me being vice president."
8:39: AWARD: "Don't panic, people," says lead comedy actor winner and Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer. "Something has clearly gone wrong."
8:35 More Modern Family jokes: A filmed bit revealing the little girl who plays Lily as the cast's biggest diva. "We've replaced Lily before," says a conspiratorial Ed O'Neill. "Nobody will notice," he tells Ken Jeong, sporting a wig done in pigtails. "This sounds a bit racist. I'm in!"
8:30: AWARD:Modern Family creator Steven Levitan earns his fourth Emmy for directing. "I want to thank me for hiring me as a director when no one else would," he quips. He goes on to say that someone once told him that with his show's writers and cast, anyone could direct an episode of Modern Family. "I think we're proven that today."
8:09: AWARD:The Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series will be going home with Eric Stonestreet. It's his second win for Modern Family. "There is no Cam without Mitch," he tells co-star and fellow nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson. "I never knew I'd be on TV as a gay man," says the straight Stonestreet, "but I love the hairy chest photos you guys have been sending me." He also gives a shoutout to "all the guys who have to go to auditions at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning ... I'm proof you can be standing up here."
8:06: Notes from the monologue: "Downton Abbey gives us an idea of what it's like to live in Mitt Romney's house. ... Jon Hamm, I am shocked you didn't win tonight. Too soon? ... I don't think the president should watch Homeland for the same reason Charlie Sheen shouldn't watchBreaking Bad. ...
8:01: The opening sketch: A weepy, overly botoxed Jimmy Kimmel runs into the ladies room. After mistakenly opening a stall door on a naked, cake-chomping Lena Dunham, Kathy Bates breaks into his stall. Then Zoey Deschanel, Connie Britton, Christina Hendricks, Mindy Kaling and Martha Plimpton psych him up -- well, Bates and Julia Louis- Dreyfus punch him and send him on his way ... until he realizes he's not wearing pants. Gamely, Ellen DeGeneres offers hers up. And we're off.
7:59: Welcome to USA TODAY's coverage of the 2012 Emmys.
The prime-time Emmy Awards winners are anything but predictable this year as several repeat winners will clash with acclaimed newcomers for their share of the trophies.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the top drama category, where Mad Men -- seeking a record-setting fifth consecutive win -- faces stiff competition from Showtime's buzzy and politically current newcomer Homeland, PBS' Downton Abbey (which won as miniseries last year) and AMC's Breaking Bad, whose star Bryan Cranston is a three-time winner.
In the comedy race, ABC's two-time winner Modern Family has less to worry about. But HBO's new Girls and Veep are contenders along with CBS' surging The Big Bang Theory, whose star Jim Parsons is favored to repeat as lead actor.
Comedy actress is a bit of a tossup, with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Veep), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) and Lena Dunham (Girls) all fronting new series and vying for gold against Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and last year's winner Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly).
Homeland's Claire Danes is an overwhelming favorite to win best drama actress, but her co-star Damian Lewis is competing against, among others, Cranston and Mad Men's Jon Hamm, who despite the show's acclaim has never won an acting Emmy.
It's reasonable to assume at least one member of the Modern Family cast will take home an award: All six adult cast members are nominated in supporting categories.
And in other races, questions abound: Will CBS' The Amazing Race continue its run as best reality-competition series (interrupted only once during its long run)? Can Comedy Central'sThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart win 10 times in a row as TV's top variety series? And can FX's anthology American Horror Story, cannily entered in the movie and miniseries category, upset HBO's Game Change and BBC America's Luther?
The 64th annual Emmys will air live tonight at 8 ET/5 PT on ABC, with that network's late-night star Jimmy Kimmel as first-time host. Come back to this page throughout the evening for the latest news and updates.