Although many of the comedy bits built into the awards ceremony fell flat, some of the biggest laughs of the night came during the presentation for lead actress in a comedy series.

All six nominees rushed the stage as if they were finalists in a beauty pagent. Among them: Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Laura Linney, Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton.

The honor, however, went to Melissa McCarthy for CBS' "Mike & Molly." Not only was she given the award, they also put a crown on her head and a bouquet of roses in her arms. "Holy smokes!" she exclaimed. "It's my first and best pageant ever."

But from the outset of the evening, it was "Modern Family"'s night at the Nokia Theatre.

The first four trophies of the evening went to the comedy series, beginning with Bowen, who won supporting actress in a comedy series.

"Oh, my God, are you KIDDING me?" said Bowen, wearing a plunging green sequined gown, holding aloft her first Emmy trophy. "I don't know what I am going to talk about in therapy next week, I won something!"

It was also the first win for Burrell, who was by contrast calm and reflective as he noted that his father had passed away before he ever saw his son perform. "I wonder what he'd think of this," Burrell said, musing that his father would be surprised that he goes to work in full makeup every day at work.

Another first-time winner was Michael Spiller, who won for directing the comedy series. And Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman won for comedy writing for a much-talked-about episode in which the kids caught their parents in bed together getting busy.

It was enough to make host Jane Lynch quip "Welcome back to the 'Modern Family' awards" after a commercial break.

PHOTOS: Red carpet arrivals

susan.king@latimes.com, rene.lynch@latimes.com