The cast of "Modern Family" beat out the likes of "Nurse Jackie" and "Glee" to win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series at Sunday's ceremony.
It also triumphed over "30 Rock" and "The Office," two NBC shows that are having their final seasons on the air.
On the film front, Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Hathaway won supporting actor honors for their work in "Lincoln" and "Les Misérables," respectively.
Jones was honored for his performance as radical Republican Senator Thaddeus Stevens, an ardent abolitionist and sometime ally of Abraham Lincoln, but was not on hand to pick up his statue. Jones' win was unexpected as Philip Seymour Hoffman had been the favorite to pick up the SAG for his work as a cult leader in "The Master."
Hathaway earned her award for her performance as an impoverished mother forced into prostitution in the hit musical. The actress took the podium to thank her co-stars in both "Les Misérables" and "The Dark Knight Rises," saying what an actor learned in one job they applied in others.
Unlike the Oscars, the SAG awards honor the best of television and film, and the casts of "Breaking Bad" and "Homeland" are among the shows competing for top awards, while the actors in "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are among the stars vying for statues.
Alec Baldwin won the leading actor in a comedy statue, making it his eighth SAG award for his work as a cutthroat executive on "30 Rock." The NBC sitcom is finishing up its seven seasons on the air next week.
"It was the greatest experience I've ever had," Baldwin said, while reflecting on the show's end.
His co-star Tina Fey won her own statue minutes later, marking her fifth SAG award for her work as a television writer on "30 Rock."
"Thank you for letting me in this union," Fey said.
She also paused to thank one of her rivals for the staue, "I share this with my sweet friend Amy Poehler...Amy I've known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham," Fey said.
Poehler was nominated for her work in "Parks and Recreation." Dunham, the 26-year old wunderkind behind "Girls," was not nominated for a SAG, but she picked up a Golden Globe earlier this month while Poehler and Fey gazed on from the audience.
Julianne Moore's performance as vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in HBO's "Game Change" was a hit with SAG voters, earning her Best Actress in a TV Movie or Mini-Series award.
Kevin Costner's work as a feuding patriarch in "Hatfields & McCoys" also earned a leading actor statue in the TV Movie or Mini-Series category, although he was not in attendance.
Many awards prognosticators are hoping that the actor's union will help clarify an Oscars race that has been labeled one of the closest in years. The hunt for the industry's top prize was shaken up after "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow and "Argo" director Ben Affleck were snubbed by Academy Awards voters.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards only honor performances, but a strong showing for the cast of "Lincoln," for example, could solidify its status as a front-runner, while upsets by the like of "Argo" or "Les Misérables," could give them a strong head of steam going into Oscars voting.
Guild voters have been reliable predictors of what performances will ultimately be honored on Oscar night. All of the major film award winners went on to win Oscars last year save Screen Actors Guild lead-actress winner Viola Davis of "The Help," who lost the Oscar to Meryl Streep for "The Iron Lady."
Though the SAG awards are primarily concerned with the films of the present, the ceremony paused to salute an acting icon's past work. Dick Van Dyke recieved the Lifetime Achievement Award for his performances in "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Mary Poppins" and "Diagnosis Murder."
"Aren't we lucky to have found a line of work that doesn't require growing up," Van Dyke said in a speech that paused to recognize co-stars like Mary Tyler Moore and to poke fun at his iffy Cockney accent in "Mary Poppins."
"Skyfall" and "Game of Thrones" got the SAG Awards rolling on Sunday night, picking up honors for their stunt teams before the show even officially started. The crews of the two films received their honors on the red carpet outside the ceremony.
Although the awards are still popularly known as the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the makeup of the membership body is fundamentally altered from last year. Last March, the Screen Actors Guild merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists after members of the two unions overwhelmingly approved joining together.
SAG-AFTRA co-presidents Roberta Reardon and Ken Howard introduced a clip featuring testimonials from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Morgan Freeman about the virtues of becoming the largest union in the entertainment industry.
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- Tommy Lee Jones
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