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Damian Lewis accepting the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for ‘Homeland’ at the Emmys Sunday night. (John Shearer/Invision/AP Images)
Damian Lewis accepting the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for ‘Homeland’ at the Emmys Sunday night. (John Shearer/Invision/AP Images)

The biggest British wins at last night’s Emmys were the acting awards given to Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey and to Damian Lewis for Homeland, but American series snatched other major awards away from strong British contenders.

Still, as expected, U.K, talent was felt throughout the evening, even if, ultimately, Britannia didn’t rule the airwaves.

Lewis’s win was one in a sweep in the drama category for Showtime’s Homeland.

“I’m one of those pesky Brits, I apologize,” said Lewis, who plays an American in the series. “I don’t really believe in judging art, but I thought I’d show up just in case.”

After the ceremony in the press room, Lewis compared the current political landscapes in the U.S. and in Britain.

“I think there is a particular polarization in your political landscape at the moment,” Lewis was quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “I think there’s a problem socially between rich and poor — but hey, guess what, that’s the same in my country, so we’re all struggling at the moment a little bit.”

Unfortunately, Dame Maggie wasn’t in attendance, so we didn’t get to hear from her. We can only imagine the amusing speech she might have given, perhaps with overtones of her Downton character Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.

Still, Anglophiles were upset that Brits didn’t take home more of the statuettes.

Actress Mindy Kaling tweeted: “Benedict Cumberbatch do you read tweets I love you.”

For more people who felt that British shows didn’t see the love they deserved, take a look at Anglophenia’s twitter feed.

Even without lots of big wins, however, England’s contributions to the small screen were felt throughout the evening.

The first British reference came just minutes into the ceremony, it was actually the first joke in host Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue.

“You spent ten hours getting ready, you got heat stroke on the carpet, you haven’t had a carbohydrate in months,” Kimmel told the audience, “but it will all be worth it to find out if the award for best reality host goes to Cat Deeley.”

And Kimmel kept the British references coming.

“Television is an American institution,” the late night comedian said, “and yet, one out of every five nominees tonight is British, which I don’t understand. I guess we’re supposed to reward them because their actors went to the royal Shakespeare academy and ours were discovered at the mall.”

And then he brought up Downton Abbey, which was heavily represented with 16 nominations.

“I will admit that Downton Abbey is an amazing show, there’s so much meticulous attention to detail,” Kimmel said, setting up the first political joke of the evening. “It really gives you a sense of what it must have been like to grow up in Mitt Romney‘s house.”

And can there be a televised awards ceremony without Ricky Gervais? As he walked out to present, he asked, “So much better than the Golden Globes, isn’t it?”

Perhaps the best British moment of the evening, however, wasn’t British at all. It came from Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari, an awards presenter.

“On behalf of myself and all the other British actors here, thank you, Hollywood, for welcoming us,” he said in a British accent.  Only Ansari isn’t British. He’s American, a native of the Carolinas. “It is bloody amazing,” he continued, “to go from doing theater in London to presenting here at the Emmys. It’s brilliant. Bloody brilliant, fish ‘n chips, cheers.”

When co-presenter Jane Levy pointed out that Ansari is American, he replied: “Yeah,  but I feel like people take your acting more seriously if you’re British.”

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By Paul Hechinger