LOS ANGELES — The Emmy Awards began on a controversial note when it was revealed that a taped comedy routine by Alec Baldwin for the show was cut from the telecast because it contained a joke about the News Corp. phone hacking scandal.
The actor was to be part of an opening video for Sunday night's ceremony airing on Fox, a News Corp.-owned network. But he tweeted before the awards that the network had killed his joke about the hacking scandal in Britain involving the now-closed News of the World tabloid.
Fox said it believed the joke was inappropriate to make light of an issue being taken very seriously by the company.
First-time Emmy producer Mark Burnett, whose string of reality TV hits includes "Survivor," was in charge of the ceremony, but kept mum when asked about Baldwin.
"There's nonstop drama, but everything is fine," he said cryptically on the red carpet before the show.
The last-minute controversy was emerging even as stars such as Christine Hendricks of "Mad Men" and Julia Stiles of "Dexter" were arriving for the show.
"She looks awesome, as always," said fan Jessica Steiner, 26, of Hendricks, who was wearing a rhinestone-encrusted gown with a plunging neckline.
"Modern Family" nominee Sofia Vergara wore an ultra-glam, one-shouldered peach goddess gown and chandelier earrings. Gwyneth Paltrow stood by her, in a sleek black gown with cut-outs.
"Gwyneth is classy, and Sofia is sexy," said fan Vanessa Baeza, 27. "But I think Sofia looks better. Her dress is more flattering."
Inside the Nokia Theatre, Hendricks' show is facing a threat from the mobsters and crooked politicians of "Boardwalk Empire."
AMC's 1960s Madison Avenue saga, which has earned three consecutive Emmy Awards as best drama series, is competing Sunday with HBO's tale of Atlantic City, N.J, schemers making the most of the wild days of Prohibition in the 1920s.
"The Sopranos," another HBO show about New Jersey hoodlums, was an Emmy magnet for the cable TV channel that earned 21 trophies during its six seasons.
HBO and AMC's leading men are in a showdown as well. "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm, shut out three times by Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad," caught a break when Cranston's series didn't air within the Emmy eligibility period.
But newcomer "Boardwalk Empire" brought Steve Buscemi into the picture with a first-string nomination for the actor who has been acclaimed for supporting roles. Also nominated for best drama series are "Dexter," ''Friday Night Lights," ''Game of Thrones" and "The Good Wife."
Jane Lynch of "Glee," wearing a strapless purple gown, is host of the 63rd Primetime Emmys. "Thank you so much for coming!" she told the fans in the bleachers. "She should be freaking out right now, but she looks so calm," noted fan Vanessa Baeza, 27.
Executives from accounting giant Ernst & Young were spotted arriving with the winners envelopes in a silver briefcase. Fans in the bleachers cheered as they passed.
They also cheered when Ryan Seacrest came by. "Ryan! Ryan!" yelled the crowd in unison. Seacrest turned to them and mimed that he was framing them in a shot
"Modern Family" actor Eric Stonestreet gave better than that. He gave a bagel. Actually, he threw one, autographed in black marker, into the crowd, to roars of approval from fans.
Other contests to watch include best comedy series, with "Modern Family" trying to repeat last year's win against competitors including "Glee" and "Parks and Recreation."
Steve Carell of "The Office" is making his last Emmy stand for his fifth and final season as clueless manager Michael Scott, after being snubbed four years in a row.
A new category, which combines the previously separate best miniseries and made-for-TV movie nominees, includes the miniseries "Mildred Pierce," with Kate Winslet nominated in the role of an embattled mother, and the movie "Too Big to Fail," about the U.S. fiscal crisis in 2008.
Melissa McCarthy, a star of "Bridesmaids," said she was most surprised at the blazing heat on the Emmy red carpet. "I didn't realize the Emmys are held on the sun," she said. "It's just the whole energy of it. I keep running into people I know and want to know. There's just so much positive energy."
In the reality-competition category, perennial also-ran "American Idol" will take its ninth shot at winning, this time for a season in which it successfully navigated the loss of key judge Simon Cowell.
HBO came into the night with a leading 15 awards earned at the Sept. 10 creative arts awards, followed by PBS with 10, Fox with nine, CBS with seven and NBC with five.
"Boardwalk Empire" captured a leading seven creative arts Emmys, which honor technical achievements and guest stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who won for her appearance in "Glee."
After hitting an all-time viewership low of 12.3 million in 2008, the Emmys rebounded somewhat in the last two years and drew a 2010 audience of 13.47 million, compared to 26.7 million for this year's Grammys and nearly 38 million for the Oscars.http://www.emmys.org
AP Entertainment writers Sandy Cohen, David Bauder and Solvej Schou contributed to this report.