09/22/2013 08:05 EDT | Updated 11/22/2013 05:12 EST

Emmy Awards celebrate top TV

The breakout success of web-streamed shows House of Cards and Arrested Development against cable and broadcast network stalwarts — including the acclaimed drug drama Breaking Bad and ensemble comedy favourite Modern Family — is a main story line running through tonight’s Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

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Political thriller House of Cards and the revived dysfunctional family comedy Arrested Development, both of which are web-streamed for audiences, have been hits for streaming video service Netflix and mark the first time online programs have competed in the top categories at the annual celebration of American television — a symbol of the continually changing landscape of the industry.

House of Cards is vying in multiple categories, including for best drama, best dramatic actor for Kevin Spacey and best dramatic actress for Robin Wright. Meanwhile, Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman is a best comedic actor contender.

Still, each show faces stiff competition from audience favourites, namely Breaking Bad, the much-lauded drama that is nearing its series finale.

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The majority of Primetime Emmy Award trophies were handed out a week ago at the Creative Arts Emmy gala. Categories to be awarded tonight include:

- Comedy series

- Actress in a comedy

- Actor in a comedy

- Drama series

- Actress in a drama

- Actor in a drama

- Miniseries or movie

- Reality competition

- Variety series

Emmy producers sparked a bit of controversy last week when they announced plans to extend the traditional “in memoriam” segment honouring television personalities who have passed away by featuring special extended salutes that single out five individuals: late actors James Gandolfini, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Winters, Cory Monteith and writer-producer Gary David Goldberg.

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TV critics, fans and family members were among those who blasted the decision, with many questioning the inclusion of Canadian actor Monteith, the 31-year-old actor who was not a past Emmy nominee (the other four were Emmy winners) and whose high-profile role on teen-centred series Glee was the most prominent work of his short career.

Some noted that tributes to Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie star Larry Hagman, Evening Shade’s Charles Durning or The Odd Couple’s Jack Klugman would have been more appropriate (the three will be included in the standard group remembrance montage).

"It's an insult and it really seems typical of this youth-centric culture that has an extremely short attention span and panders to only a very narrow demographic" of young adults, Klugman’s son Adam said on the weekend.

Emmys executive producer Ken Ehrlich defended the decision.

"To a younger generation, Cory Monteith's portrayal of Finn Hudson (on Glee) was highly admired, and the producers felt that he should be included along with the four other individuals we have singled out," he said in a statement.

Hosted by Emmy-winner Neil Patrick Harris, the ceremony also includes musical performances by Elton John and Carrie Underwood as well as a segment highlighting TV’s impact on culture in discussing coverage of two major events of 50 years ago: the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and the American debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.