By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Cable network HBO took home the biggest haul at the television Emmy awards on Sunday with 23 trophies for shows like political film "Game Change" and White House comedy series "Veep."

The CBS broadcast network finished second with 16, and cable channel Showtime, also owned by CBS Corp, scored big with major wins for new psychological thriller "Homeland."

HBO dominated with "Game Change," about Sarah Palin's unlikely pick as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. It earned five awards including a best actress win for Julianne Moore.

Playing a fictional vice president, Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the best comedy actress award for HBO series "Veep."

"Game Change" director Jay Roach said HBO succeeded with a commitment to political tales that others shied away from. "Everybody talks about politics," Roach said as he accepted an award. "But it's so freaking hard to get films made about politics, and they (HBO) just keep doing it and doing it so well."

Acclaimed HBO medieval fantasy "Game of Thrones" earned six wins in creative arts categories including costumes and special visual effects last week. HBO had entered the night as the most-nominated network for the 12th straight year.

Showtime celebrated its first win for a series with "Homeland." The show, which counts President Barack Obama among its fans, won six Emmys overall.

"This is your night as well as ours," "Homeland" executive producer Alex Gansa said, addressing CBS and Showtime executives from the stage as he accepted the show's award for best drama series.

"Homeland" won in a best drama field that for the first time included no nominees from the four major broadcast networks. A division of Fox produces "Homeland," which executive producer Howard Gordon said thrived in the Showtime cable universe.

"We are grateful we are on Showtime," Gordon told reporters backstage. "They gave us patience from the very top, allowing us to take time with the characters and let the stories breathe."

The CBS broadcast network's awards included a surprise win for Jon Cryer as best lead comedy actor in a revamped "Two and a Half Men." Cryer took on a larger role after the messy departure last year of Charlie Sheen, who was replaced by Ashton Kutcher.

Public television network PBS earned 12 Emmys, including best drama supporting actress for Maggie Smith in "Downton Abbey." Walt Disney co-owned broadcaster ABC took nine awards, capped by the third best comedy series win for "Modern Family."

The television studio of News Corp's 20th Century Fox unit produces "Homeland" and "Modern Family." Fox's FX cable channel won six awards.

Louis C.K. praised FX executives who gave him the unusual latitude to direct, write, edit and star in his show that is loosely based on his life as a newly divorced dad.

"They just let me do my show," he told reporters backstage. "I feel safe with them. I don't think I've ever really had a disagreement with them in three years."

The History Channel won five Emmy awards - the most in the network's history - for its ratings hit "Hatfields & McCoys" starring Kevin Costner in the classic story of a family feud. The show's three nights in May averaged a massive 17.1 million viewers.

The cable network is owned by A&E Television Networks, a joint venture of Hearst Corporation and Disney.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by Stacey Joyce)