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'Picket Fences' Surprise Winner of Top Prizes


"Picket Fences," an offbeat drama series that has drawn raves from some critics but lackluster response from viewers, won an underdog victory Sunday night at the 45th annual night-time Emmy Awards.

The CBS series won statuettes for best drama series and for its lead players, Tom Skerritt and Kathy Baker. The show, now in its second season, was victorious over "Northern Exposure," which came up empty-handed after receiving more nominations--16--than any other show this year.

NBC's "Seinfeld" beat out "Murphy Brown," "Home Improvement," "Cheers" and "The Larry Sanders Show" for best comedy series, with two other major awards going to supporting actor Michael Richards, who plays the quirky Kramer, and to writer Larry David, who wrote an episode about masturbation.

Roseanne Arnold, who has been critical of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the past because of what she believed was lack of recognition for her show, "Roseanne," was awarded her first Emmy for best actress in a comedy series. The moment appeared anti-climatic because the outspoken actress did not attend the ceremonies.

Arnold bested "Murphy Brown's" Candice Bergen, who has won three times in that category; Kirstie Alley of "Cheers"; Marion Ross of "Brooklyn Bridge," and "Mad About You's" Helen Hunt.

Another no-show winner was Ted Danson of "Cheers," who was awarded his second Emmy for his lead role as womanizing bartender Sam Malone, beating out competitors Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, John Goodman and Gary Shandling.

"Cheers," which won two awards out of its eight nominations, fell one short of overtaking "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as the most-honored comedy series in television history. "Cheers" left the air last season.

Moore, whose TV work over more than two decades had earned her six Emmys, was a popular favorite Sunday night as she collected her seventh as outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or special for her role in Lifetime's "Stolen Babies."

HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show," a spoof on late-night talk shows that was the first cable series to be nominated for outstanding comedy or drama show, also came up short, losing out on each of its eight nominations.

Still, HBO came out on top in this year's Emmys. Although NBC was the big winner Sunday, winning 10 of the 28 awards handed out during the televised ceremony, HBO was the overall award winner in the year's Emmys, scoring 17 awards, including 11 awards in mostly technical categories, during non-televised ceremonies Saturday night.

NBC came in second in total awards with 16, while CBS won 14, ABC won 12 and Fox won 4.

HBO's emergence as a dominant force was felt Sunday with wins in the miniseries and movie categories. The cable channel's "Stalin" and "Barbarians at the Gate" tied for outstanding made-for-television movies over its own "Citizen Cohn," "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleading-Murdering Mom" and PBS' "Tru."

Best actor honors in the miniseries or special category went to Robert Morse for his portrayal of author Truman Capote in "Tru."

"The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleading-Murdering Mom" scored wins for Holly Hunter, as outstanding actress in a miniseries or special, for Beau Bridges as outstanding supporting actor, and for writer Jane Anderson.

In her acceptance speech, Hunter thanked HBO "for offering us another arena for actors and directors to work in."

The ceremony, which ended about 10 minutes short of three hours, was largely devoid of the controversy sparked last year when several award winners and presenters made statements that attacked former Vice President Dan Quayle and former President Ronald Reagan.

In addition, no mention was made of a boycott of the ceremony this year by executives at CBS, NBC and Fox, who are angry about the four-year exclusive telecast agreement signed this year between ABC and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Instead, the evening centered mainly on sentiment and surprise over winners.

Mary Tyler Moore's seventh Emmy ties her with onetime co-star Ed Asner for the second-most Emmys ever won by a performer.

Only Dinah Shore, who has won eight Emmys, has more Emmy awards than Asner or Moore.

"Sorry, Ed," Moore quipped as she picked up the award for her portrayal of an adoption agency head stealing babies and selling them to wealthy families.

"This is just as great as it ever was," said Moore, her voice cracking a bit.

But it was "Picket Fences" that made for the evening's biggest surprises.

The series, about a sheriff and his physician-wife dealing with the colorful occurrences in the small town where they live, has been a favorite of some television critics for its quirky quality and eccentric characters.

But the show is far from a favorite with viewers. It finished 81st out of 140 shows last season in the national Nielsen rankings.

"We've struggled so long to be noticed," creator and executive producer David E. Kelley said. "Winning this makes it twice as sweet."

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