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It's Back to Old School at the 55th Emmy Awards

Stalwart stars and shows with traditional appeal, like CBS' 'Raymond,' beat the edgier entries.

September 22, 2003|Elizabeth Jensen and Susan King | Times Staff Writers

Overpowering a night that was intended as a showcase for young, hip and edgy comedy, an old-fashioned network sitcom, CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond," a much-honored network drama, NBC's "The West Wing," and a heartwarming made-for-TV movie, TNT's "Door to Door," took home the top prizes at the 55th annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Over and over, the Emmy voters made it a night for the old guard, turning to such stalwarts of the business as Tyne Daly, Doris Roberts, Maggie Smith and Ben Gazzara. "Will & Grace" star Debra Messing, 35, was the only actor under 40 to take an award on the show, which was broadcast on youth-oriented Fox. It was her first victory in four consecutive nominations; she was the only one of the cast's quartet of stars not to have won in the past.

Poking fun at the industry's obsession with youth, "Raymond" executive producer Phil Rosenthal, accepting the top comedy award that had previously eluded the show, thanked his "young, hot, sexy cast" and "all you hipsters in the audience for supporting us over the years." He also recalled a conversation during the series' first season, in which a CBS executive asked what the show was about. Rosenthal described it as a "traditional, old-fashioned family sitcom." The unnamed executive said the goal was to create a "hip and edgy" show, a remembrance that got a big laugh Sunday.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 25, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Emmy Awards -- Monday's Section A article about the 55th annual Emmy Awards mistakenly said Debra Messing was the only actor under age 40 to win an Emmy on Sunday night. Wayne Brady, who won the award for best performance in a variety or music program, is 31.

Unlike last year, when HBO and NBC both took home 24 awards, this year the honors were spread around more. The basic cable networks made a particularly strong showing. With 109 nominations, it was supposed to be HBO's night, and the pay cable channel laid claim to best actress and best actor in a drama series for Edie Falco and James Gandolfini, for their work on "The Sopranos." Their colleague Joe Pantoliano also won for best supporting actor in a drama.

Clearly, the Emmy voters didn't punish either Gandolfini or "Raymond" co-star Brad Garrett, both of whom staged highly publicized contract disputes with their respective networks. In his acceptance, Gandolfini specifically thanked Garrett "for taking the heat off of me."

HBO didn't do badly; it took home eight awards Sunday night during the three-hour-plus ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium, and a total of 18 when last week's pre-telecast Creative Arts Emmys are included. That was more than any single network, just ahead of CBS, which had just 59 nominations and won seven awards Sunday, and 16 overall. NBC, which went into the awards with 77 nominations, took home 15 awards.

ABC won a sole award Sunday, for Wayne Brady's improvisational skills as a member of the "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" ensemble. Including the Creative Arts Emmys, the network won nine awards. Fox, the show's presenting network, was shut out Sunday but took seven honors last weekend.

Four of CBS' trophies were for "Raymond," which is going into its eighth and possibly last season. The show's Roberts and Garrett both repeated in the supporting actress and actor categories, Roberts winning for the third time. The show also took the comedy writing award.

But basic cable, long the home of reruns of network shows, muscled its way into the festivities this year, winning eight major awards Sunday and 20 including those presented in the pre-telecast ceremony last week, mirroring the inroads cable networks also made last year.

One of those awards went to Tony Shalhoub, star of USA Network's hourlong "Monk," for best actor in a comedy series. Another went to the Sci-Fi Channel, which scored the best miniseries award for "Steven Spielberg Presents 'Taken.' "

It was also a strong night for comedian Jon Stewart, who arguably fared better than any of the other 10 comedians who were spotlighted throughout the show. His Comedy Central variety program "The Daily Show" took the award for best variety, music or comedy series, and for best writing in that category.

"Amazing Race," which sent competitors on a global trek, beat "American Idol" for the first reality competition program in a reconfigured Emmy category. Jerry Bruckheimer, the show's executive producer, said to reporters backstage that the best thing about winning was not beating out "American Idol" or "Survivor." "You know what's great? We haven't been renewed yet," he said, hoisting his statuette. "Are you listening, CBS?"

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