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'Angels' Tops Emmy Record; 'Sopranos' Finally a Winner

HBO shows bring home the statues. And Fox's 'Arrested Development' gets wins if not viewers.

September 20, 2004|Scott Collins and Susan King | Times Staff Writers

The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards shrugged off complaints that the same winners troop onstage at the Shrine Auditorium year after year and shook up tradition Sunday night. And HBO's "Angels in America," an AIDS-themed epic, won a record-breaking 11 Emmys and spread an unusual helping of Oscar-like glitz over the ceremonies with victory speeches by Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and director Mike Nichols.

"Angels' " total exceeded the nine picked up by ABC's ground-breaking 1977 miniseries "Roots." And the cable network's mob drama, "The Sopranos," finally vanquished NBC's "The West Wing" as outstanding drama.

Overall, HBO won 32 Emmys, more than any other network and nearly double its tally last year. CBS, the most-watched network, took home just two Emmys, including one for its reality hit, "The Amazing Race," which also won in the category last year. The network has not performed as poorly in the Emmys since 1952.

It was a good night for newcomers, as the Fox sitcom "Arrested Development" took the top comedy prize despite a first season of miserable ratings. And James Spader was a surprise winner for outstanding actor in ABC's drama "The Practice"; he took over the lead role in the David E. Kelley legal series' final year, and his victory bodes well for the show's spinoff, "Boston Legal," this fall. William Shatner, Spader's costar on "Boston Legal," also won for a guest performance on "The Practice."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 23, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Emmy record -- An article about the Emmy Awards in Monday's Section A said HBO's miniseries "Angels in America" broke an Emmy record by winning 11 statuettes, the most won by a movie or miniseries. That number tied the record set in 1976 by ABC's "Eleanor and Franklin."

Several performers took home their first acting Emmys, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon, who won lead and supporting roles, respectively, in HBO's since-departed racy comedy "Sex and the City." Parker said, "I want proof," grabbing the Emmy envelope as she gripped her statuette. "It's a special year for all of us because it was our last chance and because all of us were nominated," Nixon said backstage.

A good deal of "The Sopranos' " Emmy heat focused on a pivotal episode that killed off Adriana, the abused moll of Tony Soprano's volatile nephew. Drea de Matteo, who played Adriana, won for supporting actress in a drama series, and Michael Imperioli walked away with the dramatic supporting actor prize as her boyfriend Christopher.

Executive producer Terence Winter won the dramatic writing Emmy for the end-of-Adriana episode, "Long-Term Parking." "Drea, killing you was the toughest thing I ever had to do," Winter said.

"The Sopranos" has received 89 nominations in its six-year run, but it wasn't until Sunday night that the series finally broke "West Wing's" four-year run as top drama. The upcoming season is expected to be the show's last, but creator David Chase said backstage that it's better to go out on top.

"This is the only show that gets reviewed every Monday," Chase said. "We've gotten better at this, and it's finally paid off."

For all the focus on new winners, Emmy voters hardly ignored the past, paying homage to NBC's "Frasier," which ended its 11-year run in May and has won more Emmys (37) than any other series. Star Kelsey Grammer celebrated his fourth win for the "Frasier" title role, in a surprise victory over the late John Ritter, who was nominated posthumously for the ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules." Grammer began his acceptance speech remembering Ritter's humanity as well as his comedy.

"Frasier's" David Hyde Pierce also won a fourth time for supporting actor in a comedy series as fussy brother Niles Crane. And in something of an upset, Allison Janney won her fourth Emmy for "The West Wing" as press secretary C.J. Craig, beating esteemed rivals such as Edie Falco of "The Sopranos" and Jennifer Garner of "Alias."

The three-hour telecast on ABC was emceed by comic Garry Shandling, who last hosted the ceremony four years ago. In his opening monologue, Shandling mused about the popularity of reality television, at one point joking that he mistook scenes from the security camera outside his house for the latest unscripted hit. This turned into a running gag between Shandling and several TV stars and executives. At one point, CBS honcho Les Moonves and HBO chief Chris Albrecht pretended to bid for Shandling's mock security-camera show.

"Arrested Development," the Fox series about a dysfunctional family and its imprisoned patriarch, badly needed a transfusion of exposure and validation from the Emmys, and voters came through with a total of five statuettes for the show, including for outstanding comedy, direction and writing.

"This is such a huge honor and a giant mistake," creator Mitchell Hurwitz joked while accepting his writing award.

Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who won for directing the "Arrested Development" pilot, likewise alluded to the show's shaky status -- Fox renewed the series for a second season after some industry observers expected cancellation. "To the academy voters and critics, thank you for keeping this show on the air," said Joe Russo.

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