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'Sopranos' bling night

HBO's influential show wins the Emmy for best dramatic series in its final season, but others steal the acting honors.

September 17, 2007|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

This time, at the decisive moment, the screen didn't cut to black for "The Sopranos" in its farewell to television as the groundbreaking show took the prize for best dramatic series at the 59th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium.

But in a night filled with upsets, the show's heralded stars -- James Gandolfini and Edie Falco -- didn't win in the acting categories, while such first-timers as "Ugly Betty's" America Ferrera and "Lost's" Terry O'Quinn did. And the best comedy series Emmy went to Tina Fey's "30 Rock," a first-year show that barely made it to season two.

It was that kind of night, when Tony Bennett took home more trophies than Tony Soprano and when Ryan Seacrest, the nominal host, was on camera more as the host of the red carpet pre-show than he was during the actual show, and when Steve Carell did an exuberant onstage dance after he didn't win an Emmy. It was a night when 20 different shows won Emmy awards, with nods to both old favorites like James Spader and breakout stars like Katherine Heigl.

Make no mistake, though: "The Sopranos" solidified its place in television history with key wins for series, writing and directing. In a night that amounted to its coronation as perhaps the best dramatic series ever, "The Sopranos" was awash in acknowledgments, accolades and applause, after having won only once in the prestigious drama category in a half-dozen past attempts.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Steve Carell: An article on Monday's front page about Sunday night's Emmy Awards incorrectly said that Steve Carell won an Emmy last year as outstanding actor in a comedy series for his role in "The Office." Carell was nominated but did not win; Tony Shalhoub won in that category for "Monk."

The mob drama forever buried the old Hollywood notion that lead characters must embody good, that episodes must close every dramatic loop, and that every ending must be unambiguous for a modern television audience. The series' dramatic sophistication fueled a further migration of talent from cinema to television and made the creative control of an HBO series one of the most envied slots in Hollywood.

"I got out of film school, and I didn't know anything about television," said series creator David Chase, whose thwarted dream to make it in the movie business led him to television, upon accepting the Emmy for best writing in a dramatic series. He won for writing the controversial series finale, "Made in America," with its famous -- some would say infamous -- blackout scene at the end.

It was by no means a sweep for the HBO series. James Spader of ABC's drama "Boston Legal" pulled one of the bigger upsets in claiming the Emmy for outstanding actor in a dramatic series by beating out Gandolfini, who played mob boss Tony Soprano.

"I feel like I stole a pile of money from the Mob," said Spader in a nod to the formidable competition and pointing to the cast of "The Sopranos" behind him -- the Emmy stage was set up in the round, much like another Fox show, "American Idol" -- "and they are all sitting right there."

No less of a shock was the triumph of NBC's critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged comedy "30 Rock" for outstanding comedy series. Nominated for 10 awards, the show, created by ex-"Saturday Night Live" alum Fey, failed to win in any of the other major categories. In a joke at the small audience for the show, which may enjoy a much-needed Nielsen boost from the victory, Fey thanked the show's "dozens and dozens" of viewers.

Meanwhile, Sally Field captured the award for outstanding lead actress on ABC's "Brothers and Sisters," where she plays the matriarch of an extended family.

And although she may play "Ugly Betty" on ABC's send-up of the fashion magazine world, Ferrera was the belle of the ball Sunday night.

Ricky Gervais, star of HBO's series "Extras," about a little-known English actor with outsized ego and ambition, defeated two American heavyweights -- Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock" and last year's winner, Steve Carell of "The Office" -- to take the award for best actor in a comedy series. In a small irony, Britain's Gervais created the English version of the "The Office." Carell plays Gervais' role in the acclaimed American version.

Despite the unexpected, "The Sopranos" seemed destined to command the stage in its good-bye to the Emmys. The broadcast opened with the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'," which was played in the final moments of "Made in America," and even featured a musical salute from Broadway's "Jersey Boys." Following that number and before it had garnered its biggest awards, the show's ensemble cast took center stage to the first of its two standing ovations.

Nevertheless, the series' performers were shut out in the acting categories this year. Supporting performers Michael Imperioli, Aida Turturro and Lorraine Bracco all fell short, as did, perhaps more unexpectedly, Gandolfini and Falco. Though both performers, whose troubled marriage served as the linchpin of the Sopranos' narrative, have captured three previous awards, the results obviously disappointed Chase, who went out of his way to thank both performers when accepting the best-drama award.

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