The Jersey Boys weren't the only ones prepared to pay tribute to The Sopranos tonight.
The iconic HBO series waltzed away with a win for Outstanding Drama Series at the 59th Annual Emmy Awards Sunday, capping off a 10-year run by winning the television industry's grandest prize.
"Thank you very much, this is really great," creator and executive producer David Chase said. "Thank you to the Academy, to HBO for seven—or 10—years of just nothing but pure support. Thanks to James Gandolfini and Edie Falco...In essence, this is a story about a gangster, and gangsters are out here taking their kids to college, to school and trying to provide for their families...
"If this nation was run by gangsters," he shrugged. "Well, maybe it is."
The Sopranos was also honored for directing and writing (even though Chase forgot to slap an ending on the winning episode), bringing the series' win total for the evening to three and helping to boost HBO's typically dominant win tally. The premium cable network bested all other comers with 21 Emmys this year. (Check out our Emmy Scorecard.)
NBC may be lagging in the ratings, but the Peacock Network came in second with 19 wins, including Outstanding Comedy Series for the critically beloved 30 Rock, which hopefully will win a few (million) more fans now.
A sentiment echoed by executive producer and star Tina Fey, who thanked NBC Universal honcho Jeff Zucker and former NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly for believing in the sitcom "enough to leave us on the air."
"And thanks ahead of time to [current president] Ben Silverman for doing the same thing for the next six years," Fey said. That made two Emmys for 30 Rock this season, the other coming last week for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy for Elaine Stritch.
Meanwhile, HBO and NBC may have been the place for total hardware, but ABC was the place to go if you wanted to find the TV Academy's definition of outstanding performances.
James Spader pocketed his third Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy for playing The Practice turned Boston Legal attorney Alan Shore.
"I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob—and they're all sitting right over there," Spader said, gesturing toward The Sopranos cast, which thanks to this year's inaugural Emmy-in-the-round seating format, was all grouped together.
The TV Academy is also still liking Sally Field after all these years, bestowing the now-three-time winner with the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Walker family matriarch Nora on ABC's Brothers & Sisters.
"How can that be? These wonderful actors!" the reliably enthusiastic performer said before going on to thank individual members of "the big ol' team" that makes up the cast and crew of the show, which is heading into its sophomore season.
The 60-year-old mother of three also offered the evening's requisite Iraq war commentary, dedicating her Emmy "to especially the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait for their children to come home, from danger, from harm's way, and from war—I have to finish talking!" she shouted when the music cued up.
"This war…I am proud to be one of those women, and let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world there would be no…" and then Fox cut away from her comments during the live broadcast, as it did when Ray Romano referred profanely to Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammer's sex life in their upcoming Fox sitcom, Back to You.
And everyone loves Ugly Betty's America Ferrera, who now has a Lead Actress in a Comedy series Emmy to go along with her Golden Globe and SAG awards.
"It's an amazing thing that happens when your dreams come true," the 23-year-old said, looking as opposite from ugly as you can get. But the real award, she told her Mode coworkers, "is to be able to wake up and go to work tomorrow and see all of your faces."
Considering she may not have been able to see them as she made her acceptance speech.
"What a great show this part of the audience has seen tonight," Jon Stewart said, pointing out the fact that half of the audience was always behind the actors onstage, before presenting the award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special to Tony Bennett: An American Classic.
The NBC special went on to be the most honored program of the year, with seven Emmys.
HBO's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee came in second with six wins, including one for Outstanding Made-for-TV Movie.
Stewart also took to the floor with Stephen Colbert to present the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series to Extra's Ricky Gervais for his hilariously uncomfortable turn as struggling actor turned laughingstock sitcom creator Andy Millman—but Gervais wasn't there, so Stewart and Colbert improvised.
"Instead, we're going to give this to our friend, Steve Carell," Stewart announced, after which The Office star sprinted onstage whooping to claim his unofficial second-place prize.
While Entourage's Jeremy Piven (smartly sans ascot this time) scored his second win in a row for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy for playing über-agent Ari Gold, the supporting categories also saw a flood of newcomers, making for plenty of wide-eyed gratitude and more than a few tears.
"It's the best thing that ever happened to me," a choked-up Jaime Pressly whispered after collecting her first Emmy win for Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her role as Jason Lee's scheming ex-wife Joy on My Name Is Earl. She was nominated last year, as well, but actually hoisting the trophy was the better way to end a year that also saw the birth of the 30-year-old former model's first child.
The second time was also the charm for Lost's Terry O'Quinn, who beat out fellow island oddball Michael Emerson—not to mention Emmy's recent aversion to 2005's Outstanding Drama winner—to win for Supporting Actor in a drama.
"Sometimes, when we're rolling around the jungle in the mud and we're hitting each other and stabbing each and shooting each other," the rugged actor said, "I wonder what it would be like to bake up a sheet of cookies on Wisteria Lane—and get one of their checks."
Triumphing over adversity was Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama winner Katherine Heigl, who earlier in the evening had to correct the announcer who pronounced her name with a soft g.
"Thanks for getting my name right," the Grey's Anatomy star told presenter Eva Longoria. "This is my dream come true…I've worked my ass off and the people that I was nominated with, you are the most inspiring, phenomenal, talented women. I'm just so honored to be nominated with you," the first-time nominee said.
Also new to the Emmy podium was first-timer Thomas Haden Church, who won for Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for the AMC drama Broken Trail, which also won for Outstanding Miniseries and snagged old pro Robert Duvall his first Emmy win in four tries, this time for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.
Maybe figuring she'd seen it all already, 10-time Emmy nominee and three-time winner Judy Davis wasn't there to see herself win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for The Starter Wife.
Willing to experience déjà vu, meanwhile, was Helen Mirren, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie last year for playing Queen Elizabeth and who won the same honor this year for her other iconic character, hard-living Detective Jane Tennison, this time for Prime Suspect: The Final Act, the seventh and supposedly last installment in the BBC-turned-PBS mystery series.
"I'm going to keep talking until that very dramatic music comes in. I love that!" the grand dame said as she picked up her second Emmy for playing Tennison and fourth overall.
Speaking of award-show reruns, Al Gore, last seen in Hollywood at the Oscars celebrating An Incovenient Truth's win, took to the stage to collect a special Emmy—and a standing ovation—for his Internet/cable venture, Current TV. (Gore also served as unofficial posterboy for the ceremony's green theme.)
And although he lost out to Piven, Rainn Wilson had an unexpected victory later on when he beat Kanye West in a special "Songs of Kanye West" installment of Don't Forget the Lyrics. With Wayne Brady on hand to tout the Fox synergy, not to mention perk up the audience during the three-hour-plus telecast's third hour, Wilson bested West (who will now have to retire from showbiz) by remembering (or reading off the teleprompter) the exact words to "Stronger."
That was where the music died, though, because The Amazing Race won Outstanding Reality-Competition Program for the fifth year in a row, meaning the American Idol brain trust is going to have to come up with a gimmick even better than Sanjaya in 2008 if it ever hopes to break through.