Angels in America soared to lofty, record-tying heights at the 56th Annual Emmy Awards. Frasier and Sex and the City were honored for their swan-song seasons, while Friends was ignored. Arrested Development pulled a huge upset in the Best Comedy race. And, at long last, The Sopranos earned the nod for Best Drama Series.
Television's biggest night was, as usual, defined by sentimentality, sarcasm and the occasional unscripted off-kilter moment that left viewers scratching their heads, much to host Garry Shandling's delight.
Angels, the HBO miniseries about the fight against AIDS in the 1980s, took the lion's share of the night's awards, capturing seven altogether. Coupled with the four awards the series snagged at the Creative Arts Emmys on Sept. 12, the show netted a total of 11 awards, topping the nine trophies won by the miniseries Roots in 1977 and tying the record set by the all-time Emmys champ, 1976's television movie Eleanor and Franklin.
Originally adapted for the small screen from Broadway, where it won a Pulitzer and several Tony Awards, the show swept the acting field for the Miniseries/TV Movie category, taking Best Actor (Al Pacino), Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Supporting Actor (Jeffrey Wright) and Supporting Actress (Mary-Louise Parker).
"There are some days when I, myself, think I am overrated," Streep said upon her victory. "But not today."
Parker beat out fellow nominee Angela Lansbury (for The Blackwater Lightship) in the Supporting Actress field, making Lansbury zero for 18 at the Emmys.
Pacino's Angels win marked both his first Emmys victory and nomination. Wright, meanwhile, has already nabbed both a Tony and a Golden Globe for the role he originated onstage and adapted for television.
The series also captured Best Director for Mike Nichols, Best Writing for Tony Kushner and Best Miniseries.
With seminal comedy series such as Sex and the City and Frasier coming to a close this year, many of the newly out-of-work stars were honored for their small-screen contributions.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon captured trophies for Best Actress and Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Sex and the City, which wrapped in February after six seasons. It was the first win for either actress.
"Matthew and James Wilke...sweet," Parker said, addressing her husband, Matthew Broderick and their toddler son, as she held her trophy, triumphing over the likes of fellow hopeful Jennifer Aniston.
"Great punctuation for the end of a long sentence," Parker added.
Nixon triumphed over castmates Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis, who both managed to look appropriately elated for their costar.THE BIG WINNERS
Angels in America
(includes Creative Arts Emmys)
Frasier stars Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce each captured their fourth Emmy wins for Best Actor and Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, respectively. The show finished its 11-year run this past spring, ending Grammer's time as alter ego Frasier Crane--a role that stretched over 20 years and three different shows. The two trophies brought Frasier's overall tally to a record 37.
"I had the most extraordinary life on television," Grammer said. "Frasier was a gift in my life, and the people that I got to meet and work with were the greatest, and this is just the cherry on top."
Grammer also paid tribute to the late John Ritter, who received a sentimental Emmy nod in the category for his work on ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
Pierce accepted his trophy with a few words about the difficulty in bidding farewell to his series and closed with a cynical quip about the evolving face of television.
"They say comedy in television is changing," Pierce said. "When they change it back, call me."
In a surprise victory, Fox's low-rated freshman show Arrested Development took the prize for Best Comedy Series, Best Director and Best Writer. Meanwhile, fan favorite Friends was snubbed across the board, taking home no prizes for its final season.
On the drama side, The Sopranos became the first cable show to capture the Best Drama Emmy and halted The West Wing's four-year win streak. Star-crossed television lovers Drea de Matteo and Michael Imperioli took home Best Supporting Actress and Actor Emmys for their work on The Sopranos.
"There are so many people that are responsible for this, that if I even try to thank any of them right now, I might puke, choke, cry or die. And you've already seen me do that," said de Matteo, whose character was killed off last season. (She now appears on NBC's Joey.)
James Spader, star of canceled show The Practice (and its soon-to-be spinoff, Boston Legal), scored an upset victory for Best Actor in a Drama Series, while perennial favorite Allison Janney won Best Actress for the West Wing.
Meanwhile, the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award was given to the late comedic actor Danny Thomas, and was accepted by his daughter, Marlo Thomas of That Girl fame.
As always, the Emmy telecast paid tribute to recently deceased members of the Industry. This year's list of the lamented included Ronald Reagan, Marlon Brando, Julia Child, Art Carney, Tony Randall, Jack Paar, Ray Charles, Isabel Sanford and Real World creator Mary-Ellis Bunim, among many others.
Some of the more bizarre segments of the broadcast included Broadway vet Elaine Stritch's acceptance speech for her win in the Best Individual Performance in a Variety or Musical program.
"Look at the company I'm in, just look at it," Stritch, 79, crowed. "And I'm so glad none of them won!"
She continued with the night's windiest speech--at one point was partially bleeped for profanity by ABC censors--proclaiming that she was going to have to be carried off the stage. Eventually, she left of her own volition. And became the night's biggest punchline.E! News Live
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In the telecast's most memorable moment, Shandling brought two "real people" onstage to present the award for Best Reality Competition to The Amazing Race--without their knowledge.
The unwitting presenters--Amy Scholsohn of Orlando, Florida, and Bruce T. Milam Jr. of Joliet, Illinois--were a sidebar to Shandling's running diatribe on the reality-television genre. Shandling lifted their blindfolds, told them they were being watched by 200 million to 300 million people and proclaimed that he had made them instantly famous. Milam wiped tears from his eyes and proclaimed The Apprentice his favorite show, while Scholson combed the audience for her favorite stars ("People say I look like Jennifer Aniston," she said upon spying the Friends star and hubby Brad Pitt). The pair was later booked for a slot on The Tonight Show.
HBO dominated this year's awards, winning 16 of the 27 prizes handed out Sunday and, counting the Creative Arts Emmys, a total of 32 statuettes. Fox nabbed 10 overall, NBC trailed with eight, ABC and PBS earned seven each, and CBS took home two.
Get the complete list of winners.