'24,' Sutherland win; 'Office' boss of comedies

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The long hours and hard work finally paid off for Fox's "24" and NBC's "The Office."

Fox's real-time drama thriller snared the trophies for best drama and lead actor for star Kiefer Sutherland during Sunday's 58th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, while NBC's offbeat workplace comedy capped its sophomore-season turnaround with the Emmy win for comedy series.

The big winners in the top acting categories included Julia Louis-Dreyfus for lead actress in a comedy for CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and Mariska Hargitay for lead actress in a drama for NBC's "Law & Order: SVU."

Alluding to the series cancellations that have been mounting for Louis-Dreyfus' fellow cast members from "Seinfeld" since the series ended, she declared, "Well, I'm not somebody who believes in curses, but curse this, baby!"

The HBO miniseries "Elizabeth I" led all programs with nine wins. The most decorated series of the night was "24," which snared five statues, including the drama series directing nod to Jon Cassar. "24" earned Fox's first-ever wins in the outstanding drama and lead drama actor categories.

NBC's "The West Wing" also broke an Emmy record, scoring the most victories ever for a drama series. Its 26th win, topping "Hill Street Blues," came with Alan Alda winning in the supporting drama actor category.

The win for "The Office" came as vindication for the faith NBC brass showed in renewing the show after a less-than-impressive ratings performance in its freshman year.

For the sixth consecutive year, HBO led the field among the networks, with 26 victories -- one less than last year and nearly twice as many as for second-place NBC, which led the broadcasters with 14. ABC had 11, followed by Fox (10), CBS (nine) and PBS (eight).

Hopes that changes in the Emmy nomination process would greatly diversify the winners' circle were dashed early and often in an evening that saw many a repeat victor. CBS' unscripted series "The Amazing Race" grabbed its fourth consecutive win in reality competition, and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" made it four in a row for variety, music or comedy program (also racking up four in the genre's writing category).

Among other repeat winners, Tony Shalhoub took home his third honor for lead comedy actor for USA's "Monk." It was his second consecutive win, as was Blythe Danner's victory in supporting actress drama for Showtime's "Huff."

"I guess we have to thank Showtime even though they canceled us," Danner said upon accepting the award. (The network decided to pull the plug on "Huff" after two seasons.)

Louis-Dreyfus' win on her first year of eligibility for "Old Christine" cost Jane Kaczmarek her last shot after seven consecutive nominations at taking home the gold for her work on Fox's now-departed "Malcolm in the Middle."

In the run-up to the awards, much was made in the industry about the changes implemented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences this year in an effort to cast a wider net during the nominations stage.

"I have no problem with the (new) system," Louis-Dreyfus said backstage. "Let's keep it!"

As host network of the night, NBC had a particularly strong showing, grabbing six statues in primetime -- equaling what CBS, ABC and Fox collectively took home. Megan Mullally won the evening's first announced award for supporting actress comedy and "My Name Is Earl" followed with wins for comedy series director Marc Buckland, and for comedy series writer for "Earl" creator and executive producer Greg Garcia. The comedy win for "Office" proved to be its only Emmy victory.

HBO proved particularly dominant in the longform categories. "Elizabeth I" earned Emmys for outstanding miniseries, Helen Mirren as lead actress in a miniseries or movie, Jeremy Irons for supporting actor and Tom Hooper for director. "The Girl in the Cafe" won for outstanding made-for-TV movie, Kelly Macdonald for supporting actress in a miniseries or movie and Richard Curtis for writing in a miniseries or movie.

HBO also nailed key wins in the series categories with "Entourage's" Jeremy Piven collecting a statute for supporting actor in a comedy and Terence Winter for drama series writing for "The Sopranos."

The most-nominated program going into the evening, TNT's miniseries "Into the West," failed to pick up any wins on the night. Also shut out Sunday were ABC series powerhouses "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" -- the network drew only one award on the night, for Louis J. Horvitz as variety, music or comedy program director for the "78th Annual Academy Awards."

Emmy night included a pair of poignant tributes to industry legends Dick Clark and Aaron Spelling. "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell paid tribute to Clark, who spoke on his own behalf, as did singer Barry Manilow, who performed the theme song to Clark's "American Bandstand." (Manilow later collected an Emmy of his own for the PBS special "Barry Manilow: Music and Passion" in the individual performance in a variety or music program category.)

Spelling, who passed away in June, was remembered by a selection of the many actors he made famous over his long career, including Joan Collins and Heather Locklear of "Dynasty," Stephen Collins of "7th Heaven" and the original trio of actresses who starred in "Charlie's Angels" -- Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith.

Stephen Collins noted that Spelling always had a knack for TV that was fun and fashionable. "Nobody did guilty pleasure better than Aaron," he said.

"Aaron Spelling gave us the gift in a little blue box," Jackson said. "For four decades, he gave us something safe and comfortable through his work in television."

Host Conan O'Brien started the evening with a whimsical pretaped romp through the current television landscape, making pit stops on the sets of series including "The Office," "24" and "Dateline." He even alluded to perhaps the biggest omission of the night, the absence of the ABC drama "Lost" in key categories, with a quick chat on the island with "Lost" castaway Hurley (Jorge Garcia).

"I'm trying to get to the Emmys," O'Brien said, to which Garcia retorted, "Well, we weren't exactly invited."

"But you won last year!" O'Brien exclaimed. "Nothing makes sense anymore."

O'Brien also tweaked his own network with a song-and-dance routine that highlighted NBC's ratings woes, not to mention the TV industry's problems in general. "To prove things are going to hell, we're relying on Howie Mandel," O'Brien sang, referencing the peacock's popular game show "Deal or No Deal."

In basic cable, the four awards Cartoon Network won at the Creative Emmys last week were enough to keep it tops in that field. Other cable winners on the night included FX, which saw Andre Braugher take home lead actor in a miniseries or movie for "Thief."
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