Prized and surprised

Top nods to 'Sopranos,' but actor upsets abound

"The Sopranos" predictably took home top drama series honors for its swan song season, but it was a clutch of other winners — NBC rookie "30 Rock" as comedy series and surprise nods in the acting categories — that turned the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards into a show that spread the wealth into unexpected corners.

The even playing field was reflected in the network tally where HBO, NBC and ABC were tied for the lead with six wins each Sunday.

HBO's "Sopranos" became the first drama in 30 years to win the best series Emmy for its final season and also won for writing and directing. But after three wins apiece, its stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco lost the chance to clench a fourth trophy; they were supplanted onstage by James Spader for ABC's "Boston Legal" and Sally Field for the same network's "Brothers & Sisters" as lead drama series actor and actress.

Accepting his top drama series award for "The Sopranos" — the show's second after seven nominations in the category — producer David Chase said, "Thanks to the academy, to HBO for seven or 10 years or whatever it was of just pure support, and thanks to James Gandolfini and Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli and Aida Turturro.

"I've said it many times, and I'll say it again, but maybe the best thing about this has been working with this cast. They are great. I also have wanted to thank a lot of the really extremely talented musicians who licensed us their music like the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello. These people, we've ridden on their coattails."

Chase concluded by praising the gangster culture that his series glorified, noting, "Let's face it, if this world and this nation were run by gangsters ... maybe it is."

The comedy categories also had their share of surprises. The crowd at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday was audibly stunned when Ricky Gervais' name was read for his lead performance in HBO's "Extras" over favorites Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock" and Steve Carell for NBC's "The Office" as well as three-time winner Tony Shalhoub for USA Network's "Monk."

Gervais, a no-show at the Shrine, previously had been nominated for his British edition of "Office" as well as earning a statuette for exec producing NBC's "The Office" when it won for comedy series last year.

Comedy Central faux newsmen Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert presented the award. "Ricky Gervais could not be here tonight," Stewart said. "Instead, we're going to give this to our friend Steve Carell!" inspiring Carell to jubilantly sprint to the stage.

Gervais' win was the first triumph in the comedy lead actor category for HBO and the first such win for a British actor in decades.

The victory by "30 Rock" had hardly been seen as a slam-dunk; it mirrored a similar win by another low-rated freshman comedy, Fox's "Arrested Development" in 2004.

"30 Rock" executive producer, writer and star Tina Fey accepted the outstanding comedy honor with her jubilant cast members and fellow writers and producers standing behind her. She thanked Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group, and the network's former entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, for "believing in us enough to leave us on the air. We have the best cast and crew in all of television." She concluded by thanking the "dozens and dozens of viewers" who watch the ratings-challenged comedy.

Although it was the third Emmy win for both Spader and Field, each seemed initially dazed.

Spader made his way to the stage after an awkward moment when the reading of his first name briefly made those gathered around Gandolfini start to stand up before the surname "Spader" stunned them into seated near-silence.

Spader appeared equally taken off-guard, noting in his acceptance speech: "Oh, my goodness, I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob, and they're all sitting right over there. Where the hell is Elaine Stritch when you need her?"

A flummoxed Field, who has a pair of Oscars to go with her Emmy triumphs, let go a hyperactive burst after taking hold of her prize onstage.

After a windup, her remarks climaxed with a perhaps inevitable denunciation of the war.

"And to especially the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait, wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm's way and from war," she said as the music cut her off.

"I'm not finished! I have to finish talking!" she shouted. "I am proud to be one of those women — and let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamned wars in the first place."

Of the top honors, only the "Sopranos" victory and that of America Ferrera for lead actress in a comedy for her work on ABC's first-year hit "Ugly Betty" — matching her Golden Globe win in January — went according to most pundits' predictions.

The stage theoretically had been set for a "Sopranos" victory parade an hour or so into the show when episodes of the series were honored for drama series writing (to creator/executive producer Chase) and directing (Alan Taylor). However, the bandwagon didn't extend to any of the show's players as neither the two leads nor supporting nominees Michael Imperioli, Aida Turturro and Lorraine Bracco was able to ride the show's lengthy coattails.

Accepting for his writing honor, Chase never made eye contact with the camera, seemingly confused as to where to look — an understandable error given the configuration of a stage set whose theater-in-the-round conceit resulted in three-quarters of the live audience watching the program entirely from either the back or the side.

Spader was moved by the awkward arrangement to comment in his acceptance, "I've been to thousands and thousands of concerts in my life, and I can tell you these are the worst seats I've ever had."

Before the stunning developments that punctuated several of the highest-profile acting categories as the show wound down, things went largely as expected on a night when legendary crooner Tony Bennett nearly stole the night's thunder, earning three Emmys.

The HBO telefilm "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" — executive produced by "Law & Order" franchise guru Dick Wolf and based on the iconic book by Dee Brown — earned the top made-for-TV movie award, astonishingly the 13th time in 15 years the premium cabler has carried the category.

Despite the presence of "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest as the night's Emmy host and its being telecast on Fox, it didn't stop CBS' "The Amazing Race" from carting off its fifth consecutive reality-competition Emmy over "Idol," ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and the Bravo duo of "Project Runway" and "Top Chef." (Fox in fact came away with nary a trophy in any category this go-round.)

The five consecutive wins tied "Race" with "Frasier" as the only primetime series ever to pull off that feat — though it was equaled a mere half-hour before by Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," taking its fifth straight Emmy for outstanding variety, music or comedy series. "Daily Show," however, was denied a fifth consecutive honor for its writing by NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

Joining Field with a political message was former Vice President Al Gore, a principal in the fledgling network Current TV, which was honored with an Emmy for creative achievement in interactive television. That win drew one of the evening's lengthy ovations.

Noted Gore during his acceptance, "We are trying to open up the television medium so that viewers can help to make television and join the conversation of democracy and reclaim American democracy by talking about the choices we have to make."

Dominating the early goings-on Sunday night were a quartet of first-time winners of supporting acting trophies and one ("Entourage's" Jeremy Piven) snatching his second in as many years.

The four who broke into the Emmy ranks Sunday were Katherine Heigl, turning her first nom into gold for her work on "Grey's Anatomy" (knocking off castmates Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson); Terry O'Quinn, earning the victory on his second nom for ABC's "Lost"; Jaime Pressly, winning in her second attempt for her role on the NBC comedy "My Name Is Earl"; and Thomas Haden Church for his supporting work on AMC's Western miniseries "Broken Trail."

"Broken Trail" also earned two other statuettes: top miniseries and for its Oscar-winning veteran star Robert Duvall, his first Emmy on his fourth try. Also earning an acting statuette — her third — was Judy Davis as supporting actress in a movie or miniseries for the USA Network mini "The Starter Wife."

The victories for "Broken Trail" were the first major honors ever won by AMC, which in its history had won a grand total of 14 Emmys — nearly all in technical and costume categories.

Heigl — who during a presenting stint shortly before had become perhaps the first star to grace the Emmy stage and proceed to correct the announcer for mispronouncing her name (she had been referred to as "Hi-jell") — noted in her acceptance speech: "My own mother told me I didn't have a shot in hell of winning tonight, so I really don't have anything prepared. But she's a really big supporter. She does love me."

In his speech, O'Quinn said, "You know, sometimes when we are rolling around in the jungle in the mud, and we're hitting each other and stabbing each other, and they're pouring in the blood and turning on the sprinklers, I wonder what it would be like to bake up a sheet of cookies on Wisteria Lane." He then quickly added, "And get one of their checks."

Also winning Sunday (for the fourth time) was Oscar winner Helen Mirren for her lead role in PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act," a year after having won an Emmy for HBO's "Elizabeth I." She immediately scored a first of her own, however, by actually inviting the walk-off music to please, please interrupt her rambling remarks.

"Come on, music," Mirren said. "I'm going on and on."

Seacrest seemed right at home during his first stint presiding over the Emmys, poking fun at his lack of broad entertainment skills. He opened by welcoming everyone to "the results show" of the Emmys and welcomed everyone in the audience "who passed on hosting this year."

Seacrest also went into the audience to perform shtick playing off of his "E!" red-carpet preshow persona, joking with the cast members from "Desperate Housewives" along with William Shatner. His attempts at broad humor fell largely flat, however, as when he remarked that this was the "greenest" Emmy telecast in history — and, in fact, to power the show, "We have the cast of 'Kid Nation' backstage on treadmills."

The ceremony was punctuated by several particularly amusing sequences, including a mock hip-hop singing competition pitting recording artist Kanye West against "The Office" Emmy nominee Rainn Wilson. A rousing performance by the cast of the Tony-winning musical "Jersey Boys" also proved popular with the audience.

And it was difficult to beat the deadpan interchange between Stewart and Colbert — punctuated by their impromptu ebullient group hug with comedy lead actor nominee Carell, who gamely stood in the absence of actual winner Gervais.

LIST OF WINNERS:
Drama Series

The Sopranos David Chase, Brad Grey, Ilene S. Landress, Terence Winter, Matthew Weiner, executive producers; Henry J. Bronchtein, co-executive producer; Diane Frolov, Andrew Schneider, supervising producers; Martin Bruestle, Gianna Maria Smart, producers

Comedy Series

30 Rock Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, David Miner, JoAnn Alfano, Marci Klein, Robert Carlock, executive producers; Jack Burditt, John Riggi, co-executive producers; Adam Bernstein, supervising producer; Jeff Richmond, producer; Jerry Kupfer, produced by

Lead Actor In A Drama Series

James Spader as Alan Shore; Boston Legal (ABC); David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television

Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Sally Field as Nora Walker; Brothers & Sisters (ABC); ABC Studios

Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman; Extras (HBO); BBC and HBO Entertainment

Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

America Ferrera as Betty Suarez; Ugly Betty (ABC); ABC Studios

Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Terry O'Quinn as John Locke; Lost (ABC); ABC Studios

Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Katherine Heigl as Isobel "Izzie" Stevens; Grey's Anatomy (ABC); ABC Studios

Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold; Entourage (HBO); Leverage and Closest to the Hole Prods. in association with HBO Entertainment

Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Jaime Pressly as Joy Turner; My Name Is Earl (NBC); Amigos de Garcia production in association with 20th Century Fox Television

Miniseries

Broken Trail Stanley M. Brooks, Robert Duvall, Robert Carliner, executive producers; Chad Oakes, Walter Hill, Damian Ganczewski, producers

Made For Television Movie

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Tom Thayer, Dick Wolf, executive producers; Yves Simoneau, co-executive producer; Clara George, produced by

Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie

Robert Duvall as Prentice "Print" Ritter; Broken Trail (AMC); Once Upon a Time Films in association with Butcher's Run Films

Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie

Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison; Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre) (PBS); ITV Prods. and WGBH Boston co-production

Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie

Thomas Haden Church as Tom Harte; Broken Trail (AMC); Once Upon a Time Films in association with Butcher's Run FilmsSupporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie

Judy Davis as Joan McAllister; The Starter Wife (USA); Hay Pop Pty. Ltd. in association with McGibbon/Parriott Prods. and 3 Arts Entertainment for NBC Universal Television Studio

Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program

Tony Bennett: An American Classic (NBC); RPM TV Prods. Inc.; Tony Bennett, performer

Variety, Music Or Comedy Series

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, David Javerbaum, executive producers; Kahane Corn, Josh Lieb, co-executive producers; Rory Albanese, Jim Margolis, supervising producers

Variety, Music Or Comedy Special

Tony Bennett: An American Classic Danny Bennett, John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, executive producers; Jodi Hurwitz, producer

Reality-Competition Program

The Amazing Race (CBS); Amazing Race Prods. Inc. and Touchstone Television Prods. Llc. in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Television and WorldRace Prods. Inc.; producers Bertram Van Munster, Jerry Bruckheimer

Directing For A Comedy Series

Ugly Betty (Pilot) (ABC); ABC Studios; Richard Shepard, director

Directing For A Drama Series

The Sopranos (Kennedy and Heidi) (HBO); Chase Films and Brad Grey Television in association with HBO Entertainment; Alan Taylor, director

Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program

Tony Bennett: An American Classic (NBC); RPM TV Prods. Inc.; Rob Marshall, director

Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special

Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre) (PBS); ITV Prods. and WGBH Boston co-production; Philip Martin, director

Writing For A Comedy Series

The Office (Gay Witch Hunt) (NBC); Deedle-Dee Prods. and Reveille Llc. in association with NBC Universal Television Studio; Greg Daniels, written by

Writing For A Drama Series

The Sopranos (Made in America) (HBO); Chase Films and Brad Grey Television in association with HBO Entertainment; David Chase, writer

Writing For A Variety, music Or Comedy Program

Late Night With Conan O'Brien (NBC); Conaco and Broadway Video in association with NBC Universal Television Studio; Mike Sweeney, head writer; Chris Albers, Jose Arroyo, Dan Cronin, Kevin Dorff, Daniel J. Goor, Michael Gordon, Berkley Johnson, Brian Kiley, Michael Koman, Tim Harrod, Brian McCann, Guy Nicolucci, Conan O'Brien, Brian Stack, Andrew Weinberg, writers

Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or Dramatic Special

Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre) (PBS); ITV Prods. and WGBH Boston co-production; Frank Deasy, writer
comments powered by Disqus