'Angels,' 'Sopranos' Top Emmys

Al Pacino and Meryl Streep pose with their trophies for lead actor and lead actress in a mini series or a movie for their roles in "Angels in America" at the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 19, 2004, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. AP

HBO showed its muscle at the Emmys Sunday, as "The Sopranos" became the first cable series to win best drama and "Angels in America" - a miniseries about the AIDS crisis - captured a record-setting 11 trophies. The premium cable channel received more than triple the awards of its next closest competitor.

After major comedy acting awards went to series that have ended, Fox's "Arrested Development" provided cause for optimism among the broadcast networks by being named best comedy.

"Angels in America," the adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about Americans facing AIDS in the 1980s, was honored as outstanding miniseries and won acting trophies for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeffrey Wright. Kushner received a best writing award and Mike Nichols won best director.

"As you know the fight against AIDS isn't over yet and we must do what we can for Africa... Let's see what we can do," Nichols said.

"Angels in America" proved to be a record breaker. With the four Emmys won Sept. 12 at the creative arts awards and the seven it won Sunday, it exceeded the nine awards won by "Roots" in 1977 to become the most-honored miniseries. It matched the 11 awards won by "Eleanor and Franklin" in 1976, the most for any program in one season.

"The Sopranos" finally collected the best drama Emmy in its fifth try.

"This is really great, and seeing those goodbye episodes before gave me some great ideas how to end the show," series creator David Chase said of "The Sopranos," which has one more season ahead of it.

Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo, who played a hard-luck mob couple whose relationship ended in betrayal on "The Sopranos," won drama series supporting actor and actress Emmys.

"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 bumped off last season. She's now on NBC's "Friends" spinoff "Joey."

Still, Tony and Carmela (James Gandolfini and Edie Falco) went home empty-handed. Allison Janney of NBC's "The West Wing" and James Spader of ABC's "The Practice" won best actor awards for drama.

"Arrested Development" - whose executive producers include Ron Howard and Brian Grazer - won after a critically acclaimed but low-rated freshman year.

"This is so huge for us. You know what, let's watch it!" said series creator Mitchell Hurwitz, who also won best comedy writer for his work on the series.

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which has spent election year skewering the candidates for tiny Comedy Central (which, along with CBS, is part of Viacom), won an award for best variety series for the second year in a row. His writing staff also won an Emmy.

Mirroring the concern in Hollywood over the state of situation comedies, the four major comedy acting awards went for work in series that are now off the air. Kelsey Grammer won his fourth Emmy for best actor in a comedy for "Frasier" and Sarah Jessica Parker won best actress for "Sex and the City."

David Hyde Pierce won a supporting actor award for "Frasier," which ended an 11-year run this spring, and Cynthia Nixon won best supporting actress for "Sex and the City."

"They say that television and comedy in television is changing, and I just want to say when it changes back, call me," said Hyde Pierce.

Shut out for the night was "Friends," which drew more than 50 million people to its final episode in May.

HBO received a dominant 32 awards in the 56th annual prime-time Emmys. Fox collected 10, followed by NBC with 8, ABC and PBS with seven each and CBS with two.

Elaine Stritch became an instant joke subject for her over-the-top acceptance of the Emmy for best individual performance in a variety or music program. The 79-year-old veteran stage actress even tested ABC's five-second delay - better known as the Janet Jackson precaution - and had part of her speech bleeped out.

"Look at the company I'm in here. And I'm so glad none of them won," Stritch said before the orchestra played her off the stage.

Donald Trump and "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett found themselves looking on from the audience as a less-popular show, CBS' "The Amazing Race," won best reality series for the second year in a row.

Host Garry Shandling repeatedly poked fun at the genre, joking about "Extreme Makeover," Paris Hilton and Trump in his monologue.

"It's to the point now when a commercial comes on I go, 'Thank God, professional actors in a story,"' he quipped.

"Angels in America" was the most-nominated program this year with 21 bids. In his acceptance speech, Kushner used his time on stage to lobby for gay marriage.

"Thanks to my wonderful husband, Mark. Someday soon we can have a legal marriage license and you can make an honest homosexual out of me," he said.

The ceremony highlighted the theme of last laughs, paying videotaped tribute not only to the three major series that ended their runs last season, but also many that came before including "Cheers," "Mad About You" and "Roseanne."

HBO's "Something the Lord Made" won best made-for-TV movie.

The third Bob Hope Humanitarian Award was presented posthumously to actor, producer and philanthropist Danny Thomas, recognizing his work in founding and supporting the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

His family has continued that legacy both in show business and at St. Jude's - so named because of an answered prayer he credited for his show business success, which included as executive producer key roles in the launching of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Mod Squad."

Thomas, who died in 1991, was best known however for his starring role on his own shows, "Make Room for Daddy" and "The Danny Thomas Hour."

Thomas' daughter, actress and producer Marlo Thomas, accepted the award after a brief video tribute set to the sentimental but sad notes of "Danny Boy."

  • Jaime Holguin

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