The days when cable had to come up with its own "ACE" awards to collect the bling are now a distant memory. Home Box Office cleaned up at the Primetime Emmys on ABC Sunday night, winning 16 of the 27 awards given out.
Whether it is the inevitable byproduct of broadcast schedules dominated by reality or simply superior writing, acting and directing on cable, only four scripted broadcast shows won Emmys Sunday night, Arrested Development,The Practice; West Wing, and Frasier.
Comedy Central's The Daily Show won two awards, giving cable a total of 18, or two thirds of all the Emmys handed out Sunday night (creative arts Emmys were given out earlier). The night was a big boost for pay cable, with HBO doubling last year's total of eight and basic cable halving its haul last year, when four basic networks got one award apiece.
HBO's Angels in America won 11 statues out of a top 21 nominations, including best miniseries, best writing, best direction, best actress (Meryl Streep), best actor (Al Pacino), and both supporting categories. HBO made-for Something the Lord Made was named best TV movie,
The Sopranos won for best drama series, the first time a cable series has gotten that award, with Michael Imperioli picking up best supporting actor as well.
The comedy category was topped by stars whose shows ended this season. Sarah Jessica Parker won best actress and Cynthia Nixon best supporting actress for HBO's Sex and the City, while Kelsey Grammer won best actor and David Hyde Pierce best supporting actor for Frasier.
Broadcast network dramas did claim the top two series acting awards.
West Wing's Allison Janney won for best actress in a drama. James Spader, who was hired to pep up the final season of ABC's The Practice wound up with a best actor Emmy and a spin-off series to boot, Boston Legal.
Another Practice newcomer, William Shatner, also received an Emmy--at an earlier ceremony--for best guest shot in a drama and will co-star with Spader in the spin-off.
Among the other broadcast highlights was Fox's Arrested Development, which was named best comedy series. The show won three statues, the most of any show on broadcast TV and tying Fox with NBC for the most Emmys of any broadcast network at three apiece. Last year, Fox , which broadcast those ceremonies, was shut out.
ABC won two awards Sunday night, up from one last year, and CBS won one, for Amazing Race, the second year in a row the reality show has won. But it was quite a fall-off for CBS, which last year won seven Emmys to lead all broadcast nets.
The now virtually mandatory delay on awards shows--thanks to Bono's F-word on the Golden Globes--was used at least once.
Elaine Stritch, a veteran Broadway actress (the show-stopping Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch" in Company) not known for reticence, had a "jesus christ" blanked out of her acceptance speech for best variety performance (the FCC has said it may now go after profanity). Her "F'n" variant on the F-word (as in, "this is F'n unbelievable" or something to that effect) was left in. Somewhat curious since the Bono transgression was a similar adjectival interjection, though he, of course, used the entire word rather than the contraction.
Host Garry Shandling commented on Stritch's speech, saying it was close to a "wardrobe malfunction" and speculating that the delay had probably been employed. Later, Shandling, Ray Romano and Chris Rock were shown at a set of urinals--Shandling's off-stage comments with various people was a running joke--with the unedited Chris Rock commenting: "Who the Hell is Elaine Stritch."
There was also some creative camerawork on Mary-Louise Parker, one of the many Angels In America stars to pick up a statue. Her reveling dress, which featured a "cleavage window" was out of camera range throughout her acceptance speech after getting ample screen time on the walk to the stage. Sharon Stone, whose dress also showed ample skin, was not similarly edited during her turn as presenter.
The show was relatively free of politics, save for a Daily Show satirical shot at the swift boat crew, and a pointed Meryl Streep remark about the truth being "all we want. That's all we need."
Shandling ended the proceedings, only two minutes behind schedule, with "Pray for peace," followed by something that was either edited out or failed to register on his mike.