'West Wing,' Fox, 'Morrie' big winners at Emmy Awards

LOS ANGELES - In a landslide any politician would envy, NBC's idealistic series about a White House staff in turmoil, ''The West Wing,'' won a record-setting nine Emmy awards Sunday night including best drama series.

It was a rubout in the political drama's competition with HBO's ''The Sopranos.'' James Gandolfini, who plays ''The Sopranos''' hulking mob boss, avoided a shutout for his show by winning best actor.

The haul for ''The West Wing'' broke the previous record of eight Emmys for a series in a single season, set by ''ER'' and ''Hill Street Blues'' in their first years.

''There's going to be no living with me now,'' said ''West Wing'' creator Aaron Sorkin, who won an Emmy for his writing.

Michael J. Fox was a sentimental winner of the best actor award for a comedy. Fox retired from his comedy about a New York City mayoral office, ''Spin City,'' after last season because of Parkinson's disease. He won three best actor trophies in a row in the 1980s for ''Family Ties.''

''Thanks. It's been a great ride and stay tuned,'' Fox said, after receiving a standing ovation.

''Will & Grace'' won best comedy show, a big boost for NBC's sitcom as it moves to Thursday nights this fall. It also won two awards for its supporting actors, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally.

Patricia Heaton, who plays the long-suffering wife of comedian Ray Romano on the CBS comedy ''Everybody Loves Raymond,'' won best actress in a comedy. It was her first award.

Veteran actor Jack Lemmon, a Hollywood favorite, drew a standing ovation when he won best actor in a miniseries or movie for ''Oprah Winfrey Presents: Tuesdays With Morrie.'' His co-star, Hank Azaria, also won an Emmy, and the show was honored as best TV movie.

''A little bit of magic,'' said Lemmon, fighting back tears as he paid tribute to his family: ''This and what I do, is important. But you are my life.''

Sela Ward was an upset winner in the best actress category in a drama for ABC's ''Once and Again.'' She beat out two competing actresses from ''The Sopranos,'' Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco.

Gandolfini, in taking home the only trophy for HBO's groundbreaking series, said, ''I can't really explain this, except the academy maybe has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men.''

The pre-show buzz was about the faceoff between ''The West Wing'' and ''The Sopranos,'' the politicians against the mobsters. Both had 18 nominations.

''The West Wing'' won in a walk. Richard Schiff, who plays the grim aide Toby Ziegler, and Allison Janney, who portrays the White House's tough press secretary, won supporting actor awards. Thomas Schlamme won for directing.

''I love every member of my cast,'' Janney said. ''This should be an ensemble award and I share it with all of you.''

Janney paid tribute to fellow nominee Nancy Marchand, who played the scheming matriarch Livia Soprano. Marchand died of lung cancer on June 18. Janney called Marchand ''exquisite, elegant.''

NBC won bragging rights with 23 Emmys. HBO had 20 awards, ABC had 15, Fox had 11 and CBS had 7.

For the third year in a row, David Letterman's ''Late Show'' won the award for best variety series. It came during a year Letterman had to take a break for an emergency quintuple bypass operation in January.

''Dave, if you're watching at home, it looks like the fake heart surgery paid off,'' said the show's executive producer, Rob Burnett.

HBO's series about a Baltimore inner-city neighborhood, ''The Corner,'' won three Emmys, including outstanding miniseries.

Eddie Izzard won for both his performance and writing in his HBO special, ''Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill.''

The two biggest television events of the past year - ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' and ''Survivor'' - weren't competing Sunday. ''Millionaire'' was shunted off to the Daytime Emmys and ''Survivor'' missed the cutoff for nominations.

Host Garry Shandling did a ''Survivor'' takeoff in his opening segment, though, and several contestants were in the audience.

''I don't like this reality television, I have to be honest,'' Shandling said. ''I think real people should not be on television. It's for special people like us, people who have trained and studied to appear to be real.''

Emmy watchers were anxious to see the impact of a change in voting procedures designed to widen the voting panel and make it younger.

Instead of requiring Academy of Television Arts & Sciences members to watch nominated shows in a hotel, the academy sent out videotapes for voters to watch at home. As a result, it nearly quadrupled the number of people voting.

Many actors, including John Lithgow and David Schwimmer, wore gold ribbons in a show of support for the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who are involved in a strike against the advertising industry.


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