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'West Wing,' 'Friends' score big at Emmys

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Emmy voters showed a populist bent, mostly shunning the less mainstream in favor of familiar, top-rated fare including ''The West Wing'' and ''Friends.''

This year's nominations had been expansive, with the macabre HBO mortuary drama ''Six Feet Under'' and Fox's daring action drama ''24'' sharing in them. But the awards Sunday walked a traditional line.

While ''Six Feet Under'' was nearly shut out despite its leading 23 nominations, NBC's ''The West Wing'' picked up its third consecutive best drama trophy and acting awards for Allison Janney, John Spencer and Stockard Channing.

''Friends,'' although little-honored during its eight-year run, came off a resurgent season as the No. 1 program to claim its first best comedy series award.

Jennifer Aniston became the first member of the NBC comedy's cast to receive a lead acting award. The award was bittersweet, Aniston agreed backstage, because this season is probably the last.

But when asked directly whether the cast will continue their run, Aniston shrugged and said, ''Oh, who knows?''

The 54th annual ceremony, airing on NBC with host Conan O'Brien, was seen by an average of 19.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last year's show on CBS had 17.1 million viewers -- but it was twice-postponed and aired opposite the seventh game of the World Series.

The last time the Emmys were in September, in 2000, the show was seen by 21.8 million viewers.

''Everybody Loves Raymond'' cleaned up with acting awards for Doris Roberts, Brad Garrett and Ray Romano, who became the last of its cast to win an Emmy (Peter Boyle and Patricia Heaton were past winners).

''I'm not making it up when I tell you it's great and I appreciate it,'' he said.

One series yet to attract a wide audience bucked the night's trend: Michael Chiklis, who plays a corrupt police detective in the FX cable series ''The Shield,'' received the top dramatic acting award.

It was a rare honor for a basic cable series -- and one that has lost sponsors because of its bare-knuckled approach.

''It vindicates us tremendously,'' said Chiklis. ''I always said from the beginning if this were something vacuous and shocking for shock's sake, I wouldn't have done it.''

Making a broadcast show without cable's latitude is a challenge, ''The West Wing'' creator Aaron Sorkin said backstage Sunday.

''On cable they have creative opportunities, which we don't,'' he said. ''We do 22 episodes instead of 13. The nice thing about it is that it forces you to become a little more creative.''

Emmy viewers have embraced bold cable shows in recent years. HBO's ''Sex and the City'' won the best comedy crown last year and ''The Sopranos'' stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco have each received two acting trophies.

''Sex and the City,'' which received 10 nominations, drew only one major award Sunday, for directing. The HBO mob drama was ineligible this year because it sat out a season.

The ceremony veered away from the somberness that marked last year's post-Sept. 11 event. But there were touching moments, including recognition of World War II veterans whose exploits served as the basis for the miniseries ''Band of Brothers.''

The 10-part HBO drama, created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and based on Stephen E. Ambrose's book, won awards for miniseries and directing. A shot of cheering veterans, gathered at a nearby hotel, was shown during the ceremony.

A prewar drama, HBO's ''The Gathering Storm,'' was named best TV movie and Albert Finney was honored as lead actor in a miniseries or movie for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. It also won a writing Emmy.

NBC, which aired Sunday's three-hour, 20-minute awards show, and HBO tied for most wins at 24 apiece, including the creative arts presentations a week earlier. CBS had eight and Fox won seven, while ABC was shut out Sunday night after winning five creative arts awards.

''Six Feet Under,'' which won five creative arts awards, added a single award for directing Sunday.



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