Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 16 News List

American television pats itself on the back

New nomination rules allowed offbeat programs like '24' and 'The Office' to pick up coveted awards at the expense of more standard fare

AP , LOS ANGELES

Kiefer Sutherrland in celebratory mood at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. 

PHOTO: AGENCY

The groundbreaking action series 24, which turns one dangerous day into a season, ended with a bang as it won Emmys for best drama series and best actor for Kiefer Sutherland.

The Office, the US version of the British television show of the same name, was honored as best comedy. However, its star, Steve Carell, lost the award for best actor in a comedy series to Tony Shalhoub of Monk. One Emmy front-runner, sexy medical drama Grey's Anatomy, was shut out in the awards.

“Every once in a while you'll have an evening that just reminds you that you're given too much and this is that evening,” Sutherland said. “This experience on 24 has been nothing but remarkable for me.” For 24, the three Emmys it won Sunday, including a directing trophy, were vindication after five seasons of keeping audiences on the edge of their couches as stalwart agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland) saved America from terrorism.

Although Emmy nominations rule changes left some grumbling about snubbed shows including Lost, the revisions may have opened the door for an offbeat series like The Office, a smart satire about cubicle life, and for 24 to prevail.

Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the freshman comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine struck Emmy gold with lead actress awards for drama and comedy, respectively.

“Well, I'm not somebody who really believes in curses — but curse this, baby,” Louis-Dreyfus said, hoisting her trophy and making a veiled reference to the so-called “Seinfeld curse” that kept its stars from launching successful new series three other times.

The Emmy ceremony initially followed a predictable path Sunday as Shalhoub won his third acting trophy for Monk and departed series Will & Grace, The West Wing and Huff earned bittersweet toasts.

Until the finale, the surprises in the ceremony were courtesy of host Conan O'Brien and his inventive comedy bits, including a running gag that had Bob Newhart's life threatened if the show ran long.

Winning didn't take the sting out of cancellation for at least one star.

“It's not supposed to work this way, is it, when you say goodbye to something?” said Blythe Danner, named best supporting actress in a drama for Huff. “I guess I have to thank Showtime, even though they canceled us,” Danner said, with a smile.

Megan Mullally was honored for her supporting actress work in the sitcom Will & Grace, which wrapped up its eight-year run.

And Alan Alda was named best supporting actor in a drama for his role as a Republican presidential candidate on The West Wing, canceled after seven seasons.

Alda wasn't on hand to accept the award. But he might have become blase: In recent years, he also had an Oscar nomination for his role in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, a Tony nomination for his Broadway performance in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, and another Emmy bid for West Wing — none of which he won.

His win was the 26th Emmy for the White House drama, a drama series record. The show had been tied with Hill Street Blues and LA Law with 25.

Jeremy Piven of Entourage was named best supporting actor in a comedy.

The ceremony opened with a filmed comedy bit in which O'Brien was seen sipping champagne aboard a jetliner. “What could possibly go wrong tonight?” he says — before the plane crashes onto an island resembling the one in ABC's drama.

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