''The Sopranos'' sings the blues, Helen Hunt gets ugly, and David E. Kelley plugs the competition

By Liane Bonin
Updated September 13, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Russ Einhorn/Star Max
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Where’s Cher in a sequined thong when you need her? At Sunday night’s 51st annual Emmy Awards, Hollywood turned up demurely dressed and unusually well-behaved. Even the roster of winners held few unexpected thrills, with old favorites like ”Ally McBeal,” ”NYPD Blue,” and ”The Practice” frequently trumping edgier newcomers like ”The Sopranos” and ”Sex and the City.” But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t excitement brewing backstage. EW Online hereby offers our own best and worst guide to the Emmys.

SORE WINNER The nominees who went home without a clunky statuette weren’t the only celebrities feeling cranky at the end of the evening. Though Helen Hunt walked off with her fourth Emmy for ”Mad About You,” she was miffed when one reporter asked her to comment on the show’s faltering ratings in its final season. ”So, you didn’t care for it at the end? This is amazing,” she huffed. ”Thanks for the congratulations. I became very involved in the writing of the show, so I may have tanked it. Does anyone have anything nice to say?” Uh, not any more, no.

BEST FASHION STATEMENT Helen Mirren, who won for her starring role in ”The Passion of Ayn Rand,” sparkled in a clingy beaded gown, but her attitude was definitely off-the-rack. ”The dress? There was a great sale on at Fedco,” she deadpanned. ”It closed down, which was very sad, because it was one of my favorite stores. I went there for the sale and managed to get this. Actually, I’ve been saying it’s Jacques C’est Pennier, the famous French designer spelled J. C. P-e-n-n-e-y.”

BIGGEST SCREW-UP ”The Sopranos” scribe James Manos Jr. snagged an award for outstanding writing, but he missed his moment in the spotlight. ”I actually forgot to show up on stage, and I’m feeling a little f—ing stupid,” he says. ”I was outside having a glass of wine and a cigarette with a buddy of mine who just turned me down for a pilot.” It was only when his mother called him on his cell phone that he discovered he had won. ”She said, ‘Where the hell were you, you stupid bastard?”’ Now, that’s a mother only a Soprano could love.

BEST SPIN Chris Rock may be knee-deep in flack for the never-ending stream of references he made to Jennifer Lopez’s ample hindquarters while hosting the MTV Video Awards last week, but the comedian sees the butt jokes as tribute, not trashing. ”I love Jennifer Lopez,” says Rock, who took home an award for best writing. ”She’s so beautiful. I wasn’t anti-Lopez. I was pro-ass.” Apparently it all boils down to a cultural bias. ”Only white people think asses are bad. They were cheering in Harlem.” Baby got back, indeed.

BEST GIRL POWER MOMENT If last year was for all the fat girls thanks to ”The Practice”’s Camryn Manheim, this year was for all the old ones. ”The important thing is that David [Kelley] and I want to do a woman who is a viable being over 40, which is something America doesn’t seem to go along with too much,” says Holland Taylor, who took home an Emmy for her role as an oversexed, middle-aged judge on the Best Drama Series winner. ”Lena Horne is 80, and tell me somebody more sexy! Excuse me, is there one?” You go, girl… uh, ma’am.

MOST POPULAR ”The Sopranos” may have racked up 16 nominations only to take home a paltry 4 awards, but that doesn’t mean the show wasn’t a favorite with the crowd. Dennis Franz, John Lithgow, David E. Kelley, and a host of other winners waxed rhapsodic about the series. ”I really thought it was ‘The Sopranos”s year,” says Kelley. ”There was so much heat around that show, and it was so well deserved.” Camryn Manheim was less enthusiastic. ”We’re just happy the Sopranos are going home on the red eye, because we hear they pack pistols,” she joked. But ”Sopranos” star Edie Falco, who took home the best actress award, wasn’t up to playing tough. ”The best thing about this Emmy thing is we all came here together from New York, and got here on a New Jersey transit bus,” she says. ”And I’m up here all by myself, which feels very sad and lonely.”

BEST HOPE FOR CHANGE John Leguizamo, who won an award for his HBO special ”John Leguizamo’s Freak,” admits that roles for Hispanics are still few and far between if you’re not Jennifer Lopez. ”If I got offered one more cocaine-dealing Mafia prince, I was going to have to hurt somebody.”

BEST COMEBACK John Lithgow landed a best actor award for ”3rd Rock From the Sun,” but he readily acknowledged that last year was a tough one for the series, which struggled through lagging ratings and critical pans. ”I think it must be a fourth season trough,” he says. ”There was a moment where we did say, ‘What is going on?’ Because it was getting harder to do the show. The whole power of ‘3rd Rock’ is its unconventionality, and we lost that for maybe a month. Then we realized we had drifted off course. But, a hard year on ‘3rd Rock’ is like sex. Even when it’s bad, it’s good.” Hey, speak for yourself, John.

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The Sopranos

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