It may be a new world on TV, where quirky undertakers and sex-mad sirens rule. But at Sept. 22’s Emmy Awards, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences went back to basics, serving up old-school glamour and honoring the major networks’ high-rated fare. NBC’s The West Wing took home four statuettes, including its third for best drama. Friends finally won best comedy, plus a lead-actress Emmy for an elegant Jennifer Aniston. And two boys and their mom took props for CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond.
It seems Wing couldn’t lose. The hit nearly swept the acting categories (Allison Janney was named best actress after dominating the supporting-actress race two years running). That landslide meant HBO’s Six Feet Under, which had garnered a near-record 23 nominations, mostly got stiffed. (The show still picked up prizes for creator Alan Ball’s directing and five minor categories.) Admitting his disappointment, exec producer David Janollari notes, ”We have many more years on the air.”
But broadcast TV really did have the last laugh. Raymond’s Ray Romano and Brad Garrett won their first awards, while Doris Roberts swept up her third. And NBC was probably the biggest winner: Besides victories for Friends and Wing, an average of 20 million tuned in to its telecast, up 15 percent from last year’s twice-delayed show on CBS. And the mood was lighter than 2001’s post-9/11 somberness, goosed by an early clip of host Conan O’Brien riding horseback with a lovestruck Garry Shandling. ”They’ve chosen to keep their relationship private, which I’ve respected,” joked 2001 emcee Ellen DeGeneres. Still, she advised, ”Conan really shouldn’t make his show all about that.”
The Conan-Garry affair wasn’t the only surprise in the Shrine Auditorium. Michael Chiklis of FX’s The Shield was named best dramatic actor, and Fox freshmen 24 and The Bernie Mac Show scored for writing. Even presenters added suspense. Aniston’s long wait for an Emmy was prolonged by a stammering Bob Newhart. ”It felt like a year,” said Aniston. ”I thought maybe it was going to be somebody else.” Chiklis had the same problem when Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall stalled between his first and last names. ”It was such a confusing moment,” he said. ”I didn’t want to go up there looking like Zoolander.”
While male models were, sadly, in short supply, there were some truly golden moments:
— BLACK POWER O’Brien drew howls for his John Madden-esque notes on the seating plan, especially when he circled a tiny area representing ”black people who watch Frasier.” Fair? NBC says Frasier attracted an average 3.4 percent of black 18- to 49-year-olds last season (Bernie Mac lured 12.8 percent of that demo). Still, Mathew St. Patrick, Six Feet’s African-American cop, defended Kelsey Grammer’s show: ”I watch Frasier every time it’s on.”
— MOORE TO LOVE Speaking of Frasier, the sitcom grabbed its 30th career Emmy at the Sept. 14 technical awards, passing The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s record. Grammer says Moore sent a note: ”In short it said, ‘The Queen tips her hat with a grim little smile.”’