| Steven Spielberg (left) and Tom Hanks with their Emmy awards at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, on Sunday. (Reuters)
Los Angeles, Sept 23 (Reuters): The Emmy awards played it safe last night, honouring an array of veteran shows, including Friends and The West Wing, and effectively snubbing the season's hot new contender, Six Feet Under.
The West Wing won its third consecutive award for best drama series, while Friends, television's top-rated programme, finally took the prize for best comedy series after five tries. The award came as the NBC sitcom headed into its presumed ninth and final season.
September 11 was on the minds of many Academy voters who named the four-network telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes the year's best musical and variety special. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences also paid special tribute to the networks — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox — for their unprecedented simulcast of the concert special, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the survivors of the attacks.
The NBC hit political drama The West Wing won its third consecutive Emmy Award as best drama, beating out the season's hot new show Six Feet Under, in a victory that took West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin by surprise.
“We are just as surprised as you are,” Sorkin told a black-tie audience at the 54th annual Primetime Emmys, television's top awards. Backstage, he told reporters he thought Six Feet Under would win. “God knows they and all the other shows in the category deserved this as much as we.”
Allison Janney, who plays the White House press secretary on the show, won the award for best actress in a a drama series, and two other cast members, John Spencer and Stockard Channing, won awards for best supporting actor and actress.
Rob Lowe, who announced earlier this year he was leaving the show over a salary dispute, saluted its producers and his co-stars and told them after the awards,“I serve at your pleasure.” In a major Emmy Awards upset, Michael Chiklis was named best actor in a drama series for playing a corrupt cop on the FX cable network’s biggest hit,The Shield.
It was the first Emmy victory for Chiklis, who has usually played warm and gentle characters, and a surprising outcome in the highly competitive race.
The show is a critical favourite but has been controversial for its edgy portrayal of police corruption, with several advertisers refusing to run spots on the show. Friends star Jennifer Aniston was named best actress in a comedy series for her role as Rachel Green.
Aniston was kissed by husband Brad Pitt as she rose to accept the prize, She won for her performance in last season's finale episode, in which her character gives birth to the child fathered by Ross, played by David Schwimmer.
What started out as a night of irreverent comedy and jokes by host Conan O'Brien, soon took a serious turn as America: A Tribute to Heroes won.
The show’s producer, Joel Gallen, said: “This honour really does belong to the hundreds of people who put this show together in a matter of weeks.”
The telethon, which featured such performers as Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, raised millions for victims’ families and survivors. The Gathering Storm, the tale of how Winston Churchill rose to power to fight Adolf Hitler, was named the best made-for-television movie. Another HBO series about World War Two, Band of Brothers, produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, was named best miniseries.
Veteran British actor Albert Finney won the best actor award for a miniseries or movie for his role as Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm, and Laura Linney won the best actress award for the same category for her role as Iris Bravard in the Showtime production Wild Iris.
Channing walked off with two awards — one for supporting actress in The West Wing drama series and best supporting actress in a made-for-television movie for playing the mother in The Matthew Shepard Story, the tale of a homosexual college student murdered for being gay.