Nixed shows showed off staying power

“24′s” moment in the spotlight Sunday may have recruited a few new viewers to the show this fall. Too bad the Emmy winner for outstanding drama and lead actor won’t return to the airwaves until January.

The promotional power of an Emmy has been debated for years, as top wins haven’t necessarily equaled ratings bounces: Just ask the folks behind Emmy winner (but Nielsen flop) “Arrested Development.”

But the Emmy carries more cachet than just about anything else when it comes time to promote the winner’s new season — and could be particularly helpful for a show that’s been around for a while, like “24.”

Instead, Fox won’t be able to capitalize on its “24″ win for several months.

And it’s not alone. Several of this year’s nominees — and resulting winners — came from shows that have either been canceled, faded into retirement or won’t return to the air for a while.

Blythe Danner, whose Showtime skein “Huff” was canceled by the cabler shortly before the nomination process closed, noted that her win for supporting actress in a drama was, as a result, all the more “bittersweet.”

“It’s not supposed to work this way, is it? — when you say goodbye to something like ‘Huff,’ ” she said.

Still, the actress acknowledged the channel in her acceptance speech.

“I have to thank Showtime, even though they canceled us,” Danner said. “They’re nice guys — they couldn’t help it.”

Another winner, “Thief” star Andre Braugher, said he’d rather the show was still on the air than win an Emmy. Thesp said he was “baffled” by his FX show’s failure to capture an audience.

“I’m up in the air as to why we’re not on the air,” he said. “But at a certain point when the audience doesn’t show up we have to make a business decision.”

The night kicked off with a win for “Will & Grace” star Megan Mullally, who picked up the Emmy for supporting actress in a comedy, just as her show sails away for good.

“We had eight great years of happy employment, and that’s more than most people could ever hope for,” Mullally said.

Other winners whose shows won’t be on the air this fall included “The Sopranos” (which won for outstanding writing), which is due to return in 2007. “24″ also picked up the Emmy for top directing.

Meanwhile, one category that could have easily gone to the star of a canceled or retired show didn’t.

In the competish for lead actress in a comedy, “The New Adventures of Old Christine” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the only nominee whose show is still alive (vs. stars from “The Comeback,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Out of Practice” and “Will & Grace”). Louis-Dreyfus won.

“It just goes to show you that the landscape of the business is really hard right now,” she said before the Emmycast. “They all deserve to have shows on the air all the time.”

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