The winners weigh in

Backstage Notes at the Emmys

How does the best-written, best-directed laffer on television not get a nomination for comedy series?

“I’m not sure. But we’re happy to have these, and we’re confident we’ll be in that group next season,” said “My Name Is Earl” scribe Greg Garcia, standing backstage with his fellow winner, helmer Marc Buckland.

“Look, the morning we were nominated, some people were calling me up and complaining, ‘The show didn’t get nominated.’ My attitude is, I’ve been doing this for 12 years and I’ve never been nominated for an Emmy before. I’m just gonna enjoy this.”

* * *

After he thanked his late father on stage, a choked-up Jeremy Piven paused again backstage to acknowledge him. “He is still here, and he’s very proud,” he said through tears.

Piven, who picked up his first Emmy for his portrayal of talent agent Ari Gold in HBO comedy “Entourage,” said he hopes the award will translate into more work. “I just love to act, so whoever will have me.

“Maybe (in my next role) I’ll get to get the girl,” he deadpanned. “If I have to play the best friend again … I don’t have many friends, so I’m running out of references.”

As for what the “Entourage” guys will think: “I’ve been it longer than those guys. They don’t respect me, but they should and now, they will,” he joked.

* * *

“We kind of felt like we were doing the show in a bubble, but clearly it’s catching on,” said Steve Carell, speaking on behalf of “The Office” crew, which won the prize for comedy series in its second season.

Exec producer Greg Daniels called the evening “a night of ups and downs” after he cut his hand on the wings of the Emmy backstage. “People thought it was going to be really hard to adapt an English show, but I speak English, so we really had a leg up there,” Daniels joked. But seriously, folks, “It was such a good show in the first place, I don’t think it was as hard as people thought.”

* * *

After five seasons and five nominations, Kiefer Sutherland finally won not one Emmy but two — for acting and exec producing Fox’s “24.”

“The real challenge for me is to play the same character over the span of six years,” he said. “Lucky for me, we have fantastic writers who facilitate that.”

The real-time drama was parodied in Emmy host Conan O’Brien’s opener, providing a rare instance of “24” humor.

“There’s no humor at all. We cry a lot, we’re very serious, we try not to look at each other,” said thesp Mary Lynn Rajskub. “And we’re (always) wearing the same clothes, and we do a lot of fake typing.”

* * *

Sweeping the reality competition series race for the fourth straight year, “The Amazing Race” exec producer Bertram Van Munster said his team redoubled its efforts for the show’s most recent outing after the family edition was met with mixed reactions.

“We worked extra hard to put this thing back on track because you guys weren’t happy with season eight,” he said. “We have raised the bar not only for ourselves but for everyone else. The mistakes we made were bad for business.”

Fellow exec producer Jerry Bruckheimer tipped his hat to the crew, who have circled the globe 30 times in the past 10 seasons. “The best part is standing up here and getting accolades from people who love TV as much as we do. The worst part is what the guys behind me do, trekking around the world when it’s hot or cold, keeping all the contestants together. It’s a difficult job.”

* * *

“I’m absolutely floored,” said a stunned Blythe Danner, who picked up her second Emmy for her perf in Showtime drama “Huff.” “I thought, ‘No, no, no, it’s not going to happen. We’re canceled.’ ”

The actress acknowledged her victory was bittersweet but also “a nice way to say goodbye.” Showtime canceled the series last month after its second season.

Onstage, Danner joked, “I suppose I should thank Showtime even though they canceled us. They’re nice guys. They couldn’t help it, I guess.”

* * *

Going from tears to giggles in a matter of minutes, “Law & Order: SVU” actress Mariska Hargitay couldn’t contain her enthusiasm at winning her first Emmy — and for “Law & Order: SVU,” of all shows.

“I’m winning an Emmy in my eighth season, for a police procedural! Who wins for a police procedural?” she crowed into the mic. “Well, I do!”

Hargitay became extremely emotional when talking about her father, who was unable to attend the show for health reasons.

“I just have the greatest father in the world,” she said. “He told me to work really hard, and said, ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ I used to get mad at him because I didn’t understand. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”

* * *

“The Sopranos” scribe Terence Winter noted the cast and crew were “starting to experience a form of separation anxiety” as the HBO drama approached its final season.

“Now that the end is near, we’re all starting to feel it. We’re all sort of sensing the end of a really great thing, both creatively and just (as) a general work experience.”

Winter shared in the general disbelief that the Academy passed over “Sopranos” stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco for lead acting nominations.

“I was pretty flabbergasted,” he said. “Those performances were just peerless. … I get to stand 10 feet away and watch it happen in front of me. You really can’t believe these people are acting.”

* * *

Jon Cassar, winner for directing the “7:00 AM-8:00 AM” episode of “24,” affectionately called the suspense drama “the hardest show on TV.” “When they landed (a plane on the freeway) last year, we did. We actually did,” he said.

Helmer has already directed the first two episodes of next season. “They’re really strong and really controversial. It will be the best year ever,” said Cassar, who credited the writers with keeping the show intense. “My job is to say ‘no’ (to over-the-top ideas) eventually, but usually I end up saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ ”

* * *

Julia Louis-Dreyfus said she was “floating” and “overwhelmed” after winning the award for lead comedy actress — and quickly added, “I have no problem with (the new voting system), by the way.”

Asked about the controversial blue-ribbon panel voting initiated this season, she admitted she didn’t quite understand it. “Whatever, let’s keep it,” she said. “The New Adventures of Old Christine” star said the win was the cherry on top of the series’ being picked up for a second season. “It’s hard. The business of television has utterly changed since I was on ‘Seinfeld,’ so I was just grateful we were picked up.”

* * *

After winning his second Emmy, Jeremy Irons lauded the quality of television over film. “I suspect there is better and more interesting work happening on TV than on most movies today,” said the actor, who played Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, opposite Helen Mirren in the HBO miniseries “Elizabeth I.”

“I thought I’d do the part for a bit of fun, so it’s really an added pleasure to win a prize for making it,” Irons added. “The fact that the other actors in my category didn’t win, it’s just the luck of the draw.”

* * *

Andre Braugher accepted the lead actor in a miniseries award for his work on the six-episode crime drama “Thief,” but told reporters backstage he’d rather still be working on the short-lived series, which wasn’t renewed after subpar ratings.

“I would prefer ‘Thief’ was still on the air, rather than picking up this award for a canceled show,” he admitted. “My joy is in bringing these characters to life.”

Still, Braugher praised FX execs for giving it their best shot with an “inventive and creative” promotional campaign. “It’s baffling for me,” thesp said. “We created something beautiful. It’s just at a certain point, when the audience doesn’t show up, business decisions have to be made.”

* * *

“Biggest shock I’ve ever had,” said Barry Manilow of winning for his perf in PBS spec “Barry Manilow: Music and Passion,” before crediting the fans with sustaining his career. “I think these people are so beautiful, that they just keep supporting what I do. And I think the music holds up.”

The legendary singer-songwriter accepted his Emmy shortly after performing “Bandstand Boogie” onstage in a tribute to producer Dick Clark.

“I think he’s a real trouper,” Manilow said of Clark, who had a stroke in December 2004. “He’d much rather be up there producing one of these things than sitting here.”

* * *

Looking every bit as regal as her statuette for lead actress in “Elizabeth I,” Helen Mirren acknowledged the oft-portrayed queen was pure catnip for an actress.

“It’s one of those great roles. When it comes your way, as an actress, you thank your lucky stars,” she said.

Tom Hooper, who won for directing the HBO mini, had nothing but praise for his leading dame.

“I think Helen has the ability to hold ideas in tension,” he said. “She can switch moods on a dime. That ability to hold so many emotions allows her to bring humor and warmth into even the more dramatic scenes.”

* * *

“Last year, I was shocked. This year, I was semi-comatose,” said Tony Shalhoub, marveling at winning his third trophy as the eponymous detective on USA’s “Monk.” “What comes after deja vu? Deja trois?

“This isn’t frosting on the cake,” the thesp went on. “This is the rarefied air above the frosting on the cake. This is the smoke on the candles on the frosting on the cake.”

* * *

“Will & Grace” actress Megan Mullally said 20 years ago a psychic predicted she’d win a pair of Emmys for sitcom work — and she was none too thrilled. “I said, ‘No, no. I’m a great actress. I’m going to do film. I’m not going to do a sitcom!” Mullally laughed.

With two acting awards in her pocket, Mullally next will tackle her own talkshow, which she reassured reporters — with a wink — would “still be dirty, even though it’s daytime.”

* * *

Looking sober but gratified, “The Girl in the Cafe” producer Hilary Bevan Jones spoke backstage on behalf of fellow honoree Richard Curtis, who was not present to accept his award for writing the HBO made-for.

“The reason (Curtis) wrote this film was to draw people’s attention to the fact that in this world of plenty, 20,000 people are still dying every day of extreme poverty,” she said of the telepic, about the G8 summit in Iceland in 2005. “I’m so grateful that the American audience has recognized this film, and hope they will recognize why we made it as well.”

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