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Kelley’s legal eagles soar

Producer doubles with 'Ally,' 'Practice'; HBO tops all webs

VISIT EMMYS ’99

While it might be the dawn of a new millennium, the 51st annual Emmy Awards remained firmly entrenched in the past, mostly ignoring new talent to honor a small army of familiar faces — particularly those associated with David E. Kelley.

Kelley became the first producer ever to win awards for comedy (“Ally McBeal”) and drama (“The Practice”) series in the same year, with “Ally” being the first hour-long series ever honored in that category.

After winning for “Practice,” Kelley was stunned when told he had to return to the stage to accept his award for “Ally.”

“I thought there had been a mistake — ‘The Sopranos’ had won best drama,” the prolific producer quipped.

The wins for his two lawyer-themed hour shows, both of which are produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television, helped the studio boost its overall Emmy tally to nine wins, making it the most-honored studio overall.

With “King of the Hill” winning for toon skein, the studio also swept the primetime series competish.

Among webs, HBO won 23 kudos, the first time a cabler has beaten its broadcast brethren in the final Emmy tally. The pay-cabler was followed by NBC (17), ABC (13), CBS (11), Fox (7) and A&E (5). Despite HBO’s overall triumph, broadcasters still snagged more overall Emmys, winning nearly twice as many as their cable competish.

During Sunday’s televised portion of the awards, the pay-cabler took home seven wins, followed by six apiece for ABC and NBC. (The bulk of the Emmys were handed out Aug. 28.)

HBO’s “The Sopranos,” which led the nomination race with 16 bids, was far from overlooked, with Edie Falco named outstanding actress in a drama and creator David Chase (with James Manos Jr.) taking the prize for writing in a drama series, for a seg in which head mobster Tony Soprano helps his daughter pick a college.

Including two wins at the non-televised Emmys, the show won a total of four statuettes, tying Kelley’s “The Practice” as the most-honored skein of the year.

But “Sopranos” failed to win in most of the other categories in which it was nominated, including drama series, directing, supporting actress and actor. Instead, the skein fell victim to an overall mood among Emmy voters to stick with what they knew.

So while virtually nobody else was watching “Mad About You” last season — its ratings were near the bottom of the Nielsen chart all year long — Academy members couldn’t break habit, and once again named Helen Hunt top actress in a comedy series. It was her fourth consecutive win, making Hunt the first comedy actor or actress in a leading role to win four statuettes in a row.

Another surprise winner was NBC’s “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Frequent timeslot changes have helped diminish virtually any buzz the skein once had with viewers, but the aliens-among-us laffer continued to snag acting statuettes.

Thrice-nominated Kristen Johnston (“3rd Rock”) won her second statuette for supporting actress in a comedy series, while John Lithgow won his third for his role as alien leader Dick. Accepting his honor, Lithgow said he was “astonished,” even “embarrassed” by his win.

“I really don’t know why I’m here,” he said.

Still, the kudos were particularly timely for “3rd Rock”: The show hits the syndie market later this month.

Equally baffled by Emmy logic was “NYPD Blue” star Dennis Franz, who repeated as outstanding actor in a drama for the fourth time. Most observers had figured the award would go to “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini, or to Franz’ “Blue” co-star, Jimmy Smits, for his dramatic deathbed exit.

“There certainly have been surprises here tonight, and this is certainly one of them,” Franz said.

Emmy voters stuck with the familiar in the supporting actor in a comedy category, too, honoring “Frasier” co-star and Emmycast co-host David Hyde Pierce for the second consecutive year. Pierce has now won three Emmys for his portrayal of the ultra-uptight Niles Crane.

However, the series missed its chance at the record books: “Frasier” had earned five consecutive wins for comedy series, and a sixth win would have made Emmy history.

While Camryn Manheim of “The Practice” didn’t repeat as supporting actress in a drama, the ensemble cast of Kelley’s legal drama once again supplied underdog winners, with Michael Badalucco and Holland Taylor scoring in the supporting actor and actress categories, respectively.

Taylor, who snagged a surprise win for her role as the sexually charged Judge Roberta Kittleson, wryly took note of how many years it took her to get on stage. “Overnight sensation,” the veteran thesp quipped.

Following Manheim’s ecstatic acceptance speech last year, co-star Badalucco was more low-key, but equally shocked by his win. Unable to cram in the names of every one of his colleagues, he thanked them all with a blanket, “I’ll write you a letter.”

Emmy continued its bizarre fascination with other awards shows. After Tonycast helmer Paul Miller beat out contenders from “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show” to win directing for a variety or music program, the show spotlighted Roberto Benigni’s infamous Oscar acceptance speech as one of the five most memorable TV moments of the past season (as selected by online voters). Later, the 1998 Tonycast won for best variety or music spec.

With the debate over diversity on the small screen continuing to rage, Emmy singled out three high-profile minority nominees.

Past Emmy winner Chris Rock and his team of scribes (“The Chris Rock Show”) were honored for writing in a variety or music program. John Leguizamo, a first-time nominee, won for performance in a variety or music program for his HBO spec “Freak.” And helmer Paris Barclay, who directed Jimmy Smits’ farewell seg of “NYPD Blue,” took home the award for direction of a drama skein.

Leguizamo noted the lack of Hispanic voices in the media, but resisted the urge to make an extended political statement Instead, he thanked HBO for its support, dubbing it the Hispanic Box Office web.

Later, presenter Halle Berry noted the debate over diversity but struck a positive note, saying she viewed the “glass as half-full rather than half-empty.”

In contrast to last year’s hyper-ceremonious, four-hour 50th anniversary salute to The Television Business, this year’s kudocast went out of its way to poke fun at the medium it honors. Targets included the Riley Weston resume scandal, WB dramas “Felicity” and “Dawson’s Creek,” and ex-ABC Entertainment prexy Jamie Tarses.

In the movie and minis categories, the Eye’s “Joan of Arc” — which snagged a whipping 14 noms — was nearly completely shut out. Its lone win: Peter O’Toole, won for longform supporting actor for his perf as tortured Bishop Cauchon.

CBS was also disappointed that apparently not everybody loves Raymond. Its hit sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” made a strong showing in noms, but came home empty-handed in the prize-giving.

“HBO’s “A Lesson Before Dying” snagged two awards Sunday, including best made-for and Ann Peacock’s win for writing of a mini or made-for.

Anne Bancroft was named best supporting actress in a movie or mini for CBS’ “Deep in My Heart,” just two weeks after husband Mel Brooks snagged a win at the non-televised Emmys for guest actor in a comedy series (“Mad About You.”)

A list of winners follows:

COMEDY SERIES

“Ally McBeal,” (Fox) David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox. David E. Kelley, executive producer; Jeffrey Kramer, Jonathan Pontell, co-executive producers; Mike Listo, Steve Robin, Pamela Wisne, producers; Peter Burrell, Coordinating producer

DRAMA SERIES

“The Practice,” (ABC) David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox. David E. Kelley, executive producer; Jeffrey Kramer, Bob Breech, co-executive producers; Gary Strangis, producer

MINISERIES

“Horatio Hornblower,” (A&E) United Prods. for Meridian Broadcasting in association with A&E Networks. Andrew Benson, producer; Delia Fine, Vernon Lawrence, executive producers

MADE FOR TELEVISION MOVIE

“A Lesson Before Dying,” (HBO) a Spanky Pictures Production in association with Ellen M. Krass Prods. Ellen M. Krass, Joel Stillerman, Ted Demme, executive producers; Robert Benedetti, producer

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

John Lithgow as Dick Solomon, “3rd Rock From the Sun” (NBC) Carsey-Werner Prods., LLC

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Dennis Franz as Andy Sipowicz, “NYPD Blue” (ABC) Steven Bochco Prods.

LEAD ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

Stanley Tucci as Walter Winchell, “Winchell” (HBO) Fried Films in association with HBO Pictures

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Helen Hunt as Jamie Buchman, “Mad About You” (NBC) Infront Prods. and Nuance Prods. in association with TriStar Television

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano, “The Sopranos” (HBO) Brillstein-Grey Entertainment

LEAD ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE

Helen Mirren as Ayn Rand, “The Passion of Ayn Rand” (Showtime) producers Entertainment Group

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

David Hyde Pierce as Dr. Niles Crane, “Frasier” (NBC) Grub Street Prods. in association with Paramount Pictures

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Michael Badalucco as Jimmy Berluti, “The Practice” (ABC) David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE

Peter O’Toole as Bishop Cauchon, “Joan of Arc” (CBS) an Alliance Atlantis production in association with CBS Television Network, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Endemol Entertainment

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Kristen Johnston as Sally Solomon, “3rd Rock From the Sun” (NBC) Carsey-Werner Prods., LLC

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Holland Taylor as Judge Roberta Kittleson, “The Practice” (ABC) David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

Anne Bancroft as Gerry Williams, “Deep in My Heart” (CBS) the Konigsberg Company

GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Mel Brooks as Uncle Phil Buchman, “Mad About You” (NBC) Infront Prods. and Nuance Prods. in association with TriStar Television

GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Edward Herrmann as Atty. Anderson Pearson, “The Practice” (ABC) David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox

GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Tracey Ullman as Tracy Clark, “Ally McBeal” (Fox) David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox

GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Debra Monk as Katie Sipowicz, “NYPD Blue” (ABC) Steven Bochco Prods.

PERFORMANCE IN A VARIETY OR MUSIC PROGRAM

John Leguizamo, “John Leguizamo’s Freak” (HBO) Lower East Side Films

VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES

“Late Show With David Letterman” (CBS) Worldwide Pants Inc. Rob Burnett, executive producer; Barbara Gaines, Maria Pope, producers

VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SPECIAL

“1998 Tony Awards” (CBS) Tony Awards Prods. Walter C. Miller, executive producer; Roy A. Somlyo, Supervising producer; Rosie O’Donnell, producer

DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Thomas Schlamme, “Will & Grace” (Pilot) (NBC) NBC Studios, Inc. in association with Komut Entertainment

DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

Paris Barclay, NYPD Blue “Hearts and Souls” (ABC) Steven Bochco Prods.

DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY OR MUSIC PROGRAM

Paul Miller, “1998 Tony Awards” (CBS) Tony Awards Prods.

DIRECTING FOR A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

Allan Arkush, “The Temptations” (NBC)

de Passe Entertainment in association with Babelsberg International Film Prods., GmbH & Co. Betriebs KG

WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

“Frasier,” “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz,” (NBC) Grub Street Prods. in association with Paramount Pictures. Jay Kogen, writer

WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

“The Sopranos,” “College” (HBO) Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. James Manos Jr., David Chase, writers

WRITING FOR A VARIETY OR MUSIC PROGRAM

“The Chris Rock Show” (HBO) HBO Downtown Prods., Three Arts Entertainment and Chris Rock Enterprises Inc. Tom Agna, Vernon Chatman, Louis CK, Lance Crouther, Gregory Greenberg, Ali Leroi, Steve O’Donnell, Chris Rock, Frank Sebastiano, Chuck Sklar, Jeff Stilson, Wanda Sykes-Hall, Mike Upchurch, writers

WRITING FOR A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE

“A Lesson Before Dying” (HBO) a Spanky Pictures Production in association with Ellen M. Krass Prods. Ann Peacock, writer