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Toga party for producers

'The West Wing' wins for TV

“Gladiator” took center stage Saturday night as the sword-and-sandal epic captured the Producers Guild of America crown as best feature.

The victory for producers Douglas Wick and Branko Lustig boosts the Academy Awards prospects for the DreamWorks/U blockbuster. PGA winners of the Darryl F. Zanuck producer of the year award have matched the best picture Oscar in eight of 11 years, including “American Beauty” last year.

PGA members tapped “Gladiator” over “Almost Famous,” “Billy Elliot,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Erin Brockovich.” “Almost Famous” was the only contender not to receive a best picture nom from the Academy last month, with the nod going instead to “Chocolat.”

Accepting the trophy at the PGA’s Golden Laurel Awards at the Century Plaza Hotel, Wick praised DreamWorks and U execs for their early backing of the project.

NBC’s “The West Wing” took the election to win the Norman Felton award for best dramatic TV series, topping “Oz,” “ER,” “Law & Order” and “The Practice.” John Wells had received two noms, as exec producer of “The West Wing” and “ER.” He made no mention in his acceptance speech of the WGA’s suspended contract talks with studios.

Besides Wells, other producers cited for “The West Wing” were Wells’ brother Llewelyn Wells, Michael Hissrich, Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme.

HBO’s “Sex and the City” won the Danny Thomas award for best TV comedy series, topping “Ally McBeal,” “Frasier,” “Friends” and “Will & Grace.” Darren Star accepted the trophy from Marlo Thomas. Other “Sex and the City” producers cited were Jenny Bicks, Michael Patrick King and John Melfi.

The PGA split the TV series awards for the first time this year into dramatic and comedy categories. “The Sopranos” was last year’s single winner.

Showtime’s “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman” won the David L. Wolper Award for longform TV, topping “Fail Safe,” “If These Walls Could Talk 2,” “Nuremberg” and “Walking With Dinosaurs.”

Wolper made the presentation to Marc Bauman, Patricia Clifford and Brian Dennehy, who also played the lead.

Previously announced kudos included a Milestone Award for Kirk Douglas, lifetime achievement nods for David E. Kelley and Brian Grazer and Hall of Fame Awards for “Lawrence of Arabia,” “It Happened One Night,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Honeymooners.”

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