'Homicide's Andre Braugher brings and Emmy home Awards: NBC wins enough comedy Emmys to assure post-'Seinfeld' dominance. But telecast was a loser.

September 14, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

NBC was a big winner and an even bigger loser at last night's 50th annual Emmy Awards.

Andre Braugher, of the NBC drama "Homicide: Life on the Street," and stars in three of the network's key sitcoms won the major acting awards last night.

But the network was also saddled with the longest and one of the least memorable Emmy telecasts ever -- four hours of flat clip packages, tedious standing features and a couple of lame musical numbers.

The win for Braugher and "Homicide," produced in Baltimore, was especially sweet after six years of the show's being shortchanged by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences because it's made outside Hollywood.

After thanking executive producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, among others, Braugher said: "This is for all the people in Baltimore. This is a town I love. We finally made it."

Braugher left the series at the end of last season. This year's nomination was his third.

"I've been at it for four years, and thought I might win before, but didn't. So, what can I say, I was very prepared not to win," Braugher said in a post-show interview, adding that the statue will stand on the television in his family's new home in New Jersey.

Other big winners in the comedy series categories for NBC were Helen Hunt of "Mad About You," who won as outstanding actress, and Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier," who won as outstanding actor. David Hyde Pierce, also of "Frasier," won as best supporting actor in a comedy, while Lisa Kudrow, of "Friends," won as best supporting actress. "Frasier" also won as outstanding comedy series for a record fifth consecutive time.

The success of all three sitcoms is crucial to NBC maintaining its ratings lead, with "Frasier" moving to Thursdays to replace the departed "Seinfeld" and "Mad About You" expected to hold down the fort on Tuesdays.

ABC enjoyed some success last night with David E. Kelley's "The Practice" winning as best drama and Steven Bochco's "NYPD Blue" taking home several key Emmys. "NYPD Blue" won for best supporting actor (Gordon Clapp), best writing in a drama series (David Milch) and best directing in a drama series (Paris Barclay). Even Bochco's failed "Brooklyn South" won a major Emmy, as Mark Tinker tied Barclay for best direction in a drama series for the "Brooklyn South" pilot last year.

The made-for-TV movie honors were dominated by cable channel TNT's "Wallace" and HBO's "Don King: Only in America." "Wallace" won for best director (John Frankenheimer), best lead actor (Gary Sinise) and best supporting actress (Mare Winningham). "Don King" won for best writing (Kario Salem) and as best TV movie.

In addition to "Don King," HBO won two Emmys for "The Larry Sanders Show" and one for "Dennis Miller Live." Garry Shandling's Emmy for writing on "Larry Sanders" was his first. HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon," which was produced by Tom Hanks, won as outstanding miniseries.

The biggest losers were "Ally McBeal," the most popular new series of the year, and "Seinfeld," which ended its run in May. Neither won a major Emmy.

In four hours, there was no shortage of best and worst moments -- mainly worsts.

The best acceptance speeches: "I also want to thank the people of Baltimore, because I once worked there, too," Grammer said, mimicking Braugher. Camryn Manheim of "The Practice," who won for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, said, "This is for all the fat girls." Louis V. Horvitz, who won for best direction in a variety or music special, was directing last night's Emmy telecast and, sitting in his director's chair, called camera shots and cued music as he delivered his own acceptance speech. A clever bit of on-stage/backstage deconstruction.

The funniest video clip: In a night of mainly tedious clips, a five-second snippet of a monkey washing a cat took the honors. It came from "The Late Show With David Letterman," which won as outstanding variety, music or comedy series. Dave sent the monkey clip in lieu of the requisite head shots of him and the other writers nominated for writing for a variety or music program.

Most self-important windbag speech: NBC anchor Tom Brokaw saying, "We're not perfect, those of us who bring you the world through that electronic window." Did he actually call television his "yellow brick road"? Yes, he did.

Worst standing feature: The quiz segments that were sometimes used as the telecast went to commercials.

Worst montage in a night of endless packages of montage tributes to television's 50 years: The cut that took us from the body of a slain Bobby Kennedy to Sally Field as the Flying Nun. Sorry, hard as I try to be postmodern, the logic of that one escapes me.

50th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Winners of the 1998 Primetime Emmy Awards:

Drama series: "The Practice," ABC

Comedy series: "Frasier," NBC

Miniseries: "From the Earth to the Moon," HBO

Actress, drama series: Christine Lahti, "Chicago Hope," CBS

Actor, drama series: Andre Braugher, "Homicide: Life on the Street," NBC

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