Winged Victory

With a lift from 'Angels in America,' HBO soars at last night's Emmys.

56th Annual Emmy Awards

September 20, 2004|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Angels in America, an epic six-hour drama about AIDS in Ronald Reagan's America, picked up 11 Emmy awards last night as HBO asserted its dominance as the home for daring and quality television.

The haul ties Eleanor and Franklin, a 1976 TV movie, for the most Emmys won by a show in a single season - cementing Angels' place as a historic television event and a groundbreaking movie.

The miniseries based on Tony Kush- ner's award-winning play swept the acting awards for a miniseries or movie - with awards going to heavyweights Al Pacino and Meryl Streep - as well as winning Emmys for writing and directing. No miniseries or movie has won so many awards since 1977, when Roots took home nine awards.

Angels director Mike Nichols, who won an Emmy and a standing ovation for his work, singled out HBO as the driving force behind the movie's success. "You know about these great actors and you know about Kushner, from whom all blessings flow," Nichols said. "This couldn't have happened without HBO and we are very happy."

It was HBO's night. Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon won the awards for lead actress and supporting actress in a comedy. Meanwhile, The Sopranos won for best drama and the show's Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo won the supporting actor and supporting actress awards for a drama.

"This is a great punctuation to the end of a long sentence, and I mean a really good sentence," said Parker, who finally won the Emmy in her sixth nomination as the Sex and the City heroine. The show ended its run this year. "This is really well worth the wait and a glorious finish to what was the journey of a lifetime."

Something the Lord Made, an HBO film about the friendship between a Johns Hopkins surgeon and his African-American assistant, won the Emmy for best television movie.

HBO at least left one category to the broadcast networks - reality series. CBS' The Amazing Race won the Emmy in that category for the second year, beating out Donald Trump and his popular The Apprentice. The Donald was in attendance at the awards show last night, but his reaction was, sadly, not broadcast.

The academy also recognized Fox's off-beat comedy Arrested Development, giving the show awards for best comedy, as well as writing and directing. And NBC's Frasier, which ended its 11-year run last season, picked up awards for Kelsey Grammer as best actor and David Hyde Pierce as supporting actor.

Elaine Stritch, 79, won the Emmy for outstanding performance in a variety, music or comedy show for the HBO special Elaine Stritch at Liberty, a musical memoir of her six decades in entertainment. She acted last night as if she had reached the pinnacle.

"Look at the company I'm in. Look at it!" she said. "And I'm so glad none of them won. I won, and I can hardly take a compliment. I've got a problem. But tonight, be my guest. I am so happy to have won this award."

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart picked up its second consecutive awards for writing and for outstanding variety, music or comedy program. True to form, Stewart injected some sharp political humor in a program that restricted many of its jokes to the television industry. Stewart introduced a sketch that raised questions about George Washington's military service, a none-too-subtle mockery of those who are questioning John Kerry's war record.

"This presidential campaign has been incredibly negative," Stewart said. "Both candidates have been attacked for their Vietnam service - Bush for not defending Texas well enough against Arkansas and Kerry for not being wounded enough."

Jeffrey Wright, who won the Emmy for supporting actor in a movie or miniseries for his role as the nurse Belize in Angels, said, "We're all nominated because we all had this material that was about the interconnectedness of all of our lives, so when one of us stands here, we all stand here."

He went on to talk about how, since Angels first debuted on stage in 1990, AIDS has been transformed from a syndrome that mainly affects gay men to one that is increasingly menacing the African-American community - an important public health statement that was unfortunately partially drowned out as the music swelled to indicate Wright's time was up.

His Angels co-star Mary-Louise Parker, who won the supporting actress award over such favorites as Julie Andrews and Angela Lansbury, also credited the writing and the roles as key to the actors' success. She also mentioned director Mike Nichols, noting he could "get a great performance out of a quiche."

Angels in America also won the Emmys for art direction, casting, makeup and single-camera sound mixing.

Kushner, who won the writing Emmy for the Angels screenplay, said in an interview Saturday that the movie's wins reflect how "cable has changed everything." He said he wouldn't have considered taking Angels to a broadcast network because he would have been forced to dilute the material so as not to upset advertisers. HBO does not have such concerns, he said.

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