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‘Er,’ ‘Frasier’ Win Top Emmys

Picks range from predictable to weird From wire reports PASADENA, Calif. “ER,” NBC’s powerful medical drama, and the network’s “Frasier” won top series awards at Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards, although the shows’ actors were shut out.

John Lithgow (“3rd Rock From the Sun”) was everybody’s choice as best lead actor in a comedy series. Helen Hunt (NBC’s “Mad About You”) was named best lead actress in a comedy series. She thanked five-time winner Candice Bergen “for her generosity of spirit.” Bergen chose not to enter the competition this year.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was named best supporting actress in a comedy, on her fifth try from “Seinfeld.” It was a mild upset over “Cybill’s” Christine Baranski. Tearful in tight lime-green lame that covered a lot more of her than last year’s dress, she thanked her parents for producing her.

Dennis Franz took his second Emmy for the role of Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue,” besting Andre Braugher from “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

There were some justifiable surprises, the first so huge that the show’s announcer, full of nomination facts and figures for almost every award, was left speechless:

Rip Torn, the irascible producer Artie on HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” was given the program’s first Emmy - after 30 nominations in four years. It was also the veteran actor’s first Emmy, after six nominations.

Hellen Mirren was named outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or special for her third try as “Prime Suspect’s” Inspector Jane Tennison on PBS.

“The X-Files” (Fox) garnered a surprising five Emmys, including four presented Saturday. NBC’s ratings blockbuster miniseries “Gulliver’s Travels” also won five Emmys.

NBC led the networks with 20 Emmys, followed by HBO (14), ABC (12), CBS (11) and Fox, with its five for “Files.” HBO won big for movies: “Rasputin,” “The Tuskegee Airmen” and “Truman.” Nary a broadcast network movie won a prize.

But the program was full of selections that made no sense.

Tyne Daly, seen by almost no one as a straight-backed Quaker lady in the last gasps of “Christy,” became the most-Emmy-laden dramatic actress in history. Julianna Margulies (“ER”), Gail O’Grady and Sharon Lawrence (“NYPD Blue”) and Barbara Bosson (“Murder One”) were ignored.

Kathy Baker won her third Emmy as best actress in a drama for “Picket Fences,” an inexplicable Emmy favorite. She beat Christine Lahti (“Chicago Hope”), Sherry Stringfield (“ER”), Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) and Angela Lansbury, still shut out after 16 nominations, 12 for the now defunct “Murder, She Wrote.”

“Well, this wasn’t supposed to happen again,” Baker said. She got that right.

Ray Walston of “Fences” won for the second year in a row as best supporting actor in a drama series. “Murder One’s” Stanley Tucci, who provided one of the best TV acting turns in recent history, was left behind, along with three other deserving actors.

Alan Rickman (HBO’s “Rasputin”) was as flabbergasted as everyone else when he was given the Emmy as best actor in a miniseries or special, beating Alec Baldwin, Laurence Fishburne, Beau Bridges and Gary Sinese.

Backed by sappy music that would spring up throughout the show, Oprah Winfrey, with a piece of glitter on her chin, opened the plodding proceedings, sl-o-w-l-y introducing a medley of old TV theme songs accompanied by clips.

The orchestra at the Pasadena Civic Center didn’t have a clue about the tune from “Cheers,” and it didn’t have the right space-cadet equipment to do “The X-Files.” But things went swimmingly the rest of the way, with a medley of old theme songs accompanied by clips from more than 25 favorites across the board: “My Three Sons” to “MASH,” “Dragnet” to “Dallas.”

Even though it rhymed with her own name, “Chicago Hope’s” Christine Lahti couldn’t even pronounce the name of the woman who won the Emmy for best actress in a miniseries. It was Greta Scacchi’s, in HBO’s “Rasputin.”

And legend Milton Berle, invoking memories of “Oprah … Uma,” got Winfrey’s name wrong. But at least he got an old folks’ pun out of it: “I’m having trouble with my vowels.”

Host Paul Reiser called Alfre Woodard, “Alfred.” She presented the award for best miniseries to her own show, “Gulliver’s Travels.”

The Emmys show, on the 50th anniversary of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which gives out the prizes, was designed to invoke nostalgia with montages of clips from past shows.

The “family” montage was inoffensive, if strangely chosen, including “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Picket Fences.”

But what was producer Dick Clark thinking when he slipped in a sitcom examination of sex at 8:40 p.m.? It included “Seinfeld’s” George Constanza lamenting that his parents had caught him masturbating; “Married … With Children’s” Kelly Bundy talking about ovulation cramps with her dad, and Rachel and Monica of “Friends” choosing to see who would get the last condom in the apartment.

Sitcom clips supporting some of the nominees demonstrated the sad state of a lot of TV comedy, focusing on breasts, male genitalia, a gynecological examination table, tongue kissing and the breaking of Roseanne’s water.


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