Old standards are gold standards
"Raymond" wins, as do Shatner, Newman, Alexander and Danner. ABC's hits also score.
Patricia Heaton plants one on costar Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond. The show, which ended a nine-year run in May, won for best comedy; Doris Roberts, left, and Brad Garrett, top right, won for supporting roles. (Wally Skalij / LAT)
Television viewers heard the ring of familiar names throughout the evening, as voters dispensed awards to the likes of Jane Alexander, Blythe Danner, William Shatner and Paul Newman as well as repeat winners such as Doris Roberts and James Spader.
"Lost," the ensemble drama about a group of plane-crash survivors on a mysterious Pacific island, won for best drama series, as well as for direction. Felicity Huffman won for best actress in a comedy for her role in "Desperate Housewives," but the show, a fan favorite, was upset in the best comedy series category by CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond," which ended its nine-year-run in May.
After winning the award, "Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal joked, "It's nice to remember the elderly. Thanks. We're grateful and shocked." "Raymond" cast members Roberts and Brad Garrett picked up their fourth and third respective Emmys for their supporting work.
ABC's performance was astonishing, given that the network was considered creatively moribund only one year ago, with "Monday Night Football" its highest-rated program. Including last week's Creative Arts awards, ABC earned 16 Emmys, second only to perennial Emmy leader HBO, which won 27. In perhaps the most closely watched race, Huffman of "Housewives" vaulted past her more glamorous co-stars, Teri Hatcher and Marcia Cross.
HBO took an early lead at the ceremony, telecast from the Shrine Auditorium on CBS and hosted by daytime TV host Ellen DeGeneres for the first time since the twice-delayed post-9/11 broadcast in 2001. The premium cable network's original biopics "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" and "Warm Springs," about Franklin D. Roosevelt's battle with polio, each won multiple prizes.
But with critical favorite "The Sopranos" taking a hiatus this year and therefore ineligible for Emmy consideration, HBO found itself in a weaker position than years past. The network's best series performance came from its dark, revisionist western "Deadwood," which netted five technical awards.
But "Deadwood" was not able to surge in the major categories. Actor Ian McShane, who previously won a Golden Globe award for his critically acclaimed performance as the foul-mouthed, ruthless saloon keeper Al Swearengen, lost out to Spader, who plays the ethically challenged attorney Alan Shore on ABC's "Boston Legal." Spader won last year for playing the same character on the network's series "The Practice." Spader's co-star Shatner also won his second Emmy in a row for his role as the eccentric attorney Denny Crane.
HBO did much better in the long-form Emmy categories, thanks to its heavy investment in the format, which used to be dominated by broadcast network movies-of-the-week.
Oscar-winning Australian actor Geoffrey Rush ("Shine") won his first Emmy for playing Sellers, the tormented comic actor known for his roles in "Dr. Strangelove" and as Inspector Clouseau in the "Pink Panther" comedies. Rush earlier won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his performance.
Stephen Hopkins of "Sellers" also won for best direction of a miniseries or movie. And writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely won for their "Sellers" script.
"Warm Springs" was named best made-for-TV movie, and veteran actress Alexander picked up the supporting actress award for her role as Roosevelt's mother. Alexander was nominated 28 years ago for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in the TV miniseries "Eleanor and Franklin."
On Sunday, Alexander paid onstage tribute to the Roosevelts: "They were great leaders at a time when our nation needed great leaders."
HBO's star-laden miniseries "Empire Falls" also earned an outstanding supporting actor Emmy for Newman, the 80-year-old movie icon. Following his longtime habit, Newman did not attend the awards.
"Law & Order" regular S. Epatha Merkerson won her first Emmy for best actress in a miniseries or movie for HBO's "Lackawanna Blues." Merkerson ran to the stage tugging at her decolletage. "I actually wrote something ... and it went down [my dress] and I can't get it," the embarrassed actress told the crowd.
In addition to Huffman, "Housewives" took a prize for Charles MacDougall's direction of the pilot. But the comedy writing prize went, for the second year, to Fox's "Arrested Development," which has struggled in the ratings despite winning the best comedy statuette last year.
Another repeat winner, this time in the comedy acting category, was Tony Shalhoub, who took home his second Emmy for the title role as an obsessive-compulsive detective in USA's "Monk." Addressing his rivals from the stage, Shalhoub joked: "There's always a next year ... except for Ray Romano."
More surprising was Patricia Arquette's victory for best drama actress in NBC's midseason sleeper "Medium." Playing a woman who helps authorities solve crimes by communing with the dead, Arquette faced difficult competition, including Glenn Close in "The Shield," Frances Conroy in "Six Feet Under" and Jennifer Garner in "Alias."
Emmy voters gave a nod to "House," the Fox medical drama that became a surprise hit last winter when it followed "American Idol." David Shore won a writing award for the series, thanking title actor Hugh Laurie "for making me look like a better writer than I am."
For the third year in a row, CBS' "The Amazing Race" blazed past its unscripted rivals, this time in the reality competition category.
"The Lost Prince," a historical drama that ran on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre," won for best miniseries. The last time "Masterpiece Theatre" won in the category was eight years ago, for "Prime Suspect 5."
The Emmy telecast contained a few references to the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. But often the show stressed the silly, including a send-up of "American Idol" that featured some unlikely singers belting out renditions of classic TV tunes, including an overall-clad Donald Trump and "Will & Grace's" Megan Mullally performing the theme from the 1960s sitcom "Green Acres." Shatner also joined mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade to sing the theme from "Star Trek," the '60s sci-fi series that made Shatner a household name.
But the few political references did stand out. Veteran actress Danner, winning her first Emmy for a supporting role in Showtime's drama "Huff," paid tribute to her late husband, producer-director Bruce Paltrow, saying, "I know Bruce would want me to pay tribute to New Orleans, his favorite city, and all the Gulf Coast and our kids in Iraq. Let's get the heck out of there."
Several presenters and winners also wore magnolias on their lapels and couture gowns in support of the victims of the hurricane.
Jon Stewart — whose "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central won for writing and for best variety, music or comedy program — got one of the biggest crowd reactions with a bit that criticized government officials for their response to Hurricane Katrina but censored out the many presumed expletives and insults.
"When I first said that I wanted to put together a late-night comedy writing team that would only be 80% Ivy League-educated Jews, people thought I was crazy," Stewart joked on accepting the writing prize. "They said you need 90%, 95%, but we proved them wrong."
The ceremony often took a somber turn, as when a surprisingly subdued David Letterman turned up to pay tribute to his longtime idol Johnny Carson, the former "Tonight Show" host who died in January.
Tom Brokaw, former anchor of "NBC Nightly News," and Dan Rather, who retired this year as anchor of "CBS Evening News," received a standing ovation from the crowd and paid tribute to "ABC World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings, who died Aug. 7.