20 years ago at the Emmys: This lead actor blew a raspberry in his acceptance speech

Tony Shalhoub hoists his Emmy Award onstage at the 2003 ceremony.
In 2003 Tony Shalhoub won his first Emmy, for the title role in USA Network’s “Monk,” a first for the cable channel.
(Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic)

No one can know who’ll come out on top at the 2023 Emmy Awards — you know, the ones actually being held in 2024 due to the strikes — at least, not until the envelopes are opened. But until then, we can always look at where the Emmys have been — specifically, 20 years ago. Turns out that 2003’s Emmy wins and nominees were both familiar (one outlet commented at the time on how they looked a lot like the previous year’s) and harbingers of the future, as cable channels beyond HBO began to make big category inroads. So, let’s take a backward glance …


USA breakthrough: For the first time, the comedy lead actor award was handed to someone from a show not part of the Big Three broadcast networks (Fox shows didn’t have one either), going to Tony Shalhoub for his performance as Adrian Monk in “Monk.” It was the first acting win for USA (Network), and Shalhoub’s first Emmy nomination. He’d go on to pick up two more Emmys for the role in 2005 and 2006, and dedicated the award to his nephew Greg, who’d died earlier that week.


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Shalhoub beat out Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), who earned the first of his six lead acting nominations as “Larry David” for the HBO series, and who already had a raft of writing and producing awards; Matt LeBlanc, on his second of three acting nominations for “Friends” (NBC) as Joey Tribbiani; Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”), who won in 2001 for playing Will Truman and ultimately would have three more nominations for the NBC show; Ray Romano, who won in 2002 for playing Ray Barone in “Everybody Loves Raymond” (CBS); and Bernie Mac, the only Black actor nominated in any category that year, who earned his second and final Emmy nomination for playing Bernie McCullough on “Bernie Mac” (Fox).


Bada bing: James Gandolfini scooped up his third and final drama actor award for playing Tony Soprano on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and delivered on a promise to his son while accepting the prize: He blew a raspberry into the mic. Gandolfini won out over Michael Chiklis, on his second and final nomination for “The Shield” (FX) as Vic Mackey; Peter Krause, on his second and final nomination for HBO’s “Six Feet Under” as Nate Fisher; Martin Sheen, on his fourth of six nominations for “The West Wing” (NBC) as Josiah Bartlet; and Kiefer Sutherland, on his second of seven nominations for the “24” (Fox) franchise. (He’d win the award once for the role, in 2006.)

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The one who knocks: The TV movie “Door to Door” had an excellent night overall — thanks to star William H. Macy, who earned his first two Emmys ever: First, he won a writing award (shared with Steven Schachter) for TNT’s based-on-a-true-story movie; moments later, he picked up his second for playing the movie’s Bill Porter, a door-to-door salesman grappling with cerebral palsy. “I am the luckiest palooka,” he said, and gave a shout-out to both mentor David Mamet and his wife, Felicity Huffman, in the audience.

The palooka outshone some big performances: “Everybody Loves Raymond’s” Brad Garrett, who played Jackie Gleason in CBS’ “Gleason”; Paul Newman as the Stage Manager in Showtime’s “Our Town”; Tom Wilkinson, playing Roy/Ruth Applewood in HBO’s “Normal”; and James Woods, as the title former mayor in USA’s “Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story” (USA).


Our BuzzMeter panel of veteran TV journalists predicts the winners in 14 categories of the 2023(?) Emmys. You can, too, in our weekly polls.

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