Late-bloomer '24' caps recent ratings boon with big Emmy wins

Monday, August 28th 2006, 6:36 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kiefer Sutherland always comes through in the end on "24.'' After years of being snubbed, the actor and series were finally victorious at the Emmy Awards, too.

The Fox show won for drama series at the Sunday night ceremony and Sutherland earned his first trophy as best actor in a drama series for playing counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer.

Other drama awards went to Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' and Andre Braugher for "Thief.'' Tony Shalhoub of "Monk'' and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "The New Adventures of Old Christine'' won comedy statues. The best comedy was "The Office'' and "The Amazing Race'' won as best reality competition show.

It took five seasons for "24'' to be rewarded in the major Emmy categories. The show also collected a directing Emmy.

"Every once in a while you'll have an evening that just reminds you that you're given too much, and this is that evening,'' Sutherland said. "This experience that has been "24" has been nothing short of remarkable for me.''

The show's recent ratings boon, anchored by a loyal, cult like fan base, has helped spawn a spate of thrillers and mysteries on the broadcast networks' upcoming fall schedules.

They borrow heavily from the exciting escapades Sutherland's character endures during one dangerous day each season. Among the newcomers are: "Kidnapped,'' "Vanished,'' "Standoff'' and "Runaway.''

Another slow starter, NBC's "The Office,'' won for its satire about cubicle life after almost getting a pink slip in its first season.

Its star, Steve Carell, lost to Shalhoub, but Carell doesn't need the hardware, though, having become a critically acclaimed movie star in the hit comedies "The 40 Year Old Virgin'' and "Little Miss Sunshine.''

The sexy medical drama "Grey's Anatomy,'' an Emmy nomination front runner, was shut out. Ditto for "Lost,'' last year's best drama.

Rule changes for the Emmy nominations created significant snubs among other favorites Hugh Laurie of "House,'' Edie Falco and James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos,'' the stars of "Desperate Housewives'' and the cast of "Lost.''

But the changes may have cleared the way for some fresh faces in the winners' parade, including Louis-Dreyfus for the freshman comedy "The New Adventures of Old Christine.''

"Well, I'm not somebody who really believes in curses, but curse this, baby,'' Louis-Dreyfus said, hoisting her trophy and making a veiled reference to the so called "Seinfeld curse'' that kept its stars from launching successful new series on three different occasions.

"It's very hard in television right now,'' said Louis-Dreyfus, whose first solo sitcom failed. "Getting a show on the air and getting it to stick is a bigger challenge than ever.''

Sunday's slate of winners started predictably enough, with Shalhoub winning his third acting trophy for "Monk'' and Megan Mullally honored a second time as supporting comedy actress for "Will & Grace,'' now off the air after eight seasons.

Departed series "The West Wing'' and "Huff'' also picked up wins.

Alan Alda's supporting actor trophy was the 26th Emmy for "The West Wing,'' a drama series record. The show about life in the White House was canceled after seven seasons.

Second-time host Conan O'Brien kept the Emmy ceremony lively with a series of inventive comedy bits, including an ongoing gag that had Bob Newhart's life threatened if the show ran longer than its scheduled three hours.

It didn't.

O'Brien advised winners to keep their acceptance speeches short, avoid heavy handed political comments and "don't say, "Wow, this is heavy,'' he said. "Of course, it's heavy. It contains the shattered dreams of four other people.''

O'Brien needled his employer, NBC, in a song and dance number that mocked the network's fallen ratings since its glory days with "Seinfeld,'' "Frasier'' and "Friends.''

"He took us on,'' NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker told reporters after the show. "That's OK.''

Not OK to some was O'Brien's opening gag, a filmed comedy bit in which O'Brien was seen sipping champagne aboard a jetliner. "What could possibly go wrong tonight?'' he says before the plane crashes onto an island resembling the one in ABC's drama.

The sequence prompted criticism that it was in bad taste following the fiery crash of a commuter jet earlier in the day in Lexington. Kentycky, that killed 49 people. General Manager Tom Gilbert of the NBC affiliate in Lexington was reportedly "stunned'' and "horrified'' when the live sequence aired on his station.

Emmy show executive producer Ken Ehrlich declined comment when asked about the criticism.

The Emmy show honored producer/host Dick Clark of "American Bandstand'' fame, who has been recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2004.

"I have accomplished my childhood dream, to be in show business. Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true. I've been truly blessed,'' said Clark, his speech still slurred. He spoke while seated behind a podium on stage.

Barry Manilow serenaded Clark with the show's bouncy theme song.

Aaron Spelling, the prolific producer who died in June at 83, was paid a tearful tribute by former "Charlie's Angels'' stars Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson.

HBO emerged with the most Emmys 26, including the awards given out at last week's Creative Arts ceremony for technical and other achievements.

NBC got a shot in the arm with its cumulative 14 awards, the most for any broadcast network. ABC won 11 Emmys, while Fox picked up 10, including its first best drama series trophy. CBS had a total of 10, followed by PBS with nine.