Toni Collette, who plays a mother with multiple personalities on Showtime’s “United States of Tara,” was honored as best actress in a comedy series at Sunday’s Emmy Awards.
“Wow, this is insanely confronting,” said a beaming Collette. She thanked series creator Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Juno.”
Collette’s victory deprived Tina Fey of “30 Rock” of winning a second consecutive award in the category. But Fey took the stage a few moments later to acknowledge a guest actor award she received for her Sarah Palin impersonation on “Saturday Night Live.”
Kristin Chenoweth won the best supporting comedy actress Emmy Award on Sunday for the canceled series “Pushing Daisies” and made the most of her moment in the spotlight.
“I’m not employed now so I’d like to be on `Mad Men.’ I also like `The Office’ and `24,'” said Chenoweth, alternating between tears and smiles. “Thank you so much to the academy for recognizing a show that’s no longer on the air.”
Host Neil Patrick Harris started the evening on a lively note, performing “Don’t Touch That Remote,” a custom-made tune from Broadway composers Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman of “Hairspray” fame. Harris implored viewers to stay glued to the show and called attention to some of the stars in the house.
“I see legends galore, Lange, Barrymore,” Harris sang to Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, later adding, “But like next season on `Idol’ I’m not seeing Paula Abdul.” Meanwhile, the camera panned to an empty seat at the Nokia Theatre.
The red carpet brought out the stars for an Emmy program that offered “Mad Men” a chance to repeat history and gave “Family Guy” an opportunity to make it.
Sandra Oh of “Grey’s Anatomy” thrilled bleacher fans as she walked the carpet in a long gold gown with rhinestones, while a pregnant Heidi Klum of “Project Runway” wore black.
Cheers also went up for Tony Shalhoub, Omar Epps, Bob Newhart and Christina Hendricks.
The first basic cable show to win a top series honor, “Mad Men” had the chance for a second consecutive best-drama trophy. Potential trailblazer “Family Guy” was the first animated series to vie for the best comedy award since a 1961 bid by “The Flintstones.”
The Fox show was up against last year’s winner, actress-writer Tina Fey’s “30 Rock,” trying for its third consecutive award in the category. Fey and co-star Alec Baldwin had a chance to repeat as best comedy series leads.
The TV academy, meanwhile, hoped to avoid an unwanted rerun at the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards: paltry viewership. The 2008 ceremony was the least-watched ever with an audience of 12.3 million.
Acclaimed but low-rated series like AMC’s retro 1960s show “Mad Men” are seen as one reason viewers bypassed the awards, so major categories were expanded to increase the odds for more popular fare. There were as many as seven nominees per category, compared with the traditional five.
Rising network star Jim Parsons of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” made the cut for best comedy series actor, but niche premium cable shows including HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” and Showtime’s “Weeds” grabbed a hefty share of nods.
TV’s most-watched comedy, CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” failed to score a best series bid, although stars Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer were up for awards.
Fox’s “American Idol,” the most-watched show, tries to earn its first reality competition show Emmy against dominant winner CBS’ “The Amazing Race.”
Harris and Emmy executive producer Don Mischer promised to keep the scheduled three-hour ceremony snappy, but they had less room to maneuver than planned. A TV academy proposal to pre-tape some acceptances and show them in a truncated version _ gaining time for something more entertaining than speeches _ was quashed by industry opposition.
Harris also was a supporting actor nominee for “How I Met Your Mother.” Others competing for Emmy gold included Bryan Cranston of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and Glenn Close of FX’s “Damages,” the 2008 winners for best drama series leads.
“Mad Men” stars Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss were among their competition.
HBO went into the ceremony as the awards leader after last weekend’s Creative Arts Primetime Emmys ceremony for technical and other achievements. The channel earned 16 trophies, followed by NBC with 11 and Fox and ABC with eight awards each. CBS, PBS and Cartoon Network had six each.
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