NBC appears to have parlayed its ratings dominance during the 2001-02 season into a big night at the 54th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards, winning 24 statuettes -- more than ABC, CBS, Fox, UPN and the WB combined.
"The West Wing" won for outstanding drama series, becoming the first three-peat winner in the category since "L.A. Law" (1989-91). The White House drama now has 22 Emmys -- tied with "All in the Family" for No. 7 on the all-time list -- and is now in position to become the first series to win four straight drama Emmys since "Hill Street Blues" turned the trick in 1981-84.
EMMY'S NEW FACES OF 2002
The TV Academy played some old favorites this year, but also reached out to extend several first-time honors.
While "The West Wing" was winning its third best drama series Emmy in as many years on the air, "Late Show with David Letterman" was taking home its fifth straight Emmy, and sixth overall, for outstanding music, comedy or variety series.
The list of winners was anything but old hat, however.
Going into its ninth, and probably final, season on NBC, "Friends" took its first Emmy for outstanding comedy series. Jennifer Aniston, who stars as Rachel on the show, won her first Emmy, for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.
After three straight nominations without a win, Ray Romano of "Everybody Loves Raymond" finally snagged an Emmy on his fourth try for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series.
Michael Chiklis, the winner for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for the FX cop show "The Shield," was answering questions for reporters backstage when some reporters admitted -- under their breath -- that they had never heard of him. For the record, Chiklis starred in the cop drama "The Commish," played John Belushi in the movie "Wired," and starred as Curly in a TV movie about The Three Stooges.
SPREADING THE WEALTH AT 'WEST WING'
Although "The West Wing" took the top Emmy, series star Martin Sheen is 0-for-3 in the best lead actor in a drama category, but three of his cast mates did all right Sunday.
Allison Janney earned a footnote in Emmy annals by winning for lead actress in a drama series. It was her third straight Emmy for playing White House aide C.J. Cregg, but only her first as a lead actress.
John Spencer and Stockard Channing continued the show's domination in the supporting actor and actress categories, winning for their performances as Leo McGarry and Abigail Bartlett -- and joining Janney, Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford as the only winners in the categories since the show has been on the air.
It was Channing's first Emmy, but not her last. She snagged another statuette later in the evening, for outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or movie, for her performance as Judy Shepard in "The Matthew Shepard Story" on NBC.
THE SYMMETRY OF EMMY
By the time former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced the winner of the Emmy for drama series, HBO's funeral home drama "Six Feet Under" had six awards to just three for "The West Wing," and even "West Wing" creator-producer Aaron Sorkin figured creator-producer Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under" was going to win the top prize.
He said so as he raised the statuette in the air at the Shrine Auditorium podium.
"Alan Ball and the guys from 'Six Feet Under,'" said Sorkin, "if I was half a man, I'd 'Ving Rhames' this thing right over to you, but I think we know that's not going to happen."
Rhames won a Golden Globe a few years back and insisted on turning it over to Jack Lemmon.
A major reason for thinking that "Six Feet Under" would win the top prize was the failure of Sorkin's show to win in the directing or writing categories -- prizes that usually go hand in hand with best series. "Six Feet Under" -- which wasn't even nominated for writing -- at least snagged a directing prize to go with the five Emmys it picked up at the creative and technical awards on Sept. 14.
"Friends" won the top comedy prize, also without benefit of a directing or writing Emmy to go with it.
HBO won the directing Emmys, for "Six Feet Under" and "Sex and the City." Fox won the writing awards, for "24" and "The Bernie Mac Show."
WHAT HE REALLY WANTS TO DO IS ACT
When former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani met with reporters backstage at the Emmys Sunday, he confessed to a secret ambition to act -- but not in just any old project.
Giuliani -- who presented the Emmy for outstanding drama series -- said his dream would be to act in a remake of "The Godfather."
He expressed relief that "The Sopranos" -- which did not appear in first-run during the 2001-02 season -- was not eligible in the best drama category.
"I was very thankful tonight that I didn't have to give this award against 'The Sopranos.'" Giuliani joked. "Because I would have gotten whacked."
GIBSON WILL MAKE 'JESUS' MOVIE
Mel Gibson has set a Nov. 4 start date for filming on his first feature directing project since "Braveheart," the 1995 epic that earned him a pair of Oscars for directing and producing.
Gibson told reporters in Rome last week that "The Passion," starring James Caviezel ("The Count of Monte Cristo," "Angel Eyes") as Jesus Christ, will be filmed in two languages -- Latin and Aramaic. Also, Gibson said he doesn't want to put the movie out with subtitles either.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to transcend language barriers with visual storytelling," he said. "If I fail, I'll put subtitles on it, though I don't want to."
Gibson said a movie filmed in "two dead languages" -- in which he has no plans to appear onscreen -- has not attracted the interest of a major distributor yet.
"They think I'm crazy, and maybe I am," he said. "But maybe I'm a genius."
Gibson said the movie would tell the story of the last 12 hours leading up to Jesus' crucifixion.
"I want to show the humanity of Christ as well as the divine aspect," he said "It's a rendering that for me is very realistic and as close as possible to what I perceive the truth to be."
'CSI' PRODUCERS STICK WITH A GOOD THING
Network brass at CBS and the producers of "CSI: Miami" have reportedly wrapped up a deal for the rights to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," for use as the theme music for the new fall series, a spinoff from the hit "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
The original "CSI" also uses a Who record -- "Who Are You" -- for its theme music.