- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

Even with a new host and a somewhat new format, many of the winners at the 61st annual Emmy Awards on Sunday night were the same as last year.

NBC’s “30 Rock,” the fast-paced comedy about a “Saturday Night Live”-type show, won the Emmy for best comedy series, its third straight victory, while “Mad Men,” the darkly realistic AMC drama set in the early 1960s, won for best drama a second time.

“We worked very hard for the show to not stink the second year, and we’re very proud to be here,” said “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner. “We work so hard, and I am glad the show finally got its recognition.”

Repeat acting winners included “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin (lead actor in a comedy), Glenn Close of FX’s “Damages” (lead actress in a drama) and Bryan Cranston of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (lead actor in a drama).

” ‘Breaking Bad’ is about a good man who has made bad decisions,” Mr. Cranston said. “I stand before you a humbled man, grateful for the award the academy has bestowed on me tonight.”

“30 Rock” was nominated for a record 22 Emmys. Show creator Tina Fey, last year’s best actress in a comedy winner, lost to Toni Collette (Showtime’s “The United States of Tara”) this time.

RELATED STORY: Complete Emmy winners list

Miss Close earned her second consecutive best lead actress in a drama award for her show, which airs on basic cable’s FX. She led a field of nominees heavy on actresses in cable series, including Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”), Kyra Sedgwick (TNT’s “The Closer”), Holly Hunter (“Saving Grace,” also on TNT), Sally Field (ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters”) and Mariska Hargitay (NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”).

Network shows earned nods in the best supporting actor and actress categories, with wins for Michael Emerson (ABC’s “Lost”) and Cherry Jones (Fox’s “24”), respectively.

Other comedy winners were supporting actors Kristin Chenoweth (of ABC’s now-canceled “Pushing Daisies”) and Jon Cryer (CBS’ “Two and a Half Men”).

The critically acclaimed HBO movie “Grey Gardens,” about an eccentric mother and daughter in a falling-down Long Island mansion, earned the award for best television movie, as well as best actress in a miniseries or movie for Jessica Lange and a supporting actor award for Ken Howard.

“This part was a gift, and they don’t come around for me that often anymore, so I am thrilled,” said Miss Lange, who thanked her co-star, Drew Barrymore, who was nominated in the same category. She said Miss Barrymore had “extraordinary talent, brilliance, determination and great heart.

CBS’ “The Amazing Race” won its seventh-consecutive Emmy for best reality show.

The Emmys, which suffered its lowest ratings in 2008, returned for 2009 with a new format and a new host. Neil Patrick Harris, star of CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” showcased his hosting chops at the Tony Awards earlier this year. He sang and danced in a white tuxedo at the Emmys, and was witty when introducing presenters by mentioning their early and forgettable TV appearances.

For the first time, the show was divided into five themed sections, with all comedy awards being given upfront, rather than being interwoven throughout the show. Followed were presentations for reality, miniseries, variety and talk - and finally, the awards for best shows in comedy and drama.

Miss Chenoweth, who was nominated in the same category last year, was moved to tears in her acceptance speech.

“I’m unemployed now, so I would like to be on ‘Mad Men,’ ” she said. “I also like ‘The Office’ and ‘24.’ Thank you to the academy for recognizing a show that is no longer on the air.”

The one-host format also represented a return to basics for the Emmys, which were hosted by a team of five reality-show hosts last year. The nominated shows also broke ground. Five of the seven best drama nominees were cable productions: “Big Love” (HBO), “Breaking Bad” (AMC), “Mad Men” (AMC), “Dexter” (Showtime) and “Damages” (FX). The others were “House” (Fox) and “Lost” (ABC).

Fox’s “Family Guy” was the first animated series to be nominated in the best comedy category since “The Flintstones” in 1961. Other nominees for Best Comedy: “Entourage” (HBO), “Flight of the Conchords” (HBO), “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS), “The Office” (NBC) and “Weeds” (Showtime).

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