HBO sweeps Emmys, but upstart AMC grabs top prize

Mon Sep 22, 2008 2:04am EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - HBO swept the prime-time Emmys on Sunday, consolidating its reputation as a powerhouse of U.S. television by winning 26 trophies, thanks mostly to the historical mini-series "John Adams" and the modern political movie "Recount."

But despite taking more Emmys than any network, HBO was omitted for the first time in a decade from the prestigious race for best drama series, which went to upstart cable channel AMC with "Mad Men."

"Mad Men" -- a slow-burning drama set in a New York advertising agency just before the social revolution of the mid-1960s -- made AMC the first basic cable show to win the top drama honors on U.S. television's biggest night.

Despite an audience of less than 2 million per episode, the network finished the night with eight Emmys in all, including best writing for a drama for "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner and a surprise win for Bryan Cranston as lead actor in a drama for his role as a chemistry teacher with lung cancer in "Breaking Bad."

Weiner said backstage he was surprised to learn that "Mad Men's" victory was an historic first for basic cable, which are channels included in basic packages that do not require paying premiums.

"I though it was about quality," Weiner said of the Emmy Awards. "We are glad we were not prejudiced against because we were on basic cable. I don't know why there is a distinction," Weiner said.

Further evidence of basic cable's breakthrough in original drama series came with three Emmys for the FX channel.

Glenn Close won the trophy for best actress in a drama for playing a brilliant but ruthless lawyer in "Damages," while co-star Zeljko Ivanek took the Emmy for best supporting actor on the show.   Continued...

<p>The producers and cast of "Mad Men" pose after winning for Outstanding Drama Series at the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 21, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>