British stars dominate Emmy TV awards

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David Suchet declared an "unbelievable night for the Brits" as they monopolised the International Emmys in New York, picking up seven of the 10 awards on offer.

The 62-year-old Briton took home the best actor Emmy for his portrayal of Robert Maxwell in the biography series Maxwell, about the scandal-plagued final stages of the British media mogul's life.

And Lucy Cohu won the best actress honours for her role in the true-life drama Forgiven about a suburban housewife who reports her husband for sexually abusing their daughter but later decides to rebuild their lives together.

Speaking backstage at the ceremony at the New York Hilton Hotel today, Suchet said: "It's been an unbelievable night for the Brits.

I'm absolutely thrilled to bits, I can't believe it's really true.

"This is my first Emmy ever, and I can't tell you what it feels like to win for England because it's international, and to represent my acting community as well."

Referring to Maxwell, he added: "The fact that this should win is amazing, and I am still gobsmacked. Having won an award like this, it's the most extraordinary feeling and I am so very happy."

Cohu, 37, added "It was absolutely fantastic. I can't believe it."

Asked about Forgiven, she said: "This was such a small film - we shot it in two weeks with no money, it was a really important story so it's about that, the importance of something being recognised.

"This is the first award I've won. You don't do this for awards, but they do open doors."

The 36th International Emmy awards gala also saw the time-travelling detective show Life On Mars picked up its second International Emmy for best drama series. It first won the award in 2006.

The IT Crowd, which centres on the world of socially-awkward IT geeks working for a British corporation, received the Emmy in the comedy category.

The other British winners included Strictly Bolshoi (arts programming), the story of the first Englishman, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, to create an original work for Moscow's famed Bolshoi Ballet; Shaun the Sheep (children & young people), about a mischievous sheep who exasperates the sheepdog assigned to watch the flock; and The Beckoning Silence (documentary) depicting a mountaineer's tragic battle for survival on the Eiger in the Swiss Alps.

In the other awards, Sam Waterston, who has appeared as prosecutor Jack McCoy in more than 325 Law & Order episodes since 1994, presented the special International Emmy Founders Award to producer Dick Wolf whose shows are seen in their original or locally-produced versions in almost every corner of the world.

The controversial Dutch hoax-reality programme, The Big Donor Show, won the Emmy for non-scripted entertainment.

The programme sparked an outrage when the producers announced a terminally ill woman would decide on television which one of three patients in need of a transplant would receive her kidney.

But it later emerged it was a stunt intended to pressure the Dutch government to reform organ donation laws and the woman was not dying of a brain tumour.

Jordan's Al-Igtiyah (The Invasion), a love story about a Palestinian caught up in the chaos and destruction of the large-scale 2002 Israeli military incursion into the biggest West Bank cities, won the newly-established telenovela category and Argentina's Television por la identidad won in the TV movie/mini-series category.

The winners were chosen from among 40 nominees from 16 countries competing for International Emmys, honouring excellence in TV programming produced outside the United States, in 10 categories.

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