Emmy glory brings about the Winslett Gush (again)

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I t was a night to remember for British television. And when this year's Emmy awards were handed-out, before a packed Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles and a live audience of 12.5 million admiring Americans, two very distinct sorts of Englishness could be observed onstage.

In one camp, sat the stars of Downton Abbey, the country house drama which won four major prizes on the night, including Best Miniseries or Movie and Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Dame Maggie Smith. The show's creator, Julian Fellowes, displayed the very model of a stiff upper lip when he added a screenwriting award to that haul.

In the opposite camp, well, there was Kate Winslet. Projecting the now-familiar exuberance with which she salutes an addition to her trophy cabinet, the Oscar-winning actress punched the air, hugged a slew of colleagues and struggled to hold back the tears, when it was announced that she had picked-up the Best Actress award for her lead role in the HBO mini series Mildred Pierce.

"Oh look, I really did win it. Oh gosh, okay. Thank you so much! I didn't think we were going to win anything," she declared, before dedicating the prize to her mother.

"It doesn't matter how old you are, or what you do in your life, you never stop needing your mum. And I will never stop needing mine. So thanks, mum. Thank you so much!"

The speech added to Winslet's reputation for unrestrained victory celebrations, which made headlines at last year's Oscar and Golden Globe ceremonies. And it led to an outpouring of hilarity among more cynical viewers, who briefly turned her name into a "trending topic" on Twitter.

Some commentators wondered why the actress tried to claim that the victory came as a surprise, given that she was odds-on favourite to win for her portrayal of a single mother in post-Depression Los Angeles. Others wondered unkindly about the provenance of her Cockney accent, noting that she was brought-up in prosperous Berkshire.

The woman herself reacted with understandable irritation when the issue was raised in the press room shortly afterwards.

"I was truly, extremely unprepared and I didn't think I would win at all," she declared. "It just comes out the way it comes out. There's not a huge amount you can do about it."

No such explaining was required of the team behind Downton Abbey, which has become as lucrative a hit in the US as it already is in the UK. The ITV1 series, set in an Edwardian country house, recently began its second series and a third has already been commissioned.

Fellowes, who was plucked from obscurity when he won an Oscar for Gosford Park in 2002, called the success of the well-made period drama a "David and Goliath story" and said it seemed "perfectly extraordinary" to have won.

"I would like to thank you, the American industry. Ten years ago, you kick-started my second career with an Oscar; tonight you have nurtured it."

Other big winners at Sunday's Emmys, which is to American television what the Academy Awards is to its movie business, included Modern Family, which won five major awards, including Best Comedy, and Mad Men, which was named Best Drama for the fourth consecutive year.

The evening wasn't without a note of controversy, however.

Hours before kick-off, a pre-recorded monologue by actor Alec Baldwin, the star of nominated show 30 Rock, was abruptly censored at the behest of the Fox network.

Executives at the network objected to a joke in which Baldwin interrupted a phone conversation to ask: "Is that you, Rupert?" The gag was intended as a reference to the phone-hacking scandal dogging the network's owner, Rupert Murdoch.

After learning that the joke had been cut, Baldwin demanded that his entire segment be removed. He did not attend the show.

In a statement, the broadcaster said: "We take the phone-hacking allegations seriously and do not want to be seen [to be] making jokes about them."