Mirren crowned Queen of Emmys

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The Independent Online

British talent was the toast of the 58th Emmy Awards in Los Angeles as Dame Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons and Kelly Macdonald outshone their American rivals.

Plaudits showered in particular on the film The Girl in the Café featuring the Scottish actress Macdonald, and on the television mini-series made by Channel 4, Elizabeth I, which starred Dame Helen and Irons.

There was success also for the American version of The Office, which was named best comedy series, bringing the spotlight on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, his writing partner, who are co-producers of the series in the US, which airs on NBC.

American winners included Blythe Danner, the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, for the now-cancelled Huff, on the cable network Showtime, and Kiefer Sutherland, who was best actor in a drama series for his tenure as the federal agent Jack Bauer in the long-running drama 24.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, still remembered by fans as the co-star of the long-retired Seinfeld, won best actress in a comedy series for her quirky new seriesThe Old Adventures of New Christine. It marked a revival for the actress, whose other post-Seinfeld endeavours flopped. "I'm not somebody who really believes in curses," she joked, holding up her trophy. "But curse this, baby!"

It was a big night also for Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show, the nightly departure into faux news and political satire, earned the award for the best variety, music or comedy show. The programme also received the nod for best writing.

A sour taste was left after the broadcast opened with a pre-recorded satirical skit featuring the host, Conan O'Brien, boarding an aircraft and being asked by a flight attendant if he had pre-Emmy nerves. "What could possibly go wrong?" he wanted to know, before the plane began to shake and ended up crashing on an island that was meant to evoke the popular programme Lost.

Producers of the Emmys, broadcast by NBC, were last night forced to apologise after the segment had not been cut, in consideration of the real-life crash of a commuter jet early on Sunday morning in Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49 people.

NBC television expressed regret saying: "Our hearts and prayers go out to the many families who lost loved ones in the plane crash in Kentucky on Sunday, and to the entire community that has suffered this terrible loss. In no way would we ever want to make light of this terrible tragedy," NBC said after the broadcast. "The timing was unfortunate, and we regret any unintentional pain it may have caused."

But the celebrations at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday were undimmed for the winners, including Macdonald, who was in Gosford Park and Trainspotting. "This is going to kill me," Ms Macdonald joked as she received her award for best supporting actress in a movie. "I'm so proud to have been a part of the film The Girl in the Café," pausing to pay tribute to the film's writer, Richard Curtis, who won his own award. "He wrote a wonderful part for me, so thank you very much."

The film, which threads romance into a drama about the Third World, was co-produced by the BBC and premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in August last year. Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, said she wanted to "congratulate and thank everyone involved" in its making.

For Channel 4, however, the night was all about Elizabeth I, carried in the US by the HBO network. It was named best mini-series. Jeremy Irons won a supporting role award for his depiction of Elizabeth's confidant, the Earl of Leicester, and Dame Helen won best actress in a miniseries for playing the queen.

"Without the writing we can't do it, especially us women," Dame Helen, 61, remarked at the ceremony. "Every one of these great performances by these great actresses in this category were revealed to us by some wonderful writing."