British wins at the Emmys bode well for bigger gongs

UK domination of international television awards highlights impact on the US market

In what the moustache-twirling David Suchet declared was "an unbelievable night for the Brits", the BBC gained a much-needed shot in the arm as it helped home-grown broadcasters sweep a virtually unprecedented seven of the 10 prizes at this year's International Emmy Awards.

Suchet won the coveted "best actor" gong for his portrayal of Robert Maxwell in the BBC biography series Maxwell, about the final years of the disgraced tycoon's life, while the corporation also won "best drama series" for Life on Mars, and "best children's series" for its animation Shaun the Sheep.

The hitherto little-known Lucy Cohu won "best actress" at Monday night's ceremony in New York, for her role in the Channel 4 drama Forgiven, about a suburban housewife who reports her husband for abusing their children, but later decides to rebuild their lives together.

Other prizes were picked up by The IT Crowd, which won "best comedy", the mountaineering documentary The Beckoning Silence, and Strictly Bolshoi, an arts programme about the first Englishman to choreograph the famous Russian ballet.

Although the International Emmys gain little attention in the US in comparison with their "prime-time" counterpart, which was broadcast to a live audience of tens of millions in September, Monday's result underlines the impact that British television is having on the US market.

After its first victory in the ceremony in 2006, Life on Mars was picked up by US broadcaster ABC. A version set in 1970s New York, and starring Harvey Keitel, launched two months ago.

The timing of Monday's event may also help British prospects in the upcoming award season, which gets into full swing next month, and will climax with February's Oscars.

Suchet, who is best known for playing Hercule Poirot, told reporters after receiving the gong at the New York Hilton: "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."

Referring to Maxwell, he added: "The fact that this should win is amazing, and I am still gob-smacked."

Elsewhere at the event, the controversial Dutch hoax-reality programme, The Big Donor Show, won the prize for non-scripted entertainment.

The programme initially sparked outrage when 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 turned out to be a stunt intended to pressure the Dutch government to reform organ donation laws.

First Emmy awards were also given to programme-makers from Jordan and Argentina. The Jordanian Al-Igtiyah (The Invasion), a love story set during the 2002 Israeli military incursion into the West Bank cities, won "telenovela" category, while Argentina's Television por la Identidad won in the television movie category.

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