'The West Wing' wins another term after outstanding Emmy endorsement

Two American television series widely believed to be on their way out, the White House drama The West Wing and the family sitcom Everyone Loves Raymond, were given an unexpected kiss of life when they took top honours at this year's Emmy awards.

The West Wing was considered a rank outsider, having lost its originator and main writer, Aaron Sorkin, after a slump in ratings, criticisms of its increasingly sensational plotlines and doubts about its liberal political credentials in the age of George Bush.

But the show managed to pull off its fourth straight accolade for best TV drama, beating The Sopranos, which has never won, and Six Feet Under, which left the ceremony with nothing to show for its 16 nominations.

John Wells, the ER veteran who is now the new boss at The West Wing after Mr Sorkin left, said he was himself "surprised and delighted" by the result. "You try when you're doing the show to do the best show you can," he said "We felt good about what we were doing all year. Apparently at least some of the voters agree."

NBC has signed up for two more years of The West Wing with an option on a third, and will presumably feel a whole lot better about its investment now. The award appeared to be part of a well-established bias by the television academy towards major network shows. The Sopranos received acting honours for its stars, James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.

The comedy award for Everyone Loves Raymond also indicated a play-it-safe mentality. The show was supposed to wind up this year but bosses might now reconsider. "There's two schools of thought," executive producer Phil Rosenthal told reporters. "One is, this is very encouraging, the other is we should take this and go. We'll decide at the end of January."

The Emmys also recognised Dame Maggie Smith for her performance in the TV movie My House in Umbria, based on William Trevor's novel. And there was a noticeable shift among the cable entries from HBO to smaller stations. TNT won the best TV movie award for Door to Door, the story of a salesman with cerebral palsy starring and written by William H Macy. Tony Shalhoub won an acting award for his starring role in Monk, the acclaimed series about an obsessive- compulsive San Francisco detective, which is aired on the USA Network.

THE WINNERS

Drama series: The West Wing

Comedy series: Everybody Loves Raymond

Variety, music or comedy series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Mini-series: Taken

Variety, music or comedy special: Cher - The Farewell Tour

Drama actor: James Gandolfini, The Sopranos

Drama actress: Edie Falco,The Sopranos

Comedy actor: Tony Shalhoub, Monk

Comedy actress: Debra Messing, Will and Grace

Mini-series/film actor: William Macy, Door to Door

Mini-series/film actress: Dame Maggie Smith, My House in Umbria

Individual performance in a variety or music programme: Wayne Brady, Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Supporting actor, drama series: Joe Pantoliano, The Sopranos

Supporting actress, drama series: Tyne Daly, Judging Amy

Supporting actor, comedy series: Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond

Supporting actress, comedy series: Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond

Directing for a drama series: The West Wing

Directing for comedy series: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Directing for a variety or music programme: 56th Tony Awards

Drama writing: The Sopranos

Comedy writing: Everybody Loves Raymond

Writing for a variety, music or comedy programme: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Governors' award: Lifetime Television for its campaign to stop violence against women

Bob Hope Humanitarian Award: Bill Cosby

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