UK shows take top honours at Emmys

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The Independent US

British television shows swept most of the top honors at the International Emmy Awards, led by the time-shifting police saga "Life on Mars" which won for best drama series and Ray Winstone who was named best actor for his detective series "Vincent."

"Little Britain," a satirical look at contemporary Britain with a cast of transvestite, obese and other eccentric characters created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, was chosen the best comedy at last night's gala awards ceremony in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton.

The Emmy for non-scripted entertainment went to "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" which features celebrated London chef Gordon Ramsay, known for his explosive personality, dishing out advice on how to save failing restaurants.

The awards ceremony closed with the presentation of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Founders Award to producer-director Steven Spielberg in recognition of his distinguished television career. A video tribute included clips from Spielberg's TV projects including the medical drama "ER," the animated series "Animaniacs," and the World War II mini-series "Band of Brothers."

"I got my start in television. ...," said Spielberg, director of such acclaimed films as "Jaws," "E.T." and "Schindler's List," in his acceptance speech. "I got my first break when I ... was 21 years old directing 'Night Gallery' so I owe a lot to television. ..."

"Television ... itself is just a piece of technology. We can't blame it for what it broadcasts, so we certainly need to be responsible and careful about what we put into that box because what comes out the other end truly has changed the world and will continue to change the world, for better or worse. I'm happy to think it is changing the world for the better."

The International Emmys honour excellence in television programming produced outside the United States.

Maryam Hassouni, a Moroccan living in the Netherlands, won for best actress for portraying a Palestinian woman suspected of planning a terrorist attack in the Dutch TV production "Offers."

"I'm especially grateful for being part of this fantastic Dutch movie 'Offers,' which means 'sacrifices,"' said Hassouni. "It's a story about a very controversial subject, terrorism. The film makes a try to show the world behind it and in my opinion they have succeeded."

Winstone was honoured for creating the role of Vincent Gallagher, a passionate, headstrong private investigator who often works outside the law as he struggles to rebuild his shattered personal life.

"I'm so proud of him ... he's like highly inspirational, an amazing dad. I love him," said Winstone's daughter, Jamie, accepting the Emmy on his behalf.

The other British detective show honoured yesterday as best drama series, "Life on Mars," stars John Simm as a 21st century detective hunting a serial killer who after a near-fatal car accident seemingly finds himself transported back in time to 1973 and must use antiquated police procedures to solve the mystery.

The award for best TV movie/miniseries went to "Nuit Noire, October 17, 1961," a French production that reveals the involvement of French authorities in the bloody suppression of a peaceful demonstration by thousands of Algerians in Paris.

The German entry "Knowledge Is the Beginning" won in the arts programming category. It tells the story of conductor Daniel Barenboim's work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in which young Arabs and Jews perform side by side and must overcome their prejudices.

The documentary award went to "Hiroshima," a BBC co-production with partners in Japan and other countries, that looks at the events leading to the first use of an atomic bomb from both the American and Japanese perspectives.

A British series, "Sugar Rush," which explores the world of a 15-year-old lesbian, won in the children and young people category. Teleradio Moldova's youth-oriented talk show, "Let's Play," received the special International Children's Day of Broadcasting Award presented by actress Susan Sarandon, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

TV comedian and talk-show host Graham Norton, who flew in from London to host the awards show, added an irreverent tone to the ceremony with jokes on Madonna's African baby adoption and the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding.

"The two most popular families in America, of course, are the Bushes and the Sopranos. One family is violent, arrogant and will stop at nothing to get what they want; the other has a hit TV show on HBO," Norton quipped in introducing the first pair of celebrity presenters, Dominic Chianese and Robert Iler, from "The Sopranos."

The academy is the largest organisation of global broadcasters with more than 500 members from nearly 70 countries and over 400 companies.