"Practice" Perfect at Emmys

Ask not who the big winner of Sunday's 51st annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards (aka The Last Emmys of the Millennium) was. Ask what you can do to get on the payroll of David E. Kelley.

The beyond-prolific writer-producer was the Emmy golden boy, seeing his TV babies The Practice (ABC) and Ally McBeal (Fox) named outstanding drama and comedy series, respectively.

Ally's win broke Frasier's five-year, record-setting stranglehold on the comedy category and upset the favored Friends, which had a remarkable renaissance this year.

The Kelley sweep, which extended to the acting categories, where The Practice's Michael Badalucco was named best supporting actor for a drama series and Holland Taylor best supporting actress, among other wins, helped keep HBO's profane and critically beloved mob series, The Sopranos, from fulfilling the promise of its field-best 16 nominations. (The Practice took home a total of four Emmys, Ally three.)

The Sopranos had to settle--if that's the word--for an Emmy for leading lady Edie Falco, who turned back dramatic competition from the likes of past winners Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), Julianna Margulies (ER) and Christine Lahti (The Practice), as well as fellow cast member Lorraine Bracco. The GoodFellas goes suburbs show scored four Emmys all told, including drama series writing and two technical trophies (for casting and single-camera editing) it picked up two weeks ago.

Overall, HBO led the network race with 23 Emmys, followed by NBC (17), ABC (13), CBS (11) and Fox (seven).

Dennis Franz collared his fourth career Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for ABC's NYPD Blue. Franz's win was a mild upset--if you believed the pundits who swore this was the year for newcomer James Gandolfino of The Sopranos.

In the other top star categories, it was business as usual with John Lithgow taking his third best comedy actor Emmy for NBC's supposedly out-of-this-world 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Helen Hunt taking her fourth best comedy actress Emmy for the now-deceased marital sitcom Mad About You (NBC).

Stanley Tucci took the Emmy for best actor in a TV-movie or miniseries for his portrayal of legendary gossip columnist Walter Winchell in HBO's Winchell. Helen Mirren, looking no worse for the bomb that was Teaching Mrs. Tingle, was named best actress in a TV-movie or miniseries for the A&E biopic, The Passion of Ayn Rand.

On the subject of miniseries at TV-movies: A&E's Horatio Hornblower was named best mini; HBO's A Lesson Before Dying, best teleflick.