EMMYS: ‘West Wing’ Wins Big

The crime spree is over. “The Sopranos” will have to kiss someone else’s ring — namely, the big boss man’s, the president of the United States of TV America.

“The West Wing” was named Best Drama Series at the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards, capping a night wherein the political drama dominated, save for one major setback when James Gandolfini of “The Sopranos” bested Martin Sheen in the competition for Best Actor in a Drama Series.

“I think the Academy has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men,” Gandolfini quipped onstage.

Gandolfini’s win was the lone bright spot for “The Sopranos,” which otherwise got whacked — like when Sela Ward of ABC’s “Once and Again” beat both Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco for the Best Actress in a Drama Series Emmy. “The Sopranos” came into the night with 18 nominations.

Hollywood.com’s Sandy Kenyon asked Gandolfini: “It’s been a long kind of overnight success for you. What was going through your mind and is this a form of sweet justice for you?”

“I didn’t feel any miscarriage of justice last year or anything like that, I’m just pleased to be in the show, doing the work we do,” Gandolfini said. “I didn’t feel anything went wrong last year, so this year is just icing on the cake for me personally.”

Meanwhile, Sheen was doing a lot of congratulatory on-camera hugging, as his comrades made their way to the stage to accept their trophies. Among the other honors for “The West Wing” were Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Allison Janney) and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Richard Schiff); Best Writing in a Drama Series (Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland); and Best Direction in a Drama Series (Thomas Schlamme).

“I’ve got a ‘West Wing’ feeling,” host Gary Shandling mused halfway through the telecast.

NBC’s “Will & Grace” came away with some big wins, including Best Comedy Series and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Megan Mullally and Best Supporting Actor in A Comedy Series for Sean Hayes.

The lead actor and actress in “Will & Grace,” Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, respectively, lost out to Michael J. Fox for ABC’s “Spin City” and Patricia Heaton of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

HURRY IT UP: The Emmys aren’t known for brevity. In recent years, the broadcast has dragged on well past the allotted running time, but this year’s festivities wrapped up within its three-hour slot. Just barely.

During the final hour, that tinkly “get off the stage, already” piano music was heard often as awardees dragged on too long with acceptance speeches. Host Shandling was cut off in mid-sentence as he introduced presenter Bruce Willis, who walked onstage before his cue and explained, “We’re running really late” under his breath.

The producers tried (mostly in vain) using TelePrompTers to quicken the pace — a fact that Jack Lemmon inadvertently revealed, when he unconsciously read the “please wrap up” cue out loud.

In his opening monologue, Shandling said, “You know what slows this show down? It’s the awards,” and jokingly suggested that the names of winners be taped to the bottom of their seats to save time.

Not a bad idea.

Here’s a brief blow by blow of the highlights of the 2000 Emmy telecast:

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD POTTY JOKE: This being an awards telecast, there were of course lots of pre-taped and live time killers in between the awards and commercials.

The best of these was a “Big Brother” parody, wherein Shandling was caught on camera in the men’s room. The valet offering him a hot towel was David Duchovny, who informed Shandling that a vote was taken and his bathroom privileges had been revoked. Guess you had to be there.

The whole show began, of course, with a “Survivor” parody that featured a mock vote of the Tribal Council (with celebrity members including Andy Richter of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” fame). The winner of which would be named host of the Emmy telecast and also get an SUV. Shandling tried to cop out, asking if he could just take the car instead. Guess you had to be there for that one, too.

There were other funny gags. Conan O’Brien did a self-effacing bit about paying lip service to women’s issues so he could get a date to next year’s Emmys; and Shandling did a tribute to his idea of “risk taking” TV: like the Home Shopping Network, “Jerry Springer,” monster trucks, “Teletubbies,” “Xena” and The Weather Channel.

PRESSING THE FLESH: Hubba, hubba. Was it just the fact that we’re watching the Emmy telecast on crystal-clear satellite TV, or did everyone see Geena Davis‘ um, er, um, ahem … nipples? Is Renny Harlin nuts? She’s the most beautiful over-40 woman in the universe — see-through, skin-tight outfit or no.

I SEE DEAD PEOPLE: The annual montage of dearly departed TV celebs featured Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Madeline Kahn, John Gielgud, George C. Scott, Larry Linville, Meredith MacRae, Gene Rayburn, Durward Kirby, Shirley Hemphill, Hoyt Axton, Nancy Marchand, Leonard Goldenson, Clayton Moore, Doug Henning, Craig Stevens, Mary Jane Croft, Mabel King, Charles M. Schulz, Alec Guinness and Walter Matthau.

WHO’S THAT, ER, GIRL? Cher’s got blonde hair now. She looks just like Christina Aguilera, sort of. Just thought you’d like to know.

WE LIKE MIKE: The evening’s biggest no-brainer was probably Michael J. Fox’s win for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The actor received the second standing O of the night (the first went to Jack Lemmon) as he took his first “Spin City” Emmy in four tries and fourth trophy overall (he got three for “Family Ties”).

NBC won bragging rights for the night, taking 23 Emmys. HBO won 20, ABC 15, Fox 11 and CBS 7.