The Sopranos became the first cable show to win the Emmy for best drama series Sunday and fellow HBO entry Angels in America received a record 11 awards as Fox's surprise comedy winner Arrested Development proved a rare bright spot for broadcast TV.
Broadcast networks also collected performance awards for comedy series, but it was clear that cable's accomplishments were overshadowing the traditional networks.
Angels in America, the miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the 1980s AIDS crisis, won seven Emmys Sunday, including outstanding miniseries and acting trophies for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeffrey Wright. Kushner received a best writing award and Mike Nichols won best director.
"As you know, the fight against AIDS isn't over yet and we must do what we can for Africa. . . . Let's see what we can do," Nichols said.
Angels in America proved a record breaker. With the four Emmys won Sept. 12 at the creative arts awards and the seven it won Sunday, it exceeded the nine awards won by Roots in 1977 to become the most honored miniseries. It matched the 11 won by Eleanor and Franklin in 1976, the most for any program in one season.
The Sopranos finally collected the best drama Emmy in its fifth try.
"This is really great and seeing those goodbye episodes before gave me some great ideas how to end the show," series creator David Chase said of The Sopranos, which has one more season ahead of it.
Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo, who played a hard-luck mob couple whose relationship ended in betrayal on The Sopranos, won drama series supporting actor and actress Emmys.
"There are so many people that are responsible for this, that if I even try to thank any of them right now, I might puke, choke, cry or die. And you've already seen me do that," said de Matteo, whose character was bumped off last season. She's now on NBC's Friends spinoff Joey.
In some good news for the broadcast networks, Allison Janney of NBC's The West Wing and James Spader of ABC's The Practice won best actor awards for drama.
"You've all made wonderful choices in shoes and dresses tonight and you all look absolutely beautiful," Spader said in a lighthearted acceptance.
Fox's Arrested Development proved another broadcast bright spot, winning as best comedy series after a freshman year that was critically acclaimed but low rated.
"This is so huge for us. You know what, let's watch it," said series creator Mitchell Hurwitz.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which has spent election year skewering the candidates for tiny Comedy Central, won an award for best variety series for the second year in a row. His writing staff also won an Emmy.
Mirroring the concern in Hollywood over the state of situation comedies, the four major comedy acting awards went for work in series that are now off the air. Kelsey Grammer won his fourth Emmy for best actor in a comedy for Frasier and Sarah Jessica Parker won best actress for Sex and the City.
"I had the most extraordinary life on television," Grammer said. "Frasier was a gift in my life and the people that I got to meet and work with were the greatest and this is just the cherry on top."
Grammer paid tribute to the late John Ritter, who was nominated posthumously for Eight Simple Rules.
"He was a terrific guy and his death was a shock to all of us. And he'll be missed, not only just for his kindness but also for his work." Grammer said.
David Hyde Pierce won a supporting actor award for Frasier, which ended an 11-year run this spring, and Cynthia Nixon won best supporting actress for Sex and the City.
The awards provided fresh evidence that the major broadcast networks, even as they open their new season this week, have ceded creative ground to cable networks.
Elaine Stritch became an instant joke subject for her over-the-top acceptance of the Emmy for best individual performance in a variety or music program. The 79-year-old veteran stage actress even tested ABC's five-second delay _ better known as the Janet Jackson precaution _ and had part of her speech bleeped out.
"Look at the company I'm in here. And I'm so glad none of them won," Stritch said before the orchestra played her off the stage.
Donald Trump and Survivor creator Mark Burnett found themselves looking on from the audience as a less-popular show, CBS' The Amazing Race, won best reality series for the second year in a row.
Host Garry Shandling repeatedly poked fun at the genre, joking about Extreme Makeover, Paris Hilton and Trump in his monologue.
"It's to the point now when a commercial comes on I go, "Thank God, professional actors in a story,' " he quipped.
Angels in America was the most-nominated program this year with 21 nods, and won four at the Sept. 12 creative arts awards for craft achievement. In his acceptance speech, Kushner used his time on stage to lobby for gay marriage.
"Thanks to my wonderful husband, Mark. Someday soon we can have a legal marriage license and you can make an honest homosexual out of me," he said.
Hyde Pierce was honored for the fourth time as best supporting actor for Frasier.
"In sitcom school they tell you how great it is to have a long-running show, but they don't tell you how hard it is to say goodbye," he said.
The ceremony highlighted the theme of last laughs, paying videotaped tribute not only to the three major series that ended their runs last season, but also many that came before, including Cheers, Mad About You and Roseanne.
HBO's Something the Lord Made won best made-for-TV movie.
The most-nominated drama series was HBO's The Sopranos with 20, including bids for James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.
The third Bob Hope Humanitarian Award was presented posthumously to actor, producer and philanthropist Danny Thomas, with his daughter, actor Marlo Thomas, accepting.
HBO led the nominations with its highest-ever total, 124. NBC was second with 65, followed by CBS with 44, Fox with 31 and ABC with 33. PBS earned 27 nominations. The awards are given by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Acting awards for guest roles were given out at a previous ceremony. Emmys for best guest actress and actor in a drama series went to William Shatner and Sharon Stone for episodes of The Practice.
For guest actor and actress in a comedy series, the winners were Laura Linney for NBC's Frasier and John Turturro for USA's Monk.
List of winners at Sunday's 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences:
DRAMA SERIES: The Sopranos, HBO
COMEDY SERIES: Arrested Development, Fox
MINISERIES: Angels in America, HBO
VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central
MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE: Something the Lord Made, HBO
REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM: The Amazing Race, CBS
ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES: James Spader, The Practice, ABC
ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES: Kelsey Grammer, Frasier, NBC
ACTOR, MINISERIES OR MOVIE: Al Pacino, Angels in America, HBO
ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES: Allison Janney, The West Wing, NBC
ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City, HBO
ACTRESS, MINISERIES OR MOVIE: Meryl Streep, Angels in America, HBO
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES: Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos, HBO
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES: David Hyde Pierce, Frasier, NBC
SUPPORTING ACTOR, MINISERIES OR MOVIE: Jeffrey Wright, Angels in America, HBO
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES: Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos, HBO
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES: Cynthia Nixon, Sex and the City, HBO
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MINISERIES OR MOVIE: Mary-Louise Parker, Angels in America, HBO
INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE IN A VARIETY OR MUSIC PROGRAM: Elaine Stritch, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, HBO
DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES: Deadwood: "Pilot," HBO
DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES: Arrested Development: "Pilot," Fox
DIRECTING FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL: Angels in America, HBO
DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY PROGRAM: The 76th Annual Academy Awards, ABC
WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES: The Sopranos: "Long Term Parking," HBO
WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES: Arrested Development: "Pilot," Fox
WRITING FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL: Angels in America, HBO
WRITING FOR A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY PROGRAM: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central
Announced in advance but presented at Sunday night's ceremony:
BOB HOPE HUMANITARIAN AWARD: Danny Thomas
_ ASSOCIATED PRESS