LOS ANGELES — “The Sopranos” turned its startling cut-to-black final season into Emmy gold Sunday, winning the best drama series award, and newcomer “30 Rock” was named best comedy series.
The mob saga’s victory was nearly unprecedented, with only one other drama series, 1977’s “Upstairs, Downstairs,” having claimed the top trophy after leaving the air.
“In essence, this is a story about a gangster,” said “The Sopranos” creator David Chase. “And gangsters are out there taking their kids to college, and taking their kids to school, and putting food on their table.
“And, hell, let’s face it, if the world and this nation was run by gangsters” — Chase paused and shrugged, as everyone laughed — “maybe it is.”
Freshman “30 Rock,” set in the world of a late-night show akin to “Saturday Night Live” and created by “SNL” veteran Tina Fey, could be buoyed by its award. The critically acclaimed comedy has lagged in the ratings.
Fey, who also stars in the series, jokingly thanked “dozens and dozens of viewers.”
James Spader was named best drama series actor for “Boston Legal,” and talked as if he had pilfered it from fellow nominee James Gandolfini.
“Oh my goodness, I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob. And they’re all sitting over there,” Spader said, acknowledging “The Sopranos” cast in the Shrine Auditorium audience.
Sally Field was honored as best actress in a drama for “Brothers &Sisters.”
America Ferrera of the campy “Ugly Betty” was named best actress in a comedy series. “This is such an amazing, wonderful achievement. The award is to be able to get up and go to work tomorrow,” Ferrera said.
The biggest laugh of the night was earned by presenters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, after they announced that Ricky Gervais of “Extras” had won the award for best comedy series actor.
“Ricky Gervais could not be here tonight. Instead we’re going to give this to our friend, Steve Carell,” Stewart said. Carell, a nominee for “The Office,” bounded on stage, sharing a group hug with Stewart and Colbert.
Supporting actor honors went to stars of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost,” “Entourage” and “My Name is Earl.”
The usually staid awards needed attention from the censors from the start, with first presenter Ray Romano. He joked about his former “Everybody Loves Raymond” wife, Patricia Heaton, sleeping with her new “Back to You” co-star Kelsey Grammer.
But he used a stronger word, which prompted Fox to black out the show for a few seconds. Katherine Heigl of “Grey’s Anatomy” mouthed another expletive, which Fox unsuccessfully tried to evade with a different camera shot.