Emmys flashback 20 years ago to 2000: ‘The West Wing’ dominance, 1st win for James Gandolfini, emotional Michael J. Fox victory

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the beginning of this millennium, but it has indeed been two decades since our worries about Y2K were over, and our world had not yet been impacted by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. In the year in-between these historical events, “Mission Impossible 2,” “Gladiator” and “Cast Away” ruled the big screen, while on the small screen now-classic comedies drew us to our TV sets each week, the popularity of cable television was becoming a huge influence on the medium, we rooted for a beloved TV star with a surprising challenge and a new series dominated the 52nd Primetime Emmy Awards on September 10, 2000.

Garry Shandling hosted the event in which “The West Wing” dominated as the big winner, with record-breaking wins in its freshman season. Winning its first of four consecutive Emmys for Best Drama Series (out of seven nominations, one for each of its seasons), the presidential drama beat out established favorites “ER,” “Law and Order,” “The Sopranos” and reigning winner “The Practice.” Between major awards and technical awards, this critical darling walked away with a total of nine awards that year, setting a single- year record for wins that stood until 2015, when “Game of Thrones” took home 12 awards.

Despite Academy love for the series, Martin Sheen failed to win as Best Drama Actor (in fact, he never took home the statue for this series, although he received six nominations). Instead, the Academy members bestowed this honor on James Gandolfini for “The Sopranos,” making him the first actor to win in this category for an HBO series. In the Best Drama Actress category, Sela Ward was a surprise winner for “Once and Again,” having won six years before for “Sisters.” However, “The West Wing” did sweep the supporting categories: Richard Schiff won his first and only trophy out of three consecutive nominations, and perennial Emmy favorite Allison Janney won her first of four Emmys for this series (out of an eventual total of seven wins overall for three different series).

Another young show that shook up a category was “Will and Grace,” which won for Best Comedy Series for its second season, knocking out previous champ “Ally McBeal,” which didn’t even receive a nomination. This was the first time since “Get Smart” 30 years before that the reigning comedy champ, without being cancelled or ended, failed to receive a nomination the following year. As with the drama categories, the comedy winner failed to garner a win for its leads, but took both supporting categories: Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally each received their first of seven consecutive nominations for their roles of Jack McFarland and Karen Walker, with each winning their Emmy. Mullally would repeat her win in 2006, with Hayes winning again in 2011 for hosting the Tony Awards. In the lead categories, Patricia Heaton won her first of two Emmys out of seven nominations for playing Debra Barone in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and the winner for the male lead was a sentimental favorite.

In late 1998, Michael J. Fox, a favorite from both the big and small screens, announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. In 2000, he opted to end his role on the sitcom “Spin City,” and was given a heartfelt goodbye in the series’ 100th episode, winning Fox another trophy to add to his three from “Family Ties.” Despite his medical challenges, Fox continues to have an amazing career, and to be an Emmy favorite – between 1985 and 2016, he racked up 18 nominations with a total of five wins.

Another well-loved actor to take home a trophy that night was Jack Lemmon, who won his second Emmy for the TV movie “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which also took home the prize for Best TV Movie. Lemmon would pass away and be in the memoriam segment just one year later. Co-star Hank Azaria won in the supporting category, while HBO collected the rest of the awards these categories. Best Miniseries went to “The Corner,” Halle Berry won for playing Dorothy Dandridge, and veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave won in the supporting category for “If These Walls Could Talk 2.”

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