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<i>Friends</i> Wins Top Honors at Emmys; TV Honored for Role in Sept. 11 - 2002-09-23

A show about life in the White House and the comedy series Friends won top honors Sunday, as the American television industry honored itself with the annual Emmy Awards. Presenters acknowledged the role of television after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Friends received the Emmy as best comedy series, and one of its stars, Jennifer Aniston, was named best comedy actress.

The West Wing a series about a fictional U.S. president, was named best dramatic series for the third year in a role, edging out the popular new show Six Feet Under.

Last year's Emmy presentation was delayed twice as the result of the attacks of September 11. When the awards were finally handed out, it was a somber affair. This year, the tone was lighter and more humorous in keeping with the Emmy tradition. However, one winner recalled last year's events as he accepted the Award for Best Special.

Joel Gallen directed America: A Tribute to Heroes - a musical telethon broadcast 10 days after the attacks. He says the Emmy belongs to the musicians who performed on the special and the four major networks that aired it: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

"In an unprecedented show of unity, they joined together as one network, airing the same program, embracing the same cause," he said, adding that the award "belongs with the millions of people who responded to the broadcast by opening their hearts and their wallets to those who were hurting. And above all, it belongs to the friends, family and loved ones of those who were lost on September 11."

Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani recalled the role of television after September 11 in bringing the country together, as he presented a special Emmy to the four television networks. Backstage, he noted the change in tone from last year's Emmy show to this one.

"Last year, it was very, very close in time to that horrific attack and terrible tragedy. Now, we're still very, very sorrowful and very mournful, but we realize that life has to move on. That, I know, is what the heroes that died on September 11 would want to say to us. Life has to go on," Mr. Guiliani said.

Other Emmy winners include Stockard Channing, one of three performers from The West Wing to earn acting honors for the series. She also earned an Emmy for her supporting role in The Matthew Shepard Story, which was based on the killing of a young gay man.

The murder motivated Matthew Shepard's parents to speak out against hate crimes. The actress dedicated the award to the couple and their son. "Really, when all is said and done, this award belongs to Dennis and Judy Shepard and to Matthew, and to all those people that we know who are no longer with us who have suffered from the inhumanity of their fellow man. May we never forget them," the actress said.

Talk-show host and actress Oprah Winfrey received a special award for her humanitarian work. She also issued a call for tolerance.

Tom Hanks accepted an Emmy on behalf of a team of directors of the mini-series Band of Brothers. Based on a book by historian Stephen Ambrose, it tells the story of a paratroop unit from World War II, known as E Company. Mr. Hanks said its members share in the honor.

"We didn't just win this," he said. "The men of Easy Company won this in 1944."

The 54th annual Emmy Awards were presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.