4.50pm UPDATE

LOS ANGELES - The Sopranos and Sex and the City led the Emmy Awards with Sarah Jessica Parker finally winning an award for best lead actress in a comedy series.

Adding to HBO's tally early in the evening,

won the prize for best supporting actress in a comedy for playing hard-boiled lawyer Miranda on "Sex and the City."


As was widely expected, The Sopranos finally claimed the long-elusive crown as US television's best drama, rubbing out competition from four-time winner and defending champion, NBC political drama The West Wing.

The Sopranos, about a conflicted New Jersey mob boss, earned four Emmys in all.

was named best supporting actor in a drama series for his role as the hitman nephew, and

, who played his ill-fated girlfriend won for best supporting actress in a drama series. The show also nabbed an award for writing.

Cable network HBO was the biggest star of the 56th annual Primetime Emmys, collecting more trophies than all of its rivals combined 90 minutes into the three-hour show, led by its gangster hit "The Sopranos" and "Angels in America."


wasn't fired, but he was snubbed, losing out to CBS reality show "Amazing Race".

The critically favoured "Amazing Race" won the prize for best reality-contest show for a second straight year to beat Trump's popular NBC series "The Apprentice," known for his signature "You're fired" at the end of each episode.


"Race" also prevailed over fellow CBS hit "Survivor," and rival nonscripted nominees the Fox talent contest "American Idol" and NBC's "Last Comic Standing."

Veteran actor

won the Emmy for best actor in a mini-series for his searing performance as Roy Cohn dying of AIDS in the much-nominated HBO special "Angels in America."

won as best lead actress in a drama series for her role as the White House press secretary on NBC's political drama "The West Wing."


"This was very unexpected. I want to share this with my co-stars," Nixon said from the stage. Her cast-mate


was the favourite going into the awards.

Tony Kusher, who wrote "Angels in America," won the Emmy for writing a mini-series and his director, Mike Nichols, won for directing the project on television.

In another surprise of the evening, James Spader clinched the Emmy as best actor in a drama series for his role as a lawyer of dubious ethics on the final season of ABC legal hour The Practice. His performance was credited by critics with re-energizing the series and paving for the way for the spinoff, Boston Legal.

Two sentimental favourites of the evening, Frasier star Kelsey Grammer and co-star David Hyde Pierce, went home with the statuettes for best lead actor and best supporting actor, respectively in a comedy.

Both "Sex and the City" and "Frasier" finished their final seasons earlier this year.

While the Emmys generally lack the direct commercial boost for winners that the Oscars and Grammys generate for box office and music sales, TV's highest awards can help breathe new life into a worthy show that has struggled to find an audience.