NEW YORK — Bob Hoskins and Helena Bonham Carter captured the top acting awards as British TV productions won five International Emmys on Monday, including two for the BBC drama, "The Street."
A highlight of the 38th International Emmy Awards Gala at the Hilton New York Hotel came when News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch made a surprise unannounced appearance to present the honorary International Emmy Directorate Award to Simon Cowell.
"When I think back over 10 years, I can genuinely say I've had the best time I've ever had in my life," said Cowell, who left his "American Idol" judge's seat earlier this year to launch an American version of his hit British singing competition "The X Factor" next year on Murdoch's Fox Network.
"Whoever said fame, money, success will destroy you — completely wrong," added Cowell. But he struck a more humble tone by accepting the award "on behalf of the people who've worked on the shows with me and made my shows successful."
Writer-producer Jimmy McGovern's "The Street," which follows the individual stories of neighbors living on the same road in Manchester, received the Emmy for best drama series.
Hoskins took the best actor award for his role in the 2009 season of "The Street" as a recovering alcoholic pub owner whose morals lead him to stand up to the local gangster. Neither Hoskins or Bonham Carter were present to accept their awards.
Bonham Carter, who is currently appearing as a villainous female Death Eater in the latest Harry Potter film and may be a supporting actress Oscar contender for playing the British queen in "The King's Speech," was chosen best actress for the biopic "Enid." Bonham Carter portrayed the popular British children's author Enid Blyton, whose escapist fantasies stood in contrast to her dark and troubled family life.
The other British winners announced at the awards ceremony, hosted by former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Jason Priestley, included "Shaun the Sheep" in the children & young people category and "Small Island" (TV movie/mini-series), based on Andrea Levy's novel about the lives of Jamaican immigrants who face racism and poverty in London during and after World War II.
The remaining awards were spread out among five different countries. Thirty-nine nominees from 15 countries were contending in 10 categories for International Emmys, honoring excellence in TV programming outside the U.S.
Israel's "Traffic Light," about the friendship and romantic relationships of three 30-something childhood friends, was rated the best comedy.
In the telenovela category, Portugal won its first-ever International Emmy for "My Love," which follows three women whose lives intertwine after a plane crash.
A loud scream erupted from the Argentine contingent with the announcement that the weekly satirical news review, "CQC," had won the non-scripted entertainment award, its first Emmy after being nominated nine times since 1999.
Two nonfiction shows about struggling underdogs also received Emmys. The arts programming award went to Romania's "The World According to Ion B.," about a homeless man living in Bucharest who became one of the country's leading contemporary artists after his collection of collages was discovered by a young gallery owner.
South Korea's "Mom and the Red Bean Cake," which tells the story of a single mother with terminal stomach cancer who supports her family by selling cakes, was chosen the best documentary.
Cowell received the Founders Award in recognition of his achievements in reinventing the television talent show and then using his position in the entertainment industry to make a difference by raising tens of millions of dollars for children's, animal welfare and other charities worldwide.
Murdoch noted that Cowell is responsible for three of the highest-rated programs in Britain and the U.S., with his "Got Talent" and "X Factor" franchises now reaching viewers in more than 70 countries.
"I think that we would all agree that no one has done more to shape popular culture in the past decade than Simon Cowell," said Murdoch.
"Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon, with an unannounced assist from "30 Rock's" Alec Baldwin, presented the honorary International Emmy Directorate Award to his mentor, "Saturday Night Live" creator and producer Lorne Michaels, who launched the show in 1975.
"There's never been a more important voice in comedy," said Fallon. He wondered what the world would be like without comedians from Adam Sandler to Tina Fey, catch comic phrases like "Isn't that special," or classic film comedies like "Animal House" or "The Blues Brothers" with "SNL" alumni.
"Maybe there would just be an empty room somewhere with the tumbleweed blowing through it and we'd all be sitting around and wondering how Sarah Palin got to be president," said Fallon.
Other presenters at the ceremony included TV journalist Bill Moyers, Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men," Broadway star Christine Ebersole, Melissa Joan Hart and the 94-year-old character actor Eli Wallach, who recently won an honorary Oscar.
The awards are sponsored by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which includes media and entertainment figures from more than 50 countries and 500 companies.