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The audience at the 17th annual Gemini awards received a comedic treat last night as host Sean Cullen kicked off the gala with an outlandish opening number that included a breakdancing David Suzuki, a tap-dancing Ron MacLean, and a nude Lloyd Robertson on a tractor.

The standup comic's bawdy sense of humour tickled the crowd and set the tone for a two-hour show that saw CBC's Trudeau miniseries walk away with three Gemini awards, Da Vinci's Inquest (CBC) take home its fourth consecutive award for best dramatic series and CTV's Torso,about a grisly 1940s murder in Hamilton and produced by Toronto's Shaftesbury Films, receive the prize for best TV movie.

The nod for best actress in a TV movie or miniseries went to Irish-born Aoife McMahon for her role in Random Passage. Colm Feore won best actor for his portrayal of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

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Perhaps the biggest shock of the evening was the single Gemini handed to CBC's Made in Canada, which stars Rick Mercer. The caustic comedy had been nominated for a grand total of 14 Geminis but pocketed only one for best ensemble performance (Mr. Mercer, Peter Keleghan, Dan Lett, Leah Pinsent, Jackie Torrens) in a comedy program or series.

CBC's An American in Canada, with Rick Roberts as a jaded U.S. television host relegated to a small-time station in Alberta, won best comedy program or series.

Winnipeg-born Donnelly Rhodes won the award for best performance by an actor in a continuing leading dramatic role for his work on Da Vinci's Inquest. That long-running CBC show was nominated for 10 Geminis, but left the Metro Toronto Convention Centre last evening with two.

Best performance by an actress in a continuing leading dramatic role went to Julie Stewart of Cold Squad, which airs on CTV.

The acclaimed and much-watched Trudeau miniseries won Geminis for best direction (Jerry Ciccoritti) and best writing (Wayne Grigsby) besides Mr. Feore's best-actor award. The three nods placated the show's creators, who were more than a little miffed when the show failed to be included as a Gemini nominee in the best TV movie or dramatic series category.

For Mr. Cullen, no person or topic was taboo. Among other things, he poked fun at Canadian entertainment giant Alliance Atlantis, mocked Torso's title and told the crowd the Queen always looks morose on her visits to Canada because she's overwhelmed by our rugged good looks. It hurts the Queen to come here, the comic concluded, because "she's reminded she's the ruler of an ugly, ugly people." Last year, Mr. Cullen was host of the Geminis' industry gala and belted out a tune saluting pornography.

Gordon Michael Woolvett, of the series Andromeda, won the Viewer's Choice Award for the hottest-star competition. It's the first time the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television has featured such an award and Mr. Woolvett was the favourite of the 150,000 votes placed on-line.

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The Famous Jett Jackson won best youth fiction program.

Mr. MacLean, whose recent real-life career quandary was better drama than anything on TV this fall, took home his sixth Gemini for best sports broadcaster.

CBC's Peter Mansbridge won best news anchor. And CODCO, the veteran CBC comedy troupe, took home the Earle Grey Award, honouring its contribution to the international profile of Canadian television.

The 17th annual Gemini Humanitarian Award went to Hamilton-born actress Wendy Crewson, whose long list of acting credits includes her TV role in At The End of The Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story, about Lou Gehrig's disease. Since 1998, Ms. Crewson has fundraised for the ALS Society, which helps people afflicted with the disease.

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