As sublime and ridiculous and appalling and enthralling as television itself, the 37th annual Emmy Awards, televised live on ABC from Pasadena last night, saw top prizes go to "The Jewel in the Crown," "The Cosby Show," and "Cagney & Lacey," and ruefully saw one award go to an imposter who almost made it out the door with trophy in hand.

Betty Thomas was on her way to the stage to accept the best supporting actress in a dramatic series Emmy for her role on "Hill Street Blues" when an unidentified man at the podium announced that Thomas "was not able to be here" and accepted the award for her, much to her visible dismay. Pasadena police later identified the man as veteran hoaxter Barry Breman, who attempted to bolt the auditorium, police said, with Thomas' Emmy in hand.

Breman was apprehended and charged not with impersonating an Emmy winner but with grand theft by attempting to steal one. The appearance was the most dramatic such interruption of a live awards show since 1974, when a streaker dashed across the stage at the Academy Awards telecast, to the seeming surprise of actor David Niven, then at the podium.

"Well, it's definitely hard to follow an act like that," Thomas said, when she returned to the podium after a commercial to claim her prize. Later, comic David Letterman, accepting an award for the writing staff of his "Late Night" show, said he was going to be brief with his remarks "so we can save plenty of time for other imposters who may be in the audience."

Among less startling shocks was the near shutout of awards to "Miami Vice," the wildly hyped NBC cop show that led all programs with 15 nominations. It lost in several categories but won an award for Edward James Olmos as best supporting actor in a drama series; Olmos plays the icy-cool Lt. Martin Castillo on the show. "I'm torn," Olmos said in accepting, "torn between the catastrophe in Mexico City and this honor right now." Later, presenter Raymond Burr made another reference to the tragic earthquake: "Our hearts go out to our neighbors in Mexico."

NBC, which led all the networks in Emmy nominations, won awards in 12 categories last night. CBS won in 11, and ABC in only three. When combined with the technical and craft Emmys awarded two weeks ago at a nontelevised ceremony, NBC comes in first with 25 Emmys, CBS second with 18, PBS third with 17 and ABC last with a lowly 8.

Some NBC programs and personalities that were expected to win did not, however. The CBS film "Do You Remember Love?" was named best dramatic special, the final award to be given, over the highest-rated movie of the season, and the favorite to win, NBC's "The Burning Bed." Joanne Woodward, who played a victim of Alzheimer's disease in the CBS film, was named best actress in a dramatic special.

"Hill Street Blues," the NBC show named best dramatic series for the past four years, saw its winning streak ended last night to "Cagney & Lacey," which usurped the best drama series prize. "Hill Street" won in only one category, Thomas for supporting actress.

For the fourth straight year, the production chosen best mini-series was not an American commercial network project; it was "The Jewel in the Crown," produced by England's Grenada Television and presented by PBS to great acclaim.

One award winner referred to the Emmy statuette last night as a "short woman"; indeed, on this occasion the Emmy definitely seemed more feminine than masculine. The Emmy for best direction of a drama series went to a woman, Karen Arthur of "Cagney & Lacey," as did the Emmy for best writing of a drama series, which went to Patricia M. Green for the same program. The third award won by "Do You Remember Love?" was for its script, by Vickie Patik. As one of the accepters of "Cagney & Lacey's" best drama series award, coproducer Terry Louise Fisher proclaimed, "Ladies, we did it! It's our year."

Tyne Daly, who plays Mary Beth Lacey on the popular CBS cop show, was named best actress in a drama series, beating, among others, her costar, Sharon Gless. Best actor in a drama series was William Daniels, who plays the imperious Dr. Mark Craig on NBC's "St. Elsewhere." Daniels, who also is the voice of a souped-up sports car on NBC's "Knight Rider," said his limousine had broken down on the Ventura Freeway and that his wife had driven him to the auditorium. He also said, "I don't for a moment imagine that this award belongs solely to me. It belongs to 'St. Elsewhere.' "

"The Cosby Show," NBC's, and all of television's, most popular new comedy in years, won awards for best writing and direction of a comedy series, but there was no prize for the star and guiding spirit of the show, Bill Cosby himself. Cosby had asked that his name not be submitted in nomination on the grounds that he opposes competition among performers. He last won an Emmy in 1966 for his costarring role in "I Spy."

Accepting the best direction Emmy for the show, Jay Sandrich credited "Bill Cosby's wit and philosophy of what a family could be, and his brilliance," and added, "Without Bill, none of us would be doing the work we're doing." Coexecutive producer Marcy Carsey said, "We thank Bill Cosby, who is the heart and soul of our show, and who gives us pleasure every working day."

Accepting the best actor in a comedy Emmy, Robert Guillaume, star of ABC's "Benson," said, "I'd like to thank Bill Cosby for not being here." The only other ABC shows honored last night were "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (Kim Stanley, best supporting actress, for playing Big Mama) and "The Rape of Richard Beck" (Richard Crenna, best actor, for playing the victim in the title).

Rhea Perlman, who plays the cantankerous waitress Carla on "Cheers," won the best supporting actress in a comedy series Emmy for the second year in a row. "Twice is really a lot to be up here," she told the crowd, and then, addressing herself to her husband, actor Danny DeVito, himself a previous Emmy winner, Perlman said, "Danny, I love you, and I got two; you only got one!"

Jane Curtin, not present to accept, was named best actress in a comedy series for playing Allie on the CBS hit "Kate & Allie." Karl Malden was named best actor in a limited series for his role as an angry father trying to avenge his daughter's murder in NBC's "Fatal Vision."

"Motown Returns to the Apollo," a rousing NBC special, was named best musical-variety program, "Garfield in the Rough" (CBS) was chosen best animated program, and a TV production of the grisly musical "Sweeney Todd" won two prizes; one for George Hearn, who played the bloodthirsty barber in the play, and the other for Terry Hughes, who directed it for television. Both awards were credited to PBS, which showed "Todd" as a "Great Performances" entry last year, but the production had previously been seen on cable TV.

Lamont Johnson, named best director of a limited series or special for NBC's "Wallenberg: A Hero's Story," dedicated his award to the biographical film's subject, Raoul Wallenberg, the legendary Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis during World War II.

An unexpectedly delightful show, at least as such things go, the 37th Emmy Awards telecast was produced by theatrical impresario Alexander H. Cohen and his producer-writer wife Hildy Parks, the team who do the Tony Awards each year and have produced the "Night of 100 Stars" spectaculars. They managed both to enliven and to dignify the Emmygiving. Even the production numbers were entertaining.

One number assembled a host of TV crimesolvers, past and present, for a mock mystery. Burr ("Perry Mason"), Telly Savalas ("Kojak"), Peter Falk ("Columbo") and others participated. The show opened with a medley of TV theme songs sung by stars of the shows: Marlo Thomas sang "That Girl," Beatrice Arthur did "And Then There's Maude," Esther Rolle trilled "Good Times," Loretta Swit sang "Suicide is Painless" (the theme from "M*A*S*H,"), Richard Thomas danced the "Waltons" waltz, and Edward Asner just stood there while the band played the theme from "Lou Grant."

The biggest applause during that number went to Bert Parks, the longtime but now fired emcee of the Miss America pageant, who strolled out to sing a few bars of the show's climactic anthem, "There She Is, Miss America." The first Emmy award given was for best music score for a series. It went to John Addison for the CBS crime series "Murder, She Wrote." Addison, a veteran movie composer whose best known film score is "Tom Jones," exclaimed, "What a surprise!," perhaps since "Miami Vice," which depends heavily on its rock music track, was nominated in this category.

The producers as usual had cautioned winners to make brief speeches, but to little avail. Recipients insisted on thanking parents, children, agents, all those "wonderful" people in the crews, and, of course, God -- "the Father, who guides my life," in the words of Tyne Daly, and "God, as I understand him" in the phrase of John Larroquette, chosen best supporting actor in a comedy series for his portrayal of lecherous prosecutor Dan Fielding on NBC's "Night Court." Suzanne de Passe, executive producer of NBC's "Motown Returns to the Apollo," named best music-variety program, said upon reaching the stage, "Thank God! I mean, really. Thank God."

"Cagney & Lacey" executive producer Barney Rosenzweig thanked "fans who wrote to the press" and helped force CBS to return the series to the air after canceling it. More trivially, but also more according to award-show custom, a writer on "The Cosby Show" used the time at the podium to extend early birthday greetings to his mother.

Yes, it was a night of surprises, a few of them pleasant. In addition to the imposter, the upsets and the nostalgic production numbers, the surprises included the fact that the broadcast ran a mere five minutes overtime.

Here is the list of winners announced last night:

Achievement in Music Composition for a Series: "Murder, She Wrote," CBS.

Comedy Series: "The Cosby Show," NBC.

Writing in a Comedy Series: "The Cosby Show" -- premiere episode, NBC.

Directing in a Comedy Series: Jay Sandrich, "The Cosby Show," NBC.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: John Larroquette, "Night Court," NBC.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Rhea Perlman, "Cheers," NBC.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Jane Curtin, "Kate & Allie," CBS.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Robert Guillaume, "Benson," ABC.

Directing in a Drama Series: Karen Arthur, "Cagney & Lacey," CBS.

Writing in a Drama Series: "Cagney & Lacey" -- "Who Said It's Fair" (Part 2), CBS.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Edward James Olmos, "Miami Vice," NBC.

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Betty Thomas, "Hill Street Blues," NBC.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series: William Daniels, "St. Elsewhere," NBC.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Tyne Daly, "Cagney & Lacey," CBS.

Drama Series: "Cagney & Lacey," CBS.

Costume Design for a Series: "Dallas," CBS.

Governor's Award: Alistair Cooke.

Writing in a Variety or Music Program: "Late Night With David Letterman": "Christmas With the Lettermans" episode, NBC.

Directing in a Variety or Music Program: Terry Hughes, "Sweeney Todd" ("Great Performances"), PBS.

Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program: George Hearn, "Sweeney Todd" ("Great Performances"), PBS.

Variety or Music Program: "Motown Returns to the Apollo," NBC.

Animated Program: "Garfield in the Rough," CBS.

Writing in a Limited Series or Special: "Do You Remember Love?" CBS.

Directing in a Limited Series or Special: Lamont Johnson, "Wallenberg: A Hero's Story," NBC.

Supporting Actor in Limited Series or Special: Karl Malden, "Fatal Vision," NBC.

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Special: Kim Stanley, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" ("American Playhouse"), CBS.

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Special: Richard Crenna, "The Rape of Richard Beck," ABC.

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Special: Joanne Woodward, "Do You Remember Love?" CBS.

Limited Series Program: "The Jewel in the Crown" ("Masterpiece Theatre"), PBS.

Drama-Comedy Special: "Do You Remember Love?" CBS.