Cable channel HBO is still leader of the pack in garnering Emmy nominations. But network TV took back some prestige yesterday thanks in large part to the renaissance of drama at ABC.
Desperate Housewives, the dark comedy about love and lies on Wisteria Lane, and Lost, the daring drama about life among the survivors of a plane crash, were among the series that topped the list of nominees for the 57th annual Primetime Emmy Awards announced yesterday in Los Angeles.
"The big story in TV this year was the resurgence of network drama at ABC with Desperate Housewives and Lost," said Tom O'Neil, author of The Emmys, the definitive book on the history of the awards. "The nominations are a response to the way that those two series broke through and stole the show this year."
Desperate Housewives received 15 nominations, including outstanding comedy series. Three of its stars were also nominated as outstanding lead actress in a comedy series: Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Teri Hatcher.
(Even though it is an hour-long melodrama - as opposed to a half-hour sitcom - the producers had the option of entering it as a comedy instead of drama just as David E. Kelley did with the Fox series Ally McBeal in 1997.)
O'Neil's explanation for the show's other two stars, Eva Longoria and Nicolette Sheridan, being snubbed: "Both of those actresses played rather loose ladies, and I think it was a case of voters making them pay for the onscreen sins of their characters."
NBC's durable gay comedy Will & Grace matched Desperate Housewives in the comedy category with 15 nominations, including one each for lead actor Eric McCormack and supporting actress Megan Mullally.
Everybody Loves Raymond, the popular family sitcom that left the CBS airwaves in May after nine seasons, received 13 nominations, including outstanding comedy series. All five regular members of its cast were also nominated: Ray Romano (lead actor), Patricia Heaton (lead actress), Brad Garrett and Peter Boyle (supporting actors), and Doris Roberts (supporting actress).
Lost picked up 12 nominations for ABC, including that of outstanding drama series. While none of the cast was nominated in the leading actor or actress categories, Terry O'Quinn and Naveen Andrews were nominated in supporting roles.
The 27 combined nominations for the two new ABC series boosted the network's total to 51 this season compared to 33 the year before. That was good for a fourth-place finish overall behind HBO (93), CBS (59) and NBC (54). Fox finished with 49 nominations, followed by PBS (23), Showtime (17), A&E (10) and FX and TNT (eight each). Many of the nominations are for work done behind the camera.
Last year, HBO received a record 124 nominations, but neither the acclaimed mafia drama The Sopranos nor Curb Your Enthusiasm, the offbeat comedy from Larry David, was eligible this year. The Sopranos alone accounted for 20 HBO nominations last season.
Among HBO's 93 nominations yesterday was the first one ever for The Wire, the Peabody Award-winning crime drama filmed in Baltimore. The series was nominated for outstanding writing in the episode titled "Middle Ground," which featured the shooting death of drug dealer Stringer Bell. Producer George Pelecanos shares story credit for the episode with David Simon, creator and executive producer. Pelecanos wrote the teleplay.
"First, congratulations to David Simon, Ed Burns, Nina Noble, and all the people connected with The Wire. We're all proud to have shot this in Baltimore, with a hardworking, quality, local crew," Pelecanos said in an e-mail yesterday.
"This particular episode, directed by Joe Chappelle, is one of the finest we produced, and everyone, from the various department heads to the actors, was at the top of their game. I'm very pleased that we're all being recognized."
Once again, the programs that received the most nominations belonged to HBO. Warm Springs, a film starring Kenneth Branagh as Franklin Roosevelt, and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, a docudrama featuring Geoffrey Rush as the English comedian and actor, each received 16 nominations, including best actor recognition for Branagh and Rush.
Beyond the oversight of Longoria and Sheridan, of Desperate Housewives, other notable snubs yesterday included no major nominations for the most popular drama on television, CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Perennial nominees Martin Sheen and Allison Janney were also passed over, though the series in which they appear, NBC's The West Wing, once again was nominated as outstanding drama.
"For the first time, the Emmys did not salute TV's president, Martin Sheen," O'Neil said. "And Allison Janney, who always seemed to win the Emmy, was also ignored. That's surprising, but not as shocking as what happened to CSI. It was the year of drama - but drama on ABC."
The 57th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, will be broadcast live on CBS from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sept. 18.