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Broadcast Back as Emmy Leader

Jul 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The ratings and critical resurgence of the major broadcast networks during the 2004-05 season translated into award recognition last week when the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced nominations for the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and NBC’s “Will & Grace” tied for the highest number of nominations for series with 15 apiece, and a mix of old and new broadcast nods helped tip the nomination balance toward the networks and away from cable.

For the 2005 Emmys, the six major broadcasters and PBS received 241 nominations, up from 206 in 2004, while cable dropped to 188 nominations from 221.

This year’s nominations also marked an inevitable changing of the guard, with Emmy veterans “Friends,” “Frasier,” “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” either out of production or wrapped entirely, making room for a slew of new Emmy hopefuls.

In the eight major series acting categories, for instance, only one of the two eligible winners from last year, James Spader, was nominated this year. And Mr. Spader is on a different show-last year he won for his role on ABC’s “The Practice,” while this year he was nominated for the same character, but on the spinoff “Boston Legal.” Last year’s lead actress in a drama winner, Allison Janney, wasn’t even nominated for the 2005 award for her role in NBC’s White House series “The West Wing.”

Although the made-for-television movie category contained only nominees from cable, PBS’s “The Lost Prince” from “Masterpiece Theatre” made the cut in the outstanding miniseries category, along with CBS’s “Elvis,” which also scored nominations in five other categories.

The key to making the biography of Elvis Presley work was access to the music, said “Elvis” executive producer Howard Braunstein.

“If we were going to do this movie we needed the cooperation and participation of the [Presley] estate,” Mr. Braunstein said. “It didn’t hurt having a fantastic actor playing Elvis.”

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who played the title role, was nominated along with co-stars Camryn Manheim and Randy Quaid.

In both the outstanding drama and comedy categories, a pair of first-time nominees made the list. For best drama, ABC’s first-season mystery-plane-crash series “Lost” and HBO’s foul-mouthed Western epic “Deadwood” joined returning nominees “West Wing,” Fox’s “24”and HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” In the outstanding comedy category NBC’s quirky single-camera “Scrubs” got its first series nomination after four seasons on the air, along with the highly rated first-season cultural phenomenon “Housewives.” The two series join “Will & Grace,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and last year’s winner, Fox’s “Arrested Development.”

The comedy nomination for hour-long “Housewives” is rare, since half-hours tend to compete in comedy categories, while hours dominate drama. That fact was not lost on Bill Lawrence, the creator and executive producer of “,” which like “Housewives” is produced by Touchstone Television. “It’s an honor to be nominated with three other comedies and the one drama soap opera,” Mr. Lawrence joked last Thursday morning.

But the “Housewives” nomination is not unprecedented. In 2001 Fox’s one-hour “Ally McBeal” won the best comedy Emmy, and Tony Shalhoub won a comedy actor Emmy in 2003 for his role in the hour-long USA detective series “Monk.”

“It’s a tough call, but it’s gone both ways in different awards,” said Stephen McPherson, ABC’s president of entertainment. “In the end it was Touchstone’s call, but I think it was good.”

What’s particularly noteworthy about the “Housewives” nomination is that Emmy voters recognized a show that has strong soap opera elements, said Tom O’Neil, author of “The Emmys” and webmaster of Goldderby.com, which handicaps show business awards ceremonies.

“In general these prime-time serials do not do well at the Emmys,” Mr. O’Neil said. “‘Dynasty’ holds the record as the biggest loser with 24 nominations [and no wins].”

This year, the soapy show appears to be the one to beat, he said, calling “Housewives” the “front-runner” in the comedy category.

Besides best comedy, “Housewives” has a 3-in-5 shot of taking home the lead actress in a comedy Emmy, with nominations for cast members Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman. Emmy voters opted not to recognize “Housewives'” Eva Longoria or Nicollette Sheridan.

While “Housewives” studio Touchstone Television was disappointed that Ms. Longoria and Ms. Sheridan didn’t get Emmy nods, the fact that two cast members from “Lost,” Naveen Andrews and Terry O’Quinn, were nominated in the supporting actor, drama series, category was heartening but challenging, said Mark Pedowitz, president of the company.

“It’s very hard when you have 13, 14 characters on a show,” Mr. Pedowitz said of “Lost,” which scored 12 nominations in its first season of eligibility. “Everyone’s time will come, I really do hope.”

Being in the position where so many of your shows’ actors deserve nominations is a great problem to have, said Mr. McPherson, who called the omission of “Lost’s” Matthew Fox from the outstanding actor in a drama series an “oversight.”

“This shows the depth of our talent pool,” Mr. McPherson said.

Other first-season broadcast shows racked up high-profile nominations, including Fox’s “House” and NBC’s “Medium.”

Rookies were not the only shows to get recognition. “Will & Grace” creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan were surprised by their 15 nominations, a record for the seventh-season series, and one shy of HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show’s” record 16 nominations in 1997.

“We’re very excited to be honored by the academy so late in the game,” Mr. Mutchnick said. “It’s a nice way to start the day.”

For the cast and crew of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which wrapped its ninth and final season with 13 nominations, there is a particular interest in the supporting actor in a comedy series category, said Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of the show.

“We want Peter Boyle to take it home this year,” he said, noting Mr. Boyle is the only series regular who hasn’t won an Emmy for “Raymond.”

A best comedy writing win would also be rewarding, Mr. Rosenthal said, since the entire writing staff shares credit for the nominated finale episode.

“We wrote that last episode together, and it would be fun to win together,” he said.

The show that will be replacing “Raymond,” Warner Bros. Television’s “Two and a Half Men,” which scored two nominations, could benefit next Emmy season once it is out of “Raymond’s” shadow. But trying to guess what Emmy voters might do in 2006 is futile, said “Men” creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre.

“That’s one of the things you’d categorize as out of my control,” Mr. Lorre said, adding that Conchata Ferrell’s and Holland Taylor’s nominations in the supporting actress category were an acknowledgement of the show.

“We succeed when we keep a tight focus on their character flaws and their relationships with one another,” he said. “There are no gimmicks, bells or whistles. We just try and write good material for a great cast.”

This year’s Emmy nominations give one performer the chance to go home with three awards. Blythe Danner was nominated for her role in the CBS miniseries “Back When We Were Grownups,” a guest role on “Will & Grace” and as a supporting actress in a drama series for Showtime’s “Huff.”

A dubious record could also be tied due to this year’s nominations. Angela Lansbury received her 18th Emmy nomination with a guest actress in a drama series nod for a role she played in both NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.” If she loses, she will match daytime star Susan Lucci’s record of having the longest string of nominations with no wins. Ms. Lucci finally won a Daytime Emmy in 1999, on her 19th nomination.

Even the most secure producers said they don’t take an Emmy nomination for granted. CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” which has won both of the two reality compet
ition Emmys ever given out by the academy, shouldn’t be considered a shoo-in, said creator Bertram van Munster.

“I’ve been too long in this business to expect automatic love,” he said from an undisclosed location, where he is scouting for the next installment of the series. “It’s always unexpected.”