LOS ANGELES -- When 'Northern Exposure' won the Emmy last year as top drama series, producer Joshua Brand informed television academy voters that his quirky Alaska show really is a comedy.
Then he walked offstage with what he predicted would be its one and only Emmy for outstanding drama series.
Did he speak too soon?
Brand and partner John Falsey submitted 'Northern Exposure' for consideration in the drama categories for this year's 45th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, and it received 16 nominations, including top drama series, eight acting nominations and two for writing.
It would seem academy voters disagree with Brand, or maybe didn't get the message.
True, it sometimes takes on serious tones, such as one episode last season in which Marine veteran Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) was asked to give his blessing on his Korean son's marriage to the daughter of a North Korean general, Minnifield's nemesis in that war.
But for the most part, 'Northern Exposure' is tinged with humor as it tells the stories of a bunch of oddballs and outcasts getting by in a remote Alaska town.
When the Emmy Awards in 26 major categories are presented Sunday night in Pasadena, Calif., the toughest competition for 'Northern Exposure' most likely will come from another CBS series, 'Picket Fences,' with eight nominations.
'Picket Fences,' starring Tom Skerritt and Kathy Baker, in its first season drew a loyal if small audience. Billed by CBS as 'drama with humor,' it deals with a sheriff, his wife the doctor and their children in the small town of Rome, Wis.
Both series have enjoyed critical praise for delivering light, interesting stories and characters in the hour-long format usually bogged down by heavy topics and deep messages.
However, 'Northern Exposure' has the advantage of being on the air longer -- three years now -- giving the writers and actors more time to work the bugs out of the characters.
In addition to the outstanding drama series nomination for 'Picket Fences,' Skerritt and Baker are up for lead acting awards against Rob Morrow and Janine Turner from 'Northern Exposure.'
Other top drama nominees are 'Law & Order,' 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Homefront,' the latter two canceled because of low ratings.
In the comedy categories, 'Cheers' would be the sentimental favorite, having gone out of production on a high note with the second highest TV series rating ever and the distinction of being the most nominated show in Emmy history.
It is up for outstanding comedy series as well as acting awards for Ted Danson, Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman. If it wins four of its eight possible awards, 'Cheers' will have racked up 30 Emmys in its successful run, surpassing 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' as the winningest series.
But in its 11th and final season, 'Cheers' had done most everything it set out to accomplish; in fact its creators felt it was best to shut it down before it went into the inevitable tailspin as key cast members quit.
If the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences decides to honor comedy series whose writers take the medium to new levels, then the favorites are 'Seinfeld' and 'The Larry Sanders Show.'
'Seinfeld,' starring standup comic Jerry Seinfeld, has become one of the most talked-about shows, particularly episodes such as 'The Contest,' which focused on the primetime taboo of masturbation without using that forbidden word.
Its 11 nominations include top comedy series and two writing nominations, and Seinfeld himself is up for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series. Costars Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards are up for supporting acting awards.
'The Larry Sanders Show' on HBO is Garry Shandling's send-up of talk shows. With real late-night TV the most competitive it has been since Johnny Carson retired last year, Shandling's lampoon has become more relevant than ever.
It has eight nominations including comedy series, two shots at the writing award and acting awards for Shandling and costars Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn.
Also up for best comedy series are the highly rated Tim Allen show, 'Home Improvement,' and last year's winner, 'Murphy Brown.'
The ceremonies, telecast live in the United States on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. EDT, will be seen by an estimated 500 million viewers in 80 countries.