LOS ANGELES, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- "Six Feet Under" won five Emmys at the technical and creative awards in Los Angeles Saturday to just one for "The West Wing," but HBO's funeral home drama is still heading for a showdown with the NBC White House drama for supremacy at next Sunday's 54th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards.
On Saturday, "Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing" were in head-to-head competition in four categories -- art direction, casting, cinematography and picture editing. "Six Feet Under" took the Emmy for casting, but both shows lost out in the other three categories in which they faced off.
"Six Feet Under's" four other wins came for guest actress in a drama series (Patricia Clarkson), main title design, makeup and composer Thomas Newman's eerily catchy main title theme music.
"The West Wing's" only win on Saturday was for its special two-hour documentary based on interviews with three former presidents and dozens of former White House advisers and staffers.
Set in a family owned-and-operated mortuary, "Six Feet Under" led the field this year with 23 nominations. "The West Wing" had 22.
With five wins already in hand, "Six Feet Under" needs four on Sunday to tie the record for most Emmys won in a single season, set by "the West Wing" two years ago.
It will be a tall order.
Among the remaining categories left to present on Sunday, "Six Feet Under" has eight nominations while "The West Wing" has 15.
That numerical advantage -- along with a two-year winning streak for best drama series -- would seem to give writer-producer Aaron Sorkin's White House drama a leg up on writer-producer Alan Ball's funeral home drama heading into Sunday's ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium.
The two shows are in direct competition in six of the major categories -- best drama series, lead actor and actress, supporting actor and actress and directing in a drama series. Inexplicably, "Six Feet Under" is not among the nominees for writing for a drama series -- even though the writing has been routinely praised by fans and critics who made the series the latest in a growing string of hits for HBO's original series department.
Apart from the head-to-head rivalry, both shows also feature intramural competition for the top acting awards, making it unlikely to impossible that either will carry off more than a handful of trophies on Sunday.
Between them, "Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing" account for 15 of the 21 nominations in just four categories -- lead and supporting actor and actress in a drama. Normally, there are 20 acting nominations, but TV Academy members nominated six performers this year for supporting actor in a drama series.
Unless there are multiple winners in the acting categories -- something that happens, but only rarely -- neither show will add more than four Emmys to its total as a result of acting wins.
Michael C. Hall and Peter Krause of "Six Feet Under" are both up for lead actor, in a field that also includes Martin Sheen of "The West Wing," Michael Chiklis of the F/X cop drama "The Shield" and Kiefer Sutherland of "24."
Frances Conroy and Rachel Griffiths of "Six Feet Under" are up for lead actress in a field that also features Allison Janney of "The West Wing," Amy Brenneman of the CBS family court drama "Judging Amy," and Jennifer Garner, the star of ABC's spy thriller "Alias."
"The West Wing" boasts four nominees for supporting actor -- Dulé Hill, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford -- and three for supporting actress -- Stockard Channing, Janel Moloney and Mary-Louise Parker.
The other nominees for supporting actor are Freddy Rodriguez of "Six Feet Under" and Victor Garber of "Alias." The other nominees for supporting actress are Lauren Ambrose of "Six Feet Under" and Tyne Daly of "Judging Amy."
The only other category in which the two shows will go head-to-head on Sunday is directing for a drama series. "Six Feet Under" has one nomination in the category, to two for "The West Wing."
In the competition for what is generally regarded as the top prize -- outstanding drama series -- the other nominees are the CBS forensics drama "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation," NBC's crime and punishment show "Law & Order" and Fox's groundbreaking "real-time" political thriller "24."
"Law & Order," which is entering its 13th season, has been nominated for best drama every year since 1992. It won in 1997.
If "The West Wing" takes the top Emmy, it will become the first "three-peat" winner since "L.A. Law" turned the hat trick in 1989-91.
In past years, an over-the-air show such as "The West Wing" would have had an advantage over a cable show such as "Six Feet Under," simply because it would have been seen by many more academy voters. Ironically, owing to the dramatic increase in cable viewership largely driven by HBO shows such as "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City" and, now, "Six Feet Under," cable nominees are playing on a closer-to-level playing field than ever before.