Analysis: Emmys are HBO's show

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  July 16, 2004 at 11:01 AM
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LOS ANGELES, July 15 (UPI) -- When the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, the continued dominance of cable -- and HBO in particular -- was plain to see.

Out of 433 nominations, cable accounted for more than half -- 220. HBO had 124 nominations -- the most of any network or cable channel. HBO's dominance was so pronounced, you have to wonder how many more nominations the premium channel might have picked up if "Six Feet Under" had aired during the qualifying period.

HBO's performance was made possible by strong showings for the miniseries "Angels in America," the drama series "The Sopranos," "Deadwood" and "Carnivale," the comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Sex and the City," and the made-for-TV movies "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself" and "Something the Lord Made."

Those shows garnered a total of 96 nominations.

"Angels in America" -- a big winner at the Golden Globe Awards and the recent winner of the Humanitas Prize for TV movie writing -- led the field with 21 nominations and shows signs of becoming a juggernaut at the Emmy Awards.

In addition to a nomination for best miniseries, it is also in the running for best director (Mike Nichols), writing for a miniseries (Tony Kushner) and such technical awards as art direction and cinematography.

It has so many acting nominations, it may some day be regarded as something of an acting clinic. Al Pacino, Mary-Louise Parker, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and four supporting actors -- Ben Shenkman, Justin Kirk, Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Wright -- are all up for acting Emmys.

"The Sopranos," a familiar entry in the Emmy sweepstakes, had the second-most nominations with 20 -- including best drama series and acting nominations for series stars James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo. The show picked up a directing nomination and four of the five nominations for writing in a drama series.

"Sex and the City," which left the HBO schedule for good this year, got a fabulous parting gift from academy voters -- 11 nominations, including best comedy series and acting nominations for all four of its stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon.

"Deadwood," the rugged Western created by David Milch of "NYPD Blue," also picked up 11 nominations -- including best drama series and a writing nomination for Milch.

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" had nine nominations, including best comedy series, three directing nominations and an acting nomination for series creator-star Larry David.

NBC had the second-highest total of nominations with 65 -- barely more than half as many as HBO. That number included 12 for the reigning drama-series champion, "The West Wing" -- including best drama and acting nominations for Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, John Spencer, Stockard Channing, Janel Moloney and Matthew Perry.

Perry was nominated for a guest spot on the show. The guest-actor nominations, as usual, called attention to outstanding work by some of Hollywood's most respected veterans -- including William Shatner and Betty White ("The Practice"), Louise Fletcher ("Joan of Arcadia") and Bob Newhart ("ER").

Nominees for guest actor and actress in a comedy series included such old hands as John Cleese and Eileen Brennan ("Will & Grace"), Danny DeVito ("Friends"), Fred Willard and Georgia Engel ("Everybody Loves Raymond") and Cloris Leachman ("Malcolm in the Middle").

If anyone wants to start a political argument about this year's Emmy nominees, the multiple nominations for "The Reagans" and "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" would be as good a place as any to start.

"The Reagans," bounced off of CBS' prime-time schedule and picked up by Showtime in a political brouhaha last fall, picked up seven nominations -- including best TV movie and acting nominations for James Brolin and Judy Davis for their performances as Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

"Ike: Countdown to D-Day," produced by noted Hollywood conservative Lionel Chetwynd, had six nominations -- including best TV movie -- but Tom Selleck was overlooked for his performance as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Two long-running series that ended their prime-time campaigns last spring -- "Frasier" and "Friends" -- received multiple nominations, but neither made the final cut for best comedy series.

"Frasier" earned acting nominations for Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce and a writing nomination for the series finale. "Friends" took acting nominations for Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc.

"Will & Grace" -- possibly the last remaining vestige of NBC's once-proud comedy lineup -- took nine nominations, as many as CBS' solid hit "Everybody Loves Raymond."

As usual, academy members -- like the rest of the TV-viewing audience -- demonstrated a taste for the familiar. But there are some new kids in Emmy town.

"Arrested Development," the offbeat Fox comedy, took seven nominations including best comedy series. And "Joan of Arcadia," the spirituality-themed entry from CBS, took three nominations, including one for best series and an acting nomination for series star Amber Tamblyn.

The newcomers may or may not score well at the Emmy Awards, but the storyline for that night may already have been written anyway, and "Angels in America" is at the center of it.

Kushner's play about America facing the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s won the Pulitzer Prize and was a hit on Broadway. It went on to become a ratings smash for HBO, and the only question that remains is the extent to which the TV academy will add to its legend on Sept. 19.

Looking ahead to next year and beyond -- and bearing in mind that the four major networks put together had 173 nominations compared to HBO's 124 -- one wonders whether it is just a matter of time before HBO snags more nominations than ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC combined.


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