July 17, 2009
Cable Shines in Emmy Nominations
By EDWARD WYATT
CABLE networks and past winners dominated the nominations for the Emmy Awards on Thursday, while many of the most-watched drama and comedy series on broadcast television will once again be left on the outside looking in when the industry’s 61st annual awards festival is held on Sept. 20.
“30 Rock,” winner of the Emmy for best comedy the last two years, received 22 nominations, the most ever for a comedy series. That NBC show received its third straight nomination for best comedy, and its creator, Tina Fey, garnered her third nomination for best comedy actress, which she also won last year. Alec Baldwin, winner of the best comedy actor award last year, got the nod again in that category, while three of the series’s supporting performers also received nominations: Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski.
“Mad Men,” the stylish 1960s drama that won the 2008 Emmy for best of its class — in its first year of eligibility, no less — received 16 nominations, the most for any drama series this year. Elisabeth Moss received her first Emmy nomination as best actress for the series, which is telecast on the AMC cable channel, and Jon Hamm received a second straight best actor bid. (Mr. Hamm was also nominated as outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for an appearance on — what else? — “30 Rock.”)
“Mad Men” also produced a nomination for John Slattery as best supporting actor in a drama series, while Matthew Weiner, the series’s creator and executive producer, was named in four of the five nominations for best writing in a drama series. The fifth nod in that category went to ABC’s “Lost.”
Two cable series, AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and HBO’s “Big Love,” received their first nominations for best drama series, and over all cable networks produced five of the seven nominees. In addition to “Mad Men,” two cable series received their second nominations: FX’s “Damages” and Showtime’s “Dexter.” Rounding out the category were ABC’s “Lost,” winner in its first season in 2005, and Fox’s “House,” which received its fourth straight nomination but has yet to win.
Mr. Weiner, who before he created “Mad Men” was a writer on “The Sopranos,” said he did not put much stock in the cable versus network dichotomy because many of the cable networks are owned by the same companies that also own broadcast networks. But, he added, broadcast executives have leaned more toward reality shows than toward challenging dramas in recent years. He said he recently told a television executive, “If I brought you ‘L.A. Law’ right now, you would put it on FX.”
Over all, HBO, with 99 nods, once again led the pack in the nominations, which were announced on Thursday morning by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. NBC gathered 67, to lead the broadcast networks, followed by ABC, with 55 bids. HBO’s made-for-television movie “Grey Gardens” received 17 nominations, tying for the most ever in that category.
For all the familiarity, rules changes and expanded categories provided for some new faces in the nominations. “Family Guy,” the Fox animated series, was named as one of seven finalists for the award for best comedy series, an honor that even “The Simpsons,” now in its 20th season, has never achieved. (“The Simpsons” has won the Emmy for best animated series 10 times.)
Other first-time nominees for best comedy include HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords,” the CBS hit “How I Met Your Mother” and Showtime’s “Weeds.” Rounding out the category are the perennials “Entourage” from HBO and NBC’s series “30 Rock” and “The Office.”
Aiming to widen the field to attract more viewers to the annual Emmys broadcast, the television academy expanded both the best comedy and drama categories to provide for six nominees this year, but ties in the balloting produced seven nominees in each.
As usual, there were more surprises in who got left out of the nominations than in who got in. Anna Paquin, the Oscar winner who won a Golden Globe for her role in HBO’s “True Blood,” failed to receive an Emmy nomination. While “Big Love” garnered its first bid for best drama, none of its four principal performers were nominated.
And Chuck Lorre’s popular comedies, “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” were shut out of the best-in-class competition, although two of their principal performers were recognized. Charlie Sheen received his fourth straight nomination for best actor for “Men,” and he will go up against Jim Parsons, who received his first nomination for “Big Bang.”
Perhaps ominously for NBC’s slate of late-night talk shows, neither Jay Leno nor Conan O’Brien received a nomination for his program in the category of outstanding variety, music or comedy series. “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” received a single nomination, for writing. CBS’s “Late Show With David Letterman” received five nominations, including best of its category.
Several other shows and networks emerged from the shadows of the better-known competitors this year. Showtime received 29 nominations, its most ever. Among them were bids for best actress in a comedy for Mary-Louise Parker as a pot-dealing mom in “Weeds,” her third for the role, and Toni Collette, who portrays a woman with four personalities in “United States of Tara.” Michael C. Hall received his second Emmy nomination as lead actor for the title role in “Dexter.”
Sarah Silverman was nominated for outstanding lead actress in a comedy for the title role in “The Sarah Silverman Program” on Comedy Central; she will go up against several comedy veterans, including Christina Applegate of “Samantha Who?” and a previous winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Simon Baker, the star of the new CBS drama “The Mentalist,” received his first Emmy nomination, in the lead drama actor category. Hugh Laurie, of “House,” received his fourth.
Perhaps the most surprising nomination, however, went to “Family Guy,” the creation of Seth MacFarlane, which became only the second animated series, after “The Flintstones” in 1961, to be nominated for best comedy. The creators of “The Simpsons” submitted their series a few times in the best comedy category in the 1990s but stopped after they failed to get a nomination.
"All of the prime-time animated shows have been frustrated for a long time at not being put up against the shows that do things that are analogous to what they do,” Mr. MacFarlane said. “We just do it in a different medium. But it’s no less legitimate than the fact that shows like ‘30 Rock’ and ‘The Office’ use a single-camera format without an audience” yet compete with multicamera sitcoms.
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