CBS may have ended last season in third place, but its surprise hit, the Western miniseries "Lonesome Dove," not-so-surprisingly netted the most nominations Thursday for the 41st annual nighttime Emmy Awards, topping by one the most nominated show of the last two seasons, "L.A. Law."
"Lonesome Dove," the critically acclaimed, eight-hour adaptation of Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, garnered 18 nominations--including one as best miniseries and others for stars Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, Diane Lane and Anjelica Huston.
Its showing pushed CBS to a strong second place among the nomination leaders. Ratings king NBC, which has dominated the Emmy nominations for the last six years, collected 103 of the 364 nominations, with CBS getting 95 and ABC 85. PBS programs netted 32, and syndicated programs got 21 nominations. Fox Broadcasting shows got 12. Cable programs, which became eligible for nomination for the first time last year, received 16 nominations, only one more than last year.
Suzanne de Passe, co-executive producer of "Lonesome Dove" and president of Motown Productions, said Thursday that when she got the 6 a.m. call from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences informing her of the 18 nominations, "I immediately burst into tears.
"It's probably the most satisfying moment I think I've ever had. . . ," she said. "I'm so thrilled--not just for the actors and what they call the major categories, but for our costumer, all of the people who really gave it all of that look, the photography, the music. For me as a producer and as part of the producing team, it really means we selected great people."
De Passe added that the multiple nominations will not affect Motown's decision on whether to produce a sequel to what was the highest rated miniseries of the last five years. That depends, she said, on whether author McMurtry endorses it. "It's the only way I would be happy (doing a sequel)," she said.
Last year's best series winners--ABC's "thirtysomething" in drama and ABC's "The Wonder Years" in comedy--were nominated in those categories again and also picked up more total nominations than in their first year on the air. "thirtysomething" got 13, compared to its 1988 total of 10, while "The Wonder Years," which received only two nominations in 1988--in the series and writing categories--garnered 14 this time out.
CBS newcomer "Murphy Brown," starring Candice Bergen as a hard-driving TV newswoman, became the most-nominated new series of last season with 11 nominations. But the series faces stiff competition in the best comedy category: Other nominees include previous Emmy-winners "The Wonder Years," NBC's "Golden Girls" and NBC's "Cheers," along with CBS' "Designing Women."
"We're thrilled, we're just thrilled," said Diane English, co-executive producer of "Murphy Brown" with husband Joel Shukovsky. "A part of me would like to be the kind of person who says, 'It means nothing; I don't care,' but let's be honest: This is pretty great--especially since we're such a new show."
English acknowledged that the thrill of being nominated is tempered by the waiting period between now and the Emmy Awards ceremony, which will be held Sept. 17 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
"Now is the part when it's not so much fun, where people try to involve you in that competition, and it really shouldn't be that," she said. "It would be great if it didn't come down to one winner, because the stuff that gets nominated is all so good. It would be great if it just ended here--that these are the five best shows in each category."
"Murphy Brown" has been only a marginal ratings success for CBS--but ratings don't necessarily translate into Emmy nominations. The three top-rated series of last season received only six nominations among them--four for ABC's "Roseanne" and one each for NBC's Thursday-night tandem of "The Cosby Show" and "A Diffent World"--and none was nominated as best comedy series.
The star of "Roseanne," former stand-up comedian Roseanne Barr, also failed to win nomination as best actress in a comedy series, although John Goodman, who plays her husband, was nominated as best actor. Also notably absent among the comedy nominees was John Larroquette of "Night Court," who has won the Emmy as best supporting actor for four years in a row.
But while Barr was an entrant in the competition, Larroquette was not: The actor took advantage of a new Emmy rule that requires actors to enter themselves in the competition, as do producers, writers and entrants in all other categories. In previous years, the producers of the shows were allowed to enter their cast members in the acting categories.
Larroquette said Thursday that he chose not to enter. "I think my thought process was that the generosity of the Academy toward me has been magnanimous, and I just felt that I didn't want to overstay my welcome," he said. "I don't think there was any real devious thought about it, such as, 'I've never lost and I don't want to lose now.' "