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A happy ending?

CHANGING FACES: A fond farewell to Tony's gang, but new names find some room too. Plus ... `LIGHTS' FAILS TO SCORE: All you fans of Kyle Chandler can sit down now. `GIFT' JUST KEEPS ON GIVING: That `SNL' bit -- the Justin Timberlake one -- gets new life.

The academy restores common sense to the nominating process.

July 20, 2007|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

LAST year, the Emmys were knocked (and mocked) for recognizing a slew of programs that were off the air already. That won't be a problem this time around. Nine of the 10 programs nominated in the two most coveted areas of the 59th annual Emmy awards -- outstanding comedy and dramatic series -- were younger shows considered to be in their creative primes. That included three vibrant newcomers -- NBC's drama "Heroes" and comedy "30 Rock," and ABC's comedy "Ugly Betty."

But the notable exception, HBO's groundbreaking series "The Sopranos," which ended last month, is still likely to steal the show on Sept. 16. "The Sopranos," often regarded as one of the best series ever on television, took in 15 nominations, helping power HBO to the top of the Emmys heap with 86 total nominations.

"It's going to be a coronation of 'The Sopranos,' it's a great show," said Katie Jacobs, a show-runner for Fox's "House." The medical procedural got four nominations this year, including for outstanding drama series.

Among the networks, ABC, buoyed by multiple nods in major categories for "Grey's Anatomy" and "Boston Legal," ranked first with 70 total nominations. NBC was on its heels with 69.

"It's always hard to choose between your babies, but both those shows deserve what they got," said ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson.

He was disappointed but not surprised by the absence of onetime Emmy favorites "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" from the best series categories. "It doesn't do any good to bitch about what you didn't get, but it's clear the academy has a bias against those shows. But we'll enjoy the ones we got. I know it's impossible to recognize everybody."

Despite the extraordinary critical acclaim for "The Sopranos," the series has claimed only one Emmy for outstanding dramatic series, which came in 2004. And last year, James Gandolfini as mob boss Tony Soprano and Edie Falco as his wife were shut out of the dramatic acting categories.

" 'Sopranos' is a show that we're super-proud of, that had the highest kind of craftsmanship," said Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment. The network was "really, really happy," she said, with the recognition bestowed upon it.

One of its nominations this year came thanks to the writing behind one of the most controversial episodes in television history -- the "Made in America" series finale in which Tony Soprano's fate is unclear.

The show's departure truly marks the end of an era for HBO, and it remains to be seen whether any of its new series can come close to filling the void.

"It's not necessarily about drawing mass audience, that kind of big, broad 'Sopranos' audience," Strauss said. "It's about drawing different audiences over the breadth of the schedule."

The comedy scene appears much more wide open. Last year's winner, "The Office," is back again for outstanding comedy and is joined by network cousin and critical darling "30 Rock."

"I'm psyched for our Thursday night comedy lineup," said Ben Silverman, the newly appointed co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. "I think the race is going to come down to the wire, and that's part of the fun, there's always a surprise."

Tina Fey's best actress nomination was redemptive -- her skills as a thespian were called into question in the early days of "30 Rock," most notably by Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales. But despite the acknowledgment, the comedian liked her chances to remain in her seat during the awards ceremony.

"I think it's actually going to be a really relaxing evening in that way, because I do not have a chance in hell in winning," Fey said Thursday. "So I can just relax in that category and try to find a nice dress."

HBO's popular take on Hollywood posturing, "Entourage," received its first nomination ever for best comedy.

"We're a dark horse," said Doug Ellin, the show's creator. "If we were to win, it would be fantastic, but I'm not expecting it. I'm a big fan of 'The Office.' Whatever, it's nice to be in the group."

HBO once again dominated in the made-for-television movie category. It scored 17 nominations for "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" -- the most in that category since 1976's "Eleanor and Franklin."

The dramatic adaptation of Dee Brown's heart-wrenching book about the annihilation of Native American culture drew mixed reviews when it premiered in May. But the sting of any lukewarm press faded Thursday for the movie's executive producer, Dick Wolf.

"It wasn't a bad way to wake up," he said. "We felt the show was good, but anybody who would have said we were going to get 17 nominations would have been out of their minds."

Meanwhile, "ER," the long-running medical ensemble drama, picked up three nominations, giving it 120 total overall -- eclipsing "Cheers" for the most nominations in Emmy history. The NBC show is entering its 14th -- and what may well be its last -- season.

\o7Times staff writers Chris Lee and Matea Gold contributed to this report.


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