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A first for basic cable

'Mad Men' and 'Damages' lend drama to this year's award race as they land prominent nominations.

July 18, 2008|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

FX'S "DAMAGES" and AMC's "Mad Men" made history Thursday when they became the first basic-cable series to earn Emmy nominations for best drama, edging out such favorites as "Grey’s Anatomy."

"Mad Men," a drama set on Madison Avenue in the advertising world of the 1960s, earned 16 nominations for the 60th annual Emmy Awards, including one for breakout star Jon Hamm for lead actor. The legal drama "Damages" garnered seven, including a best actress nod for Glenn Close. [See nominations list.]

Joining them in the dramatic series category are "Lost," "Boston Legal," "Dexter" and "House." "Lost's" nomination was a comeback for the ABC show that many said had lost its way and hadn't been nominated in this category for its past two seasons. With "Dexter," Showtime breaks into the best drama group for the first time. In the comedy category, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage," "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Two and a Half Men" earned nominations.

HBO continued its domination, with 85 nominations -- 23 of those going to its lavish miniseries about the second U.S. president, "John Adams." The pay-cable channel also managed to dominate lead actor in a miniseries or movie: All five nominees are from its projects. One of them, British actor Tom Wilkinson, marveled at the caliber of the competition he faces.

"Years ago, there used to be this complacent cliche that American television can't hold a candle to British television," he said. "I think the work coming out of the United States, particularly television in the past 10 or 12 years, is simply astonishing."

Second to HBO among the networks and cable channels, ABC earned 76 nominations, with "Pushing Daisies" garnering 12 and reality-TV show "Dancing With the Stars" waltzing away with eight.

And thanks to "Mad Men," AMC walked away with 20 nominations -- a record for the cable channel.

Notably missing from the list of drama nominees were "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Wire" in its last year of eligibility. The much-promoted "Tudors" on Showtime was also snubbed. Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" once again failed to get a best drama nomination. And NBC cult favorite "Friday Night Lights" was overlooked. "Ugly Betty" and "Pushing Daisies" were passed over for best comedy series, although both earned nominations in other categories.

For "Pushing Daisies," newcomer Lee Pace joins Emmy favorite Tony Shalhoub for "Monk," Charlie Sheen for "Two and a Half Men," Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock" and Steve Carell for "The Office" in the best actor in a comedy series group.

The nominees for best actress in a comedy series are Christina Applegate for "Samantha Who?," America Ferrera for "Ugly Betty," Tina Fey for "30 Rock," former winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and Mary-Louise Parker for "Weeds."

Louis-Dreyfus said she was relieved to be up for the Emmy again -- she won for the role in 2006 -- a year when "there are unbelievably strong contenders." None of the actresses from "Desperate Housewives" was nominated, for instance, despite the perception that the show experienced a creative resurgence this season.

In addition to Close, the nominees in best dramatic actress category are last year's winner, Sally Field, for "Brothers & Sisters," Mariska Hargitay for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Holly Hunter for "Saving Grace" and Kyra Sedgwick for "The Closer."

Sedgwick cheered after picking up her third nomination. "Every single woman up for lead actress is over 35," she said. "The myth that we can't get good work after a certain age is gone. I'm so grateful that people are ready to see women who aren't 20, who don't have as many layers or the richness of women who are older. It's just great."

Kristin Chenoweth, nominated for best supporting actress in a comedy series for "Pushing Daisies," and Neil Patrick Harris, who earned a nod for supporting actor in a comedy series for "How I Met Your Mother," revealed the nominees along with TV academy Chairman John Shaffner at the academy's Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood.

"It makes getting up at 3 really worth it," Chenoweth said.

Because of the Writers Guild of America strike, the season was cut short with several series -- including "Pushing Daisies" -- failing to return after the strike ended in February.

Strike concerns aren't over, however.

This year's Emmy Awards may yet have to grapple with a work stoppage: The Screen Actors Guild recently rejected producers' latest contract proposal.

Kirk Ellis, nominated for writing on "John Adams," said he has seen a work slowdown in anticipation of a possible strike.

"I don't think there's going to be a strike," he said. "But for the last two months, it's been for me a bit like a de facto strike. People aren't breathing down your neck. Nobody is in a hurry."

Back in 1980, the Emmy telecast went on despite an actors strike. Powers Boothe was the only acting nominee who didn't boycott the show. He ended up winning an Emmy that evening.

The Emmys are set to air Sept. 21 on ABC from the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.


Times staff writers Nicky Loomis and Matea Gold, along with special correspondent Denise Martin, contributed to this report.

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