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HBO tops Emmy nominations with 'Big Love,' movies and miniseries

The polygamous family tale is up for best drama, while 'Grey Gardens,' 'Into the Storm,' 'Taking Chance' and 'Generation Kill' get noticed too.

July 17, 2009|Matea Gold

NEW YORK — HBO recaptured its Emmy preeminence Thursday, racking up the most nominations of any television network for the ninth year in a row as the polygamous family saga "Big Love" broke into the best drama category for the first time.

But it was the premium cable channel's movies and miniseries that really delivered. "Grey Gardens," the tale of Jacqueline Kennedy's reclusive aunt and cousin, garnered 17 nominations, including nods for stars Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. "Into the Storm," the story of Winston Churchill's leadership during World War II, nabbed 14 nominations, while "Taking Chance," about a Marine who escorts home the body of a young lance corporal, scored 10 nods. The gritty Iraq war miniseries "Generation Kill" garnered 11 nominations.

In all, HBO claimed 99 nominations, its third highest tally in nine years. NBC placed second this year, with 67.

"It's a wonderful acknowledgment of an enormous amount of talent that comes to work with us in all dimensions and categories, and the salute is to them, because we're as good as who comes in the door," said Richard Plepler, HBO's co-president.

Still, amid Thursday's recognition were signs of the challenges the cable network continues to face in reclaiming the lock it once had on cutting-edge dramas. Its new hit, the gothic vampire soap "True Blood," did not receive any major nominations.

And for the second year, the critically acclaimed "In Treatment" failed to garner a nomination for best dramatic series. (Star Gabriel Byrne did receive his second nod for best actor, joined this year by supporting actresses Hope Davis and Dianne Wiest.)

"The drama category is a really competitive, hard category," said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO's programming group. "All of the networks have spent a lot of time and energy on it."

One bright spot was "Big Love," which in its third season finally scored a best dramatic series nomination.

"We had gotten to the point that we just didn't want to expect it anymore," said Will Scheffer, co-creator of the show with Mark V. Olsen. "It's been so disappointing in the past. I can't believe in such a tough category this year we finally got the recognition I think we deserved."

Comedy also did well for HBO. "Entourage" was nominated for best comedy series for the third year in a row, joined by "Flight of the Conchords," about a quirky New Zealand folk duo.

But it was "Grey Gardens," the film about the isolated world of "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, that raked in the most accolades.

"In retrospect, it may seem like a slam dunk, but believe me, when you're trying to sell a movie about two ladies stuck in a house, it doesn't sound terribly commercial," said writer-director Michael Sucsy, who spent six years on the film.

Lange credited HBO for picking up the project, which originally was conceived of as a potential theatrical release.

"We would never have been able to do it as a feature film the way we were able to do it for HBO," she said. "I just think they're willing to take chances on things that other people aren't. They see the merit that is somehow beyond commercial."

matea.gold@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Denise Martin contributed to this report.

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