Emmy Goes Straight To Cable

LOS ANGELES–This morning’s Emmy nomination announcements woke up this July press tour. Some actors and showrunners were congratulated, others consoled (including Blair Underwood, who failed to grab a nomination despite being on three different shows: In Treatment, Private Practice and The New Adventures of Old Christine.)

The breakthroughs come this year in specialty. Damages, an FX original, drew seven nominations, with Glenn Close, Ted Danson and Željko Ivanek all scoring acting nominations. FX president John Landgraf called the acting triple play a “basic cable first.” AMC’s Mad Men scored an astounding 16 nominations, four more than the most-nominated network drama (ABC’s Pushing Daisies). John Hann, who plays Mad Men’s top gun ad exec, stands as a front runner in a field of Best Actor nominees dominated by cable. AMC’s other new drama, Breaking Bad, garnered four nominations, including one for Bryan Cranston, finally recognized as a dramatic actor after failing to score a comedy Emmy over seven seasons as the daffy dad on Malcolm in the Middle.
Showtime saw Dexter slash through with nominations for Best Drama and Best Actor (Michael C. Hall). HBO once again captured the most nominations by any one network, with 85, but without hits like The Sopranos and Sex and the City, many of those came courtesy one miniseries: John Adams, the U.S. presidential historical drama with Paul Giamotti (as Adams), Laura Liney (Abigail Adams), David Morse (George Washington), Stephen Dillane (Thomas Jefferson) and Tom Wilkinson (Benjamin Franklin) all winning acting noms. John Adams received a total of 23 nominations, tops for any TV offering last season.
Like The Geminis, The Emmys have way too many categories. One added this year seems excessive: Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. What happens if Howie Mandel wins for hosting Deal or No Deal? He can’t shake hands! Ryan Seacrest (American Idol), Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars), Heidi Klum (Project Runaway) and Jeff Probst (Survivor) are all nominated. What, Les Moonves couldn’t pull in a few favours for his wife, Big Brother host Julie Chen?
Also like The Geminis, the Emmy Award process can seem a bit ridiculous. How does HBO’s brilliant The Wire or Real Time with Bill Maher or NBC’s critically embraced Friday Night Lights wind up with the same number of nominations as According to Jim, Kid Nation or Pirate Master (all with one)? Jimmy Kimmel can take some solace in his recent breakup with girlfriend Sarah Silverman that his show scored four nominations to her one.
Matt Groening told critics earlier this week in L.A. that if he could change one thing about the Emmy process, it was that he would divide the animation category into adult animation and children’s animation. “It seems like the adult animated TV show wins every year,” says Groening, “and it would be nice to see some of the great children’s animation that’s out there [win].”
Groening’s right—this year’s “Outstanding Animated Program” category finds The Simpsons and King Of The Hill duking it out with the even zanier Robot Chicken as well as kiddie fare like Creature Comforts America and SpongeBob SquarePants.

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