Grand Old Emmy Party For 'Reagans,' 'Angels'
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, July 16, 2004; Page C01
LOS ANGELES, July 15
The Television Academy thumbed its nose at the GOP this morning, showering "The Reagans" -- the TV movie the Republican Party tried to censor -- with seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations. That includes acting nominations for Judy Davis, who played Nancy Reagan in the movie, and for James Brolin as Ronald Reagan, as well as nominations for best writing and best telefilm.
In another nod to the Reagan administration, "Angels in America," HBO's miniseries adapted from Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about New Yorkers affected by the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, bagged a leading 21 Emmy nominations -- still no challenge to the most nominated miniseries in Emmy history, ABC's 1977 broadcast of "Roots."
HBO set a Primetime Emmy record this year with 124 nominations -- nearly double NBC's 65. CBS received 44 nominations, ABC had 33, Fox had 31, and PBS had 27.
"Hollywood really came through for us," said an elated Craig Zadan. Zadan and producing partner Neil Meron found themselves condemned as traitors by some conservatives because of "The Reagans," which was originally ordered as a miniseries by CBS for last November's sweeps. The telefilm wound up running on the Showtime cable channel in December when the broadcast network caved under political pressure. Critics charged, before having seen the project, that it cast the former president as being overly influenced by the first lady, that Reagan turned his back on the AIDS crisis, and that the couple had little time for their children.
"The work rose above the controversy," added Meron; that controversy included the introduction of a bill in Congress by Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-Ind.) to replace Franklin D. Roosevelt's face on the dime with that of Reagan, as a response to the movie.
"We really wanted this acknowledgement, because we were so beat up," Meron told The TV Column.
HBO's mob drama, "The Sopranos," copped 20 nominations this year, seven more than last year, to become this year's second most nominated program. Last year's most nominated series, HBO's "Six Feet Under," was not eligible this year because of its play dates.
Next in line, although not close, was NBC's "The West Wing," with 12 nominations. That's a far cry from the 22 it received just two seasons earlier. Even so, TV critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2004 seemed surprised by the recognition. Just days earlier, Kevin Reilly, NBC entertainment division president, told them the White House drama was "challenged" last season because of the departure of creator Aaron Sorkin, adding that executive producer John Wells would try to "juice it up creatively" this coming season.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has named "The West Wing" the best drama series on television every year since 2000; this year it's in the running with "The Sopranos," CBS's "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," Fox's "24" and CBS's freshman "Joan of Arcadia."
"Joan" appeared to be the beneficiary of changes in Emmy rules intended to recognize more freshman series; the academy has been criticized for repeatedly awarding trophies to the same old shows. Starting this year, academy members could choose as many as 10 nominees per category, double the previous number, and the top five vote-getters became the nominees in each category.
Also basking in the rule change was HBO's new western, "Deadwood" -- this year's fourth most nominated program with 11, although its haul does not include one for best series. "Deadwood" shares fourth-place status with HBO's "Sex and the City," which received a goodbye kiss from the academy in the form of a nomination for best sitcom. The academy was not so affectionate toward NBC's departed "Friends" and "Frasier." So "Sex" will brawl instead with Fox's "Arrested Development," last year's winning "Everybody Loves Raymond" on CBS, HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and NBC's "Will & Grace."
John Ritter, who died while taping last season's third episode of ABC's "8 Simple Rules," got a nomination for best sitcom actor, joining "Monk's" Tony Shalhoub, who was last year's winner, as well as Larry David of "Curb," Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier" and Matt LeBlanc of "Friends."
"Sex's" Sarah Jessica Parker will vie for the best sitcom actress crown against Jennifer Aniston of "Friends, Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Bonnie Hunt of "Life with Bonnie" and Jane Kaczmarek of "Malcolm in the Middle."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Emma Thompson's nomination for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries is one of 21 for "Angels in America."