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    'Sopranos' Hits Emmy High Note

    By Lisa de Moraes
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, July 23, 1999

      Emmy Awards


    PASADENA, Calif., July 22 The TV Academy showered HBO's "The Sopranos" with 16 Emmy nominations today the most for any program including cable's first-ever nod for Best Drama Series.

    Meanwhile, CBS leapt back into the series game it got shut out of best-series competition last year for the first time since 1970 thanks to six nods for "Everybody Loves Raymond."

    With the notable exception of HBO's mobster series, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences shunned freshman programs, as usual. After "The Sopranos," the most-nominated frosh series is ABC's "Sports Night," which nabbed just three noms, none for acting. Fox's new "That '70s Show" is in the races for costume design and hairstyling; "Will & Grace" was snubbed, landing just one nomination, for directing. Fox's new animated series "The PJs" is up in two races Best Cartoon and Best Main Title Theme Music, where it's competing against Pamela Anderson Lee's "VIP," among other shows. Another new Fox show, "Futurama," is up for Best Cartoon and nothing more. That's it for the new guys.

    "Sopranos" is the first cable series to be nominated for Best Drama Series, doing so at the expense of "The X-Files," which got bumped from this categorythis year. The other nominees are NBC's "ER" and "Law & Order," ABC's "NYPD Blue" and last year's winner, ABC's "The Practice."

    HBO also scored big in the comedy arena, with two surprise nominations for "Sex in the City": Best Sitcom and a Best Actress nod, her first, for Sarah Jessica Parker.

    "Ally McBeal" which last year became the first drama series to be nominated for Best Comedy Series is nominated again this year in the comedy race, as is star Calista Flockhart for Best Sitcom Actress. Though the Academy is apparently okay with the idea of letting creator David E. Kelley enter the one-hour series in comedy races last year it got 10 nominations, this year 13 it's been loath to hand it actual comedy awards. And if the Academy continues to nominate the one-hour version for Best Sitcom, for what will it nominate this coming season's half-hour "sitcom-ized" version of the show best commercial? Actually, that's not a bad idea, since it really is an ad to help 20th Century Fox syndicate the show next year.

    After being ignored in '97 and '98, "Friends" came back strong with six nominations, including Best Comedy, though once again the Academy spurned all of the ensemble's actors, save Lisa Kudrow. ATAS hasn't been good to "Friends," bestowing a paltry two trophies on the hit sitcom in its first four seasons. The show has reportedly been renewed for two more years through the spring of 2002 at $5 million per episode.

    Four of this year's five nominees for Best Drama Series writing belong to "The Sopranos," which also collected four acting noms. Lead James Gandolfini nailed his first Emmy nomination; his competition includes fellow first-timer Dylan McDermott ("The Practice") as well as returnees Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits of "NYPD Blue" and Sam Waterston ("Law & Order").

    Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco of "The Sopranos" will duke it out for Best Actress in a Drama Series. It's a first for both actresses and they're the only fresh faces in this bunch, which also includes Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files"), Julianna Margulies ("ER") and last year's winner, Christine Lahti ("Chicago Hope") each of whom has been nominated every year since at least 1996.

    The 16 nominations for "The Sopranos" fall one short of the total for last year's leader, "From the Earth to the Moon." The total is impressive nonetheless, especially because the Academy usually takes a couple of years to discover a show.

    Ray Romano's CBS comedy is a case in point. The series, which has completed three seasons, yesterday was graced with its very first nomination for Best Comedy Series. And four cast members Romano, Patricia Heaton, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts snagged their first nods for work on the series.

    Romano's is the only new face among contenders for Best Sitcom Actor. The others are: Paul Reiser ("Mad About You"), nominated every year since '94; Michael J. Fox, taking his third straight for "Spin City"; John Lithgow, with his third in a row for "3rd Rock From the Sun"; and last year's winner, Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier"), who's been noted every year since '94.

    Heaton, Flockhart and Parker are in company with returnee Jenna Elfman ("Dharma & Greg") and last year's winner, Helen Hunt ("Mad About You") for Best Actress in a Comedy.

    That unannounced 2 a.m. telecast of "Pirates of Silicon Valley" that TNT sneaked in last May has worked: The program got nominated for Best TV Movie, one of five nominations, even though it had its official debut last month, past the Academy's eligibility cutoff date.

    That's sure to displease broadcasters, who are once again shut out of the TV movie race. Joining "Pirates" are HBO's "A Lesson Before Dying" and "The Rat Pack"; Showtime's "The Baby Dance"; and A&E's "Dash and Lilly."

    The contenders for Best Miniseries are NBC's "The '60s" and "The Temptations," CBS's "Joan of Arc," PBS's "Great Expectations" and A&E's "Horatio Hornblower."

       

    © 1999 The Washington Post

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