ABC continued its remarkable comeback Thursday when its two freshman hits, "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," bagged the most Primetime Emmy Award nominations in their fields.
"Desperate Housewives," the darkly satiric take on suburbia, tied NBC's aged sitcom "Will & Grace" at 15 nominations.
"Lost," about plane crash survivors stranded on a tropical island occasionally visited by a polar bear, is the year's most nominated drama series. It was tapped in 12 categories during the crack-of-dawn ceremony at TV academy headquarters in North Hollywood, attended by important people's assistants, industry junior publicists, a handful of extremely dedicated critics in town for Summer TV Press Tour 2005, and on-air talent -- wearing way too much makeup and sparkly stuff for that hour of the morning -- there to do breathless bits for the celebrity suck-up shows.
Co-creator Damon Lindelof later expressed surprise at the number of nominations for "Lost" because such a show "traditionally would be more shoehorned into a quote-unquote cult status."
Two HBO teleflicks, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" and "Warm Springs," each bagged 16 nominations to top all programs. And though the pay cable network led the pack, as usual, with 93 nominations, the haul was meager compared with last year's whopping 124. This time the net had to get by without "The Sopranos," which is taking another of those extended breaks that serve to remind despairing fans it's not TV, it's HBO.
ABC, which jumped from irrelevant to No. 2 in the ratings this past TV season thanks largely to the overnight success of "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," climbed back into the Emmy race as well. It received 51 nominations, compared with last year's embarrassing 33, to close the gap with CBS's 59 nominations and NBC's 54; Fox trailed with 49 nominations.
History was made Thursday when Angela Lansbury received her 18th Emmy nomination, for guest-starring on a crossover episode of NBC's "Law & Order" franchise.
The star of CBS's "Murder She Wrote" (1984-1996) has never actually won a Primetime Emmy and if she does not win this time she will tie daytime soap opera diva Susan Lucci for most nominations without a trophy. Lucci finally won a Daytime Emmy in 1999 on her 19th try. Grievously, the Lansbury excitement will not be part of CBS's broadcast of the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on Sept. 18; the trophies for guest acting are handed out days earlier, along with those in "creative arts" (read "tech") categories.
Joining "Desperate Housewives" and "Will & Grace" in the best-comedy competition are "Everybody Loves Raymond," which clocked 13 nominations for its last season on CBS; Fox's "Arrested Development," which won last year; and "Scrubs." Yes, "Scrubs" was actually on last season, though NBC made it very hard to find.
In one of this year's many surprises, the television academy snubbed the country's most watched scripted series. CBS's "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" received no nominations in the so-called glamour categories. The procedural crime drama that started the rash had been nominated for best drama series every season since its first.
Instead, "Lost" will battle HBO's "Deadwood" and "Six Feet Under," Fox's "24" and NBC's "The West Wing."
"West Wing" logged five nominations, although Martin Sheen is not in the running for the first time since being named faux president of the United States. Allison Janney also was neglected -- a crushing blow, no doubt, for the millions of women for whom Janney likes to remind us she is a role model.
And while three stars of "Desperate Housewives" -- Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross -- were plucked for the comedy actress race, castmates Eva Longoria and Nicollette Sheridan were snubbed. They're the two who play floozies on the show. "Hollywood may be more morally conservative than we thought," quipped "The Emmys" author Tom O'Neil to The TV Column.
Instead, the best comedy actress category is filled out by Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Jane Kaczmarek of "Malcolm in the Middle."
The considerable haul of "Will & Grace" was another eyebrow-raiser, given that even its fans don't argue that this past season was one of its best. Among its 15 nominations, only star Debra Messing is missing, which O'Neil called "a jaw-dropper."
Co-creator Max Mutchnick said the announcement of the show's nominations was a "fantastic way to start the day but a little bittersweet because our girlfriend was left off." He speculated the reason was that " 'Desperate Housewives' sucked up a bunch of the energy."
Messing's co-star, Eric McCormack, however, is back in the race for best comedy series actor, joined by Emmy newcomers Jason Bateman of "Arrested Development" and Zach Braff of "Scrubs," plus "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Ray Romano and Tony Shalhoub of "Monk."
Aggressive Emmy nomination campaigns paid off for some. "Medium" star Patricia Arquette, who"blitzed the actors branch [of the academy] with tapes," O'Neil noted, was a surprise nominee for best drama-series actress.
And Showtime's "Huff" -- the subject of many an if-a-show-airs-but-no-one-watches-did-it-really-happen conversations among TV cognoscenti -- collected a respectable seven nominations, after the pay cable network sent the entire season's worth of episodes to academy members for their perusal.
"Huff" creator Bob Lowry called the recognition "an enormous shot it the arm. Seven nominations for a show that did not have ratings that were that terrific is huge."
Among "Huff's" nominations, Hank Azaria is up for best drama series actor, facing Hugh Laurie of "House," "Deadwood's" Ian McShane, Kiefer Sutherland of "24" and last year's winner, James Spader of "Boston Legal."
Matthew Fox of "Lost" was not recognized in the best actor category. "The show is viewed as such an ensemble show . . . Matthew sort of fell in between that lead actor category and the supporting role and might have gotten lost in the mix," co-creator Lindelof said.
Arquette, in her campaign to be named best drama-series actress, must beat Glenn Close, who joined FX's "The Shield" last season, Frances Conroy of HBO's "Six Feet Under," Jennifer Garner of ABCs "Alias" and Mariska Hargitay of NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Fox's singing competition "American Idol," which was the most watched program this past season with a Tuesday night average of more than 27 million viewers, was nominated in the reality competition program category. It's in company with CBS's "The Amazing Race," which won the title last year, and "Survivor," Bravo's "Project Runway" and NBC's Donald Trump starrer, "The Apprentice."
And, in what has become a Primetime Emmy tradition, broadcast networks were virtually shut out of races for best longform projects. CBS's "Elvis" and PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation of "The Lost Prince" are up for best miniseries, along with HBO's "Empire Falls" and USA Network's "The 4400."
In addition to "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" and "Warm Springs," dramatizing Franklin D. Roosevelt's search for a cure for polio in rural Georgia before becoming president, the nominees in the teleflick category are HBO's "Lackawanna Blues," TNT's "The Wool Cap" and BBC America's "The Office Special."
"It's a real honor to be nominated for such a prestigious award, as myself and [series co-creator] Stephen [Merchant] consider the American TV industry to be the best in the world," Ricky Gervais, co-creator and star of "The Office," said in a statement. "We are delighted whatever happens on the night, as we believe it's not the winning but the taking part that counts . . . unless we win -- in which case we consider all the other nominees complete losers!"