Home Box Office continues to be the king of the Emmy Awards nominations, earning 124 nods for the 56th annual awards ceremony.
That wasn’t a surprise: the Time Warner Inc.-owned pay service racked up 109 Emmy nominations last year, ultimately winning 18.
The surprise was the fine showing by the controversial biopic The Reagans on rival premium channel Showtime. The announcement that it was nominated for best movie, as well as its kudos for stars Judy Davis and James Brolin, met stunned silence during the pre-dawn televised announcement staged here July 15 for reporters and TV crews.
The film was created to air on CBS, but executives shied away from the portrayal of the late former president and his wife. Showtime picked up the feature after broadcast executives bowed to pre-release criticism of the film.
HBO’s anti-AIDS themed Angels in America, as expected, was a voter’s favorite. The miniseries based on the Tony Kushner play was nominated for a whopping 21 Emmys. If it wins 10 or more Emmys, it could become the most honored miniseries in TV history, topping the 1970s groundbreaker Roots, which won nine awards out of 37 nominations.
Though praised also on its technical merits, many of its nominations are for acting and its performers will be in competition with each other. The supporting actor category will pit four Angels stars together: Patrick Wilson, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman and Jeffrey Wright. The odd man out in the category is William H. Macy for Showtime’s Stealing Sinatra.
HBO’s And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself and Something the Lord Made were also multiple nominees in the TV movie category.
Just three programs are responsible for 52 of HBO’s total nominations: Angels, The Sopranos, and the now-shuttered Sex and the City. The latter two shows received 20 and 11 nominations, respectively. The Sopranos’ take could be substantially lower than the number of nominations, as it has multiple nominees in many categories. For instance, four of the five dramatic writing nominees are for the crime-family show.
But handicappers are already calling Sex and the City the sentimental favorite to win best comedy series, edging out the oft-honored but previous best series winner, Frasier.
The acting nominations for Sex will be troublesome, however. Kristin Davis finally picked up a nomination, but will compete for the supporting actress honor with co-stars Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon. Co-star Sarah Jessica Parker competes in the best actress category.
In their first year of competition, HBO’s series Deadwood and Carnivale both debuted as nominees, with 11 for Deadwood and seven for Carnivale.
Also of note is the outstanding children’s series nomination for Lizzie McGuire, the only nomination for a Disney Channel show. The network lost the rights to new episodes a year ago when executives were unable to negotiate a new contract with teen star Hillary Duff.
All of cable’s networks earned 220 total nominations. HBO was followed by A&E Network with 24; Showtime, 18; USA Network, 9; FX and Comedy Central, 7 each; Bravo, Nickelodeon, Sci Fi Channel and Turner Network Television, 4 each; Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel and History Channel, 3 each; Lifetime Television, 2; and AMC, Disney, Independent Film Channel and VH1, each with one.
Among the broadcasters, NBC got the most nominations at 65, followed by CBS with 44; ABC, 33; Fox, 31; PBS, 27; UPN, 4; and The WB, 2
FX’s nominations were also surprising, for their inclusions and omissions. The plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck was named in five categories.
NADA FOR 'SHIELD’
But going from penthouse to outhouse was FX’s The Shield, which debuted as a critical and award-show darling — star Michael Chiklis won an Emmy and a Golden Globe award — but garnered not a single Emmy nomination this cycle.
“It was eligible. It’s unfortunate. We think it’s really deserving,” FX spokesman John Solberg said.
Other omissions were not the fault of the voters. Acclaimed series including BBC America’s The Office and HBO’s Six Feet Under were ineligible for awards because of technicalities.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences actually made rules changes this year, which observers believe helped a few different shows break in among the “usual suspects” that normally dominate the awards. Nominee lists are created among peer groups (actors nominate actors, etc.) but this year, voters were able to select 10 potential nominees per category, instead of five.
The awards will be broadcast on ABC Sept. 19 from Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium.