Primetime Emmys: Can Basic Cable Be Dramatic?

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Will it be basic cable’s night?

The 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, televised by ABC at 8 p.m. (ET), could mark the first time that basic cable takes home the award for outstanding drama series.

AMC’s retro advertising series Mad Men, which counts 16 nominations overall, is in contention for the statuette, along with FX’s legal drama, Damages, itself counting seven nods, are in contention. Showtime serial killer skein Dexter is also in the mix, along with ABC’s Lost and Boston Legal and Fox’s House. The winner here will succeed last year’s winner, HBO’s The Sopranos, cable’s most-acclaimed series.

Cable also has three chances in the lead actor drama category with Jon Hamm’s Don Draper; Bryan Cranston as Walt White in AMC’s crystal meth series Breaking Bad; and Michael C. Hall as Showtime’s infamous Dexter Morgan. Hugh Lawrie as Dr. Gregory House in House is also in the hunt, while James Spader looks to repeat for his role as Alan Stone in Boston Legal.

Among those hoping to get the call on the ladies side of aisle at the Nokia Theatre for outstanding actress in drama are Glenn Close for Patty Hewes in Damages, Holly Hunter as Grace Harnadarko in TNT’s Saving Grace and Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Johnson in the drama metwork’s The Closer, cable’s top-ranked series. Mariska Hargitay for her role as Olivia Benson in NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and last year’s winner, Sally Field, reprising her role as Nora Holden Walker round out the field here.

For Close, her portrayal of Hewes marked her 11th Emmy nomination; she’s won once, for the TV movie Serving in Silence: The Margrethe Cammermeyer Story 13 years ago.

Cable also has a couple of contenders in the outstanding comedy series ranks, with HBO’s Hollywood buddy series, Entourage and Larry David’s cranky Curb Your Enthusiasm. They’re vying for laurels against last year’s winner, NBC’s 30 Rock, the Peacock’s Office and CBS’s Two And A Half Men.

Ricky Gerrvais won the comedy actor Emmy last year for his portrayal of Andy Millman in HBO’s Extras.

Tony Shalhoub’s obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk is cable’s lone hopeful for outstanding lead actor in a comedy. Similarly, Mary Louise Parker’s portrayal of pot-selling matriarch Nancy Botwin is the medium’s only contender for lead actress in a comedy.

Besides Hamm, actors receiving their first Emmy nominations notably include Gabriel Byrne (HBO’s In Treatment); Catherine Keener (Showtime’s An American Crime), Ralph Fiennes (HBO’s Bernard and Doris); Paul Giamatti (HBO’s John Adams) and Kevin Spacey (HBO’s Recount).

HBO once again scored the most nominations of any network with 85, including all the nominations in the category for best actor in miniseries or movie and best supporting actor in that genre.

HBO’s tally was led by the Tom Hanks-produced John Adams’ 23 mentions, including best miniseries; Giamatti’s nomination for best miniseries actor as the nation’s second president; a best actress mention for Laura Linney as his wife Abigail; and nominations for actors playing three Founding Fathers: David Morse (George Washington); Stephen Dillane (Thomas Jefferson); and Tom Wilkinson (Benjamin Franklin).

Wilkinson also has a chance to win an Emmy for his role in HBO’s movie about the 2000 election, Recount.

Recount was one of the other cable double-digit nominees, earning 11, while the imagined HBO biopic Bernard and Doris earned 10.

Other programs highly touted by voters: Sci Fi Channel’s Tin Man with nine nominations; A&E’s The Andromeda Strain; and HBO’s Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale with six.

Cable fare makes up four of the five nominees for best TV movie for 2007: Lifetime’s sole Emmy nominated program, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter joins the HBO trio of

Recount; Extras: The Extras Special Series Finale; Bernard and Doris.

The broadcast and cable networks (and Web sites) receiving nominations are, in alphabetical order: A&E, 9; ABC, 79; ABC.com, 1; AMC, 20; Animal Planet, 1; Biography, 1; Bravo, 11; Cartoon Network, 3; CBS, 51; Comedy Central, 8; comedycentral.com, 1; The CW, 2; Discovery Channel, 6; discoverychannel.com, 1; Disney Channel, 6; ESPN, 1; Fox, 28; FX Network, 11; HBO, 85; History Channel, 4; History Channel VOD, 1; jaylenosgarage.com, 1; Lifetime, 1; MTV, 1; NBC, 50; NBC.com, 2; Nickelodeon, 2; PBS, 33; Sci-Fi Channel, 15; SciFiChannel.com, 1; Showtime, 21; Starz, 1; TLC, 1; TNT, 10, USA, 4; and Warner Bros. on demand, 1.

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