The Sopranos may have been snubbed at this year's Primetime
Emmy Awards, but in general, cable wasn't.
It's true, Home Box Office didn't make history by walking
off with an award for the best drama series for The Sopranos, the first time a cable
channel would have won that accolade. But in total, including the non-televised crafts and
technical awards that were given out in August, HBO snared 23 primetime Emmys, more than
any other network, including the broadcasters. NBC was No. 2, with 17 Emmys.
HBO wasn't the only cable outlet to take home Emmy gold.
Overall, A&E Network won five Emmys, including best miniseries for Horatio Hornblower
during the televised Sept. 12 ceremony. Showtime won one Emmy that night, with Helen
Mirren winning as lead actress in a movie or miniseries for The Passion of Ayn Rand.
During the creative-arts awards Aug. 28, TBS Superstation,
Turner Network Television and Discovery Channel each took home one Emmy. In addition, MTV:
Music Television and History Channel received a governor's award.
"You have to be very happy with how cable did,"
said Brooke Johnson, A&E's executive vice president and general manager. "It
dominated the made-for-TV movies and miniseries categories. The awards addressed the fact
that people look to cable for that kind of programming ... In future years, you'll see
cable do stronger in the series and sitcoms categories."
The Sopranos - about a mixed-up mob chief in New Jersey and
his murderous clan, including his mother - was nominated for 16 Emmys and became the first
cable show to be nominated in the drama-series category.
But in an upset, The Sopranos only won four Emmys. Those
included Edie Falco's win for lead actress in a drama series and David Chase and James
Manos Jr. for writing for a drama series. The Sopranos was considered the odds-on
favorite, and the TV critics' choice, to win the nod as best drama and its star, James
Gandolfini, was the favorite for best lead in a drama series.
Prior to the Emmy ceremony, Los Angeles Times TV critic
Howard Rosenberg wrote, "If it [The Sopranos] doesn't get the Emmy [for best drama],
I say it's time to go to the mattresses."
Despite that purported threat, The Sopranos couldn't beat
the first-season jinx, in that the Academy of Televisions Arts & Sciences rarely
awards Emmys to first-year shows. And observers said the fact that The Sopranos is based
in New York and New Jersey didn't help it in the Emmy vote either, while prolific Los
Angeles producer-writer David E. Kelley cleaned up in the awards.
Dennis Franz's win as best lead in a drama for NYPD Blue,
and Kelley's The Practice as best drama, prompted a flood of columns from TV critics
claiming that Gandolfini and The Sopranos were "robbed" and that it was "a
crime" - as well as a million other mob-related puns.
At the Washington Post, Tom Shales wrote "HBO's hugely
acclaimed Sopranos did not sweep the awards or win the Emmy as best drama of the year,
though everybody knows it is."
And Rosenberg summed it up by writing, "The best
series on television deserved the highest award television can give it."
HBO declined to address The Sopranos near-shutout. An HBO
spokesman just said, "We were pleased to win 23 Emmys, more than any other
Along with The Sopranos, HBO's Sex and the City was also
passed over in the best comedy-series category. But for the seventh year in a row, HBO
took home the Emmy for made-for-TV movie, for A Lesson Before Dying. And Stanley Tucci won
an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie for HBO's Winchell.
This year HBO also continued its tradition of winning Emmys
for its original comedy programming. Those included: John Leguizamo's Freak, for
performance in a variety or music program; The Chris Rock Show, for writing for a variety
or music program; and Tracey Takes On..., for hairstyling for a series.
During the televised awards show, Leguizamo noted that
there is a lack of Hispanic voices in the media. But he credited HBO for its support of
him, referring to it as "Hispanic Box Office."
ATAS did give cable a presence during the televised awards
ceremony, which was aired by the Fox broadcast network [Fox's Emmy telecast did a 11.6
household rating, the show's lowest since 1990]. Ubiquitous wrestling was represented,
with World Wrestling Federation stars "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and "The
Rock" doing a bit with members of the accounting firm that tallied the Emmy votes.
And Comedy Central's Jon Stewart did a takeoff, with the
Dawson's Creek cast, based on the Felicity writer who was fired for claiming she was much
younger than she really was.
The Emmys now afford cable its only opportunity to shine,
since the National CableACEs have been discontinued. Johnson said that cable's Emmy
showing this year supports the decision to end the ACEs. She said viewers today think of
television as television, and do not make a distinction between broadcast and cable.
And Scot Safon, TNT's senior vice president of marketing,
agreed. The CableACEs had been created because the Emmys didn't offer cable an even
playing field in terms of its awards, he said.
"I could never make that claim now," Safon said.
He bases his assessment on how cable does at the Emmys on
the number of nominations it receives, not its actual wins. "The voting is too
serendipitous," Safon said.
But based on Emmy nominations this year, he said,
"Cable in general did very well."
Cable had roughly one-third, or just over 130, of the
primetime Emmy nominations this year.
TNT alone had 10 nominations this year, and received one
Emmy. Last year, TNT won five Emmys, with many of them going to its George Wallace
During the Sept. 12 ceremony, co-host David Hyde-Pierce
introduced presenter Sela Ward, noting that they were the hosts for the CableACEs in 1997.
He pointed out that the plug was pulled on the CableACEs right after that, and it turned
out to be the last CableACE awards presentation.