‘Mad Men,’ ‘Damages’ make Emmy nominations history

By Lynn Elber

A basic cable series has grabbed a number of nominations.

LOS ANGELES — Basic cable TV looked more like a pop-culture bargain Thursday as AMC’s “Mad Men” and FX’s “Damages” snared historic best-series Emmy nominations, while stars from cable’s less glamorous channels also made a splash in major acting categories.

Meanwhile, premium channel HBO and broadcast networks saw their share of awards glory erode.

In the lead drama actor category, four of the five nominees were stars of cable shows, including Jon Hamm of “Mad Men.” The sleek drama about 1960s America set in New York’s advertising world was also the leading drama series contender with 16 nominations.

Three of the best-actress nominations went to cable series stars, including Glenn Close of “Damages.” The hard-nosed legal drama and “Mad Men” became the first basic cable shows with best-series nods.

HBO failed to field a best-drama series contender for the first time since 1998, after its now-departed “The Sopranos” claimed the honor last year. The premium cable channel still scored a leading 85 bids overall, followed by ABC with 76.

Boosting HBO’s total was the historical drama “John Adams,” which was the overall front-runner with a record 23 bids. That included a lead-actor nomination for Paul Giamatti’s turn as one of America’s founding fathers.

“30 Rock,” last’s year’s best comedy series Emmy winner, was the top nominee among sitcoms with 17 bids. Other best comedy series nominees were “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “The Office” and “Two And a Half Men.”

“The Wire,” the just-ended, critically acclaimed HBO drama about police and drug dealers in Baltimore, lost its last shot at a best-drama nod after years of Emmy snubs. It received one nomination Thursday, for writing.

But other cable series made a serious dent in several top categories, gaining further ground on broadcast networks that used to dominate them.

Network audience favorites that didn’t make a serious showing included “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives,” both left out of the best-series categories. “Grey’s Anatomy” stars Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson received nominations — but the “Desperate” cast was shut out.

“Lost,” rebounding with a well-received season, joined “Mad Men” and “Damages” in the best-drama series category with six nominees, including “Boston Legal, “Dexter” and “House.”

Only one acting nomination went to “Lost,” a best-supporting actor nod for Michael Emerson’s role as the manipulative Ben.

Oh and Wilson are competing in the best supporting drama actress category that last year was won by castmate Katherine Heigl — who took herself out of the running this time, blaming her decision on lackluster scripts.

Joining Hamm with lead drama acting nods were last year’s winner James Spader, “Boston Legal,” Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” Michael C. Hall, “Dexter,” Hugh Laurie, “House” and Gabriel Byrne, “In Treatment.”

Close’s competition for lead drama actress honors includes 2007 winner Sally Field for “Brothers & Sisters,” Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer,” Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and Holly Hunter, “Saving Grace.”

“Damages,” in which Close plays a tough-as-nails litigator, won critical acclaim last year but not great ratings. The Academy Award-winner is hoping the Emmy attention will boost the show’s audience for season two.

Actresses nominated for best comedy series were Tina Fey of “30 Rock,” the series she created; last year’s honoree America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty,” Christina Applegate, “Samantha Who?” and Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds.”

Nods for comedy series lead actors went to Tony Shalhoub for “Monk,” Steve Carrell, “The Office,” Lee Pace, “Pushing Daisies,” Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock” and Charlie Sheen, “Two And A Half Men.”

Ryan Seacrest, host of top-rated series “American Idol” made the cut in the new category of best host for a reality or reality-competition show. Other nominees were Tom Bergeron of “Dancing with the Stars,” Howie Mandel of “Deal or No Deal,” Heidi Klum of “Project Runway” and Jeff Probst of “Survivor.”

Besides ABC’s 76 nods, the broadcast networks tallies were CBS, 51 nominations; NBC, 50 and Fox, 28. PBS had 33 bids, while AMC garnered 20 bids.

The Emmy Awards ceremony will be held Sept. 21 and broadcast on ABC. Other Emmy honors, including those for technical achievement and guest actors and actresses in series, will be given at the creative arts ceremony Sept. 13.

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