"A 60% rate of fresh faces and shows," crowed the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which has fended off criticism for several years that it's impossible to break the entrenched circle of nominees.
AMC's first foray into a miniseries paid off in a big way. Its Western epic, "Broken Trail," received 16 nominations, including outstanding miniseries.
The academy also showed a sense of saucy humor. A much-talked-about, much-e-mailed "Saturday Night Live" skit starring a bearded Justin Timberlake singing about a gift that keeps on giving was nominated in the original music and lyrics category. (We can't mention the title, and SNL had to bleep it repeatedly during the broadcast, but you know which one we're talking about.) Other amusing ditties nominated in this category include "My Drunken Irish Dad" from "Family Guy" and "Everything Comes Down to Poo" from "Scrubs."
But the nominations weren't so kind to some other new shows.
Critics' darling "Friday Night Lights," the NBC football drama, had been a dark-horse candidate in the drama series but only received two nominations -- for outstanding directing in the pilot and for casting. (It earned the same number of nods as Animal Planet's "Meerkat Manor.")
And Showtime's "Dexter," another critical favorite about a sympathetic serial killer, earned three nods but none in the marquee categories.
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To be sure, there were plenty of recognizable names and series among the nominees. "Grey's Anatomy" scored 10 nominations, with six of those in acting categories. "Boston Legal," "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and "24" all earned six nominations apiece.
Although a ratings and cultural phenomenon, "American Idol" has always been a bridesmaid but never a bride at the Emmy Awards. Again it finds itself up against perennial winner "The Amazing Race" in the outstanding reality competition program. Adding insult to injury, "Dancing with the Stars" scored more Emmy nominations than "Idol," earning eight nods to its seven.
All in all, things were looking pretty for the comedy "Ugly Betty," as well as HBO's outgoing mob drama "The Sopranos."
The two shows topped the heap of series nominees announced early this morning. "Ugly Betty" earned a total of 11, including best comedy series and best actress in a comedy series for America Ferrera. "The Sopranos" earned 15 nominations, including best drama series, lead actor for James Gandolfini and lead actress for Edie Falco. Both performers have received the Emmy three times previously for their work as Tony and Carmela Soprano.
HBO continued its dominance in the nominations, receiving 86, including 17 for its historical drama "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." ABC followed with 70 nominations, and NBC received 69.
Two of this year's nominees are awards season royalty: Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker both won Oscars this year for their lead performances in "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland, " respectively. Mirren earned an Emmy nomination for lead actress in a miniseries or movie for "Prime Suspect: The Final Act." Whitaker was nominated for guest actor in a drama series for "E.R."
Joining "Ugly Betty" in the comedy series category is a fellow freshman series, "30 Rock," the acclaimed but ratings-challenged show on NBC. Other nominees in the category are "Entourage," "Two and a Half Men" and last year's winner in this category, "The Office."
The Emmy nominees for best drama series also include longtime favorites "Boston Legal," "Grey's Anatomy" and "House," as well as freshman sci-fi series "Heroes." Last year's winner in this category, "24," failed to make a showing although the show's star, Kiefer Sutherland, is nominated for best dramatic actor.
Joining Gandolfini and Sutherland as nominees for best actor in a drama series are Hugh Laurie for "House," James Spader for "Boston Legal" and Denis Leary for "Rescue Me."
Competing with Falco for best actress in a drama series is past winner Patricia Arquette for "Medium," Minnie Driver for "The Riches," Sally Field for "Brothers & Sisters," Kyra Sedgwick for "The Closer" and last year's recipient, Mariska Hargitay, for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Besides Ferrera, who has already won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award for "Ugly Betty," the nominees for best actress in a comedy are past winner Felicity Huffman for "Desperate Housewives"; last year's winner in this category, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "The New Adventures of Old Christine"; Mary-Louise Parker for "Weeds"; and Tina Fey for "30 Rock," a series that has been critically acclaimed even as it has struggled in the ratings.
Parker also received a nomination for lead actress in a movie or miniseries for "The Robber Bride." Best actor in a comedy series nominees are Steve Carell for "The Office," Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock," Ricky Gervais for "Extras," Tony Shaloub for "Monk" and Charlie Sheen for "Two and a Half Men."
Sedgwick joined Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men," himself a nominee for best supporting actor in a comedy series, in announcing the annual prime-time Emmy Award nominations from the Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood.
The Emmys will be handed out at a three-hour ceremony Sept. 16 from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, to be televised on Fox.