CBS led the way in nominations for the first American Television Awards — the ABC May sweeps special that raised the hackles of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which presents the Primetime Emmys.

The Eye network received 36 nominations, followed by 28 for NBC, 20 for ABC and HBO’s strong showing with 13. Syndicated programming received three nods, while two apiece went to Fox Broadcasting Co., MTV and PBS in a total of 21 categories.

Unlike the Emmy Awards, the American TV Awards are limited to programs and performers and voted on by roughly 400 print and broadcast journalists — as show producer George Schlatter put it, “people who watch TV for a living.” Series balloting is based on a body of work over the season as opposed to the TV Academy practice of judging selected episodes with peer-group panels.

The TV Academy’s board approved several changes in awards procedure after last year’s critically harpooned Emmy telecast, though it opted to maintain blue-ribbon panels as opposed to body-of-work judging.

At the time that plans for the new show were announced, ABC maintained there was room for a second TV awards, similar to the situation with the Grammys and American Music Awards.

In the meantime, talk persists of CBS, NBC and Fox launching a third TV awards show, in conjunction with TV Guide, as retaliation against the TV Academy due to its exclusive Emmy broadcast deal with ABC.

Airport ceremony

Schlatter’s ATA ceremony is scheduled for May 23 at the Santa Monica Airport and will be broadcast on ABC a day later as a two-hour prime time special.

Several on-the-ropes series received nominations, not surprisingly. Critical faves “I’ll Fly Away,””Homefront” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” joined commercial successes “Roseanne,””Seinfeld” and “Northern Exposure.”

‘Fences’ mended

CBS’ “Picket Fences” fared best among new series with five nominations, including outstanding drama series, actor (Tom Skerritt) and actress (Kathy Baker).

The other series upstart was HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” which received moninations for top comedy, sitcom actor (Shandling) and supporting actor (Rip Torn). HBO also took three of five nominations for best made-for-TV movie and half the lead actor/actress selections in that category.

Celebration of TV

Schlatter, who wants to turn the special into an annual event on the order of his American Comedy Awards, said he wanted the show to serve as a celebration of television that’s “more interested in acknowledging excellence in the programs than in who won.”

As a footnote, ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS share an additional nomination for “Scared Silent,” the Arnold Shapiro documentary that was broadcast by all four services. A list of the nominees follows.

DRAMATIC SERIES

“Homefront” (ABC)

“Homicide: Life on the Street” (NBC)

“I’ll Fly Away” (NBC)

“Northern Exposure” (CBS)

“Picket Fences” (CBS)

ACTRESS, DRAMATIC SERIES

Kathy Baker, “Picket Fences” (CBS)

Angela Lansbury, “Murder, She Wrote” (CBS)

Jane Seymour, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (CBS)

Regina Taylor, “I’ll Fly Away” (NBC)

Janine Turner, “Northern Exposure” (CBS)

ACTOR, DRAMATIC SERIES

Scott Bakula, “Quantum Leap” (NBC)

Rob Morrow, “Northern Exposure” (CBS)

Tom Skerritt, “Picket Fences” (CBS)

Patrick Stewart, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (syn)

Sam Waterston, “I’ll Fly Away” (NBC)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS,

DRAMATIC SERIES

Cynthia Geary, “Northern Exposure” (CBS)

Lauren Holly, “Picket Fences” (CBS)

Mimi Kennedy, “Homefront” (ABC)

Kellie Martin, “Life Goes On” (ABC)

Debi Mazar, “Civil Wars” (ABC)

Peg Philips, “Northern Exposure” (CBS)

SUPPORTING ACTOR,

DRAMATIC SERIES

John Corbett, “Northern Exposure” (CBS)

Barry Corbin, “Northern Exposure” (CBS)

Fyvush Finkel, “Picket Fences” (CBS)

Dean Stockwell, “Quantum Leap” (NBC)

Michael Tucker, “L.A. Law” (NBC)

SITUATION COMEDY SERIES

“Cheers” (NBC)

“Murphy Brown” (CBS)

“The Larry Sanders Show” (HBO)

“Roseanne” (ABC)

“Seinfeld” (NBC)

ACTRESS, SITUATION COMEDY

Kirstie Alley, “Cheers” (NBC)

Roseanne Arnold, “Roseanne” (ABC)

Candice Bergen, “Murphy Brown” (CBS)

Helen Hunt, “Mad About You” (NBC)

Marion Ross, “Brooklyn Bridge” (CBS)

ACTOR, SITUATION COMEDY

Tim Allen, “Home Improvement” (ABC)

Ted Danson, “Cheers” (NBC)

Craig T. Nelson, “Coach” (ABC)

Jerry Seinfeld, “Seinfeld” (NBC)

Garry Shandling, “The Larry Sanders Show” (HBO)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS,

SITUATION COMEDY

Faith Ford, “Murphy Brown” (CBS)

Sara Gilbert, “Roseanne” (ABC)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Seinfeld” (NBC)

Laurie Metcalf, “Roseanne” (ABC)

Cynthia Stevenson, “Bob” (CBS)

SUPPORTING ACTOR,

SITUATION COMEDY

Jason Alexander, “Seinfeld” (NBC)

Woody Harrelson, “Cheers” (NBC)

Michael Jeter, “Evening Shade” (CBS)

Michael Richards, “Seinfeld” (NBC)

Rip Torn, “The Larry Sanders Show” (HBO)

Jerry Van Dyke, “Coach” (ABC)

MADE-FOR-TV FILM

“Barbarians at the Gate” (HBO)

“Citizen Cohn” (HBO)

“Miss Rose White” (NBC)

“Skylark” (CBS)

“Stalin” (HBO)

ACTRESS IN TELEFILM

Meredith Baxter, “Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter” (CBS)

Glenn Close, “Skylark” (CBS)

Holly Hunter, “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom” (HBO)

Kyra Sedgwick, “Miss Rose White” (NBC)

Sissy Spacek, “A Private Matter” (HBO)

ACTOR IN A TELEFILM

Robert Blake, “Judgement Day: The John List Story” (CBS)

Robert Duvall, “Stalin” (HBO)

James Garner,”Barbarians at the Gate” (HBO)

Christopher Walken, “Skylark” (CBS)

James Woods, “Citizen Cohn” (HBO)

MINISERIES

“Family Pictures” (ABC)

“The Jacksons: An American Dream” (ABC)

“Queen” (CBS)

“Sinatra” (CBS)

“To Catch a Killer” (syn)

ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES

Halle Berry, “Queen” (CBS)

Blythe Danner, “Cruel Doubt” (NBC)

Olympia Dukakis, “Sinatra” (CBS)

Barbara Hershey, “Stay the Night” (ABC)

Anjelica Huston, “Family Pictures” (ABC)

ACTOR IN A MINISERIES

Philip Casnoff, “Sinatra” (CBS)

Brian Dennehy, “To Catch a Killer” (syn)

Danny Glover, “Queen” (CBS)

Sam Neill, “Family Pictures” (ABC)

Jack Scalia, “Jackie Collins’ Lady Boss” (NBC)

NEWS, INFORMATION

OR DOCUMENTARY SERIES

“48 Hours” (CBS)

“60 Minutes” (CBS)

“ABC News 20/20″ (ABC)

“Frontline” (PBS)

“Nightline” (ABC)

NEWS, INFORMATION

OR DOCUMENTARY SPECIAL

“Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson” (NBC)

“Healing and the Mind With Bill Moyers” (PBS)

“Michael Jackson Talks to Oprah” (ABC)

“Scared Silent” (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS)

“Watergate: 20 Years Later” (CBS)

REALITY-BASED PROGRAM

“Cops” (Fox)

“Guilt or Innocence: The Trial of James Earl Ray” (HBO)

“The Real World” (MTV)

“Rescue 911″ (CBS)

“Unsolved Mysteries” (NBC)

VARIETY SERIES

“In Living Color” (Fox)

“Late Night With David Letterman” (NBC)

“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)

“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (NBC)

“Unplugged” (MTV)

VARIETY SPECIAL

“The 65th Annual Academy Awards” (ABC)

“The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion” (CBS)

“Comic Relief V” (HBO)

“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In 25th Anniversary” (NBC)

“Saturday Night Live: Presidential Bash” (NBC)

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