Critics laud 'Lesson,' 'Sopranos'

HBO, which scored 72 noms last year (second only to NBC), may be the first cable net to land a best drama nom with “The Sopranos,” a sensational new series from David Chase.

A fictional look at New Jersey Mafia members, “Sopranos” easily could find itself with noms not only for best drama, but also for lead James Gandolfini, caught between running his two families, and supporting actress Nancy Marchand, last seen on a regular basis on the small screen in “Lou Grant,” where she won four Emmys.

Chase also could receive a writing nom for penning any one of several terrific episodes, and Lorraine Bracco has been terrific as Gandolfini’s shrink, who’s analytic one moment and scared out of her mind the next.

Tom Fontana’s prison series “Oz” is another drama that has been critically acclaimed and is worthy of all the attention, but may be a bit dark for Emmy voters. Murder, rape and other violence take place on a weekly basis, and although it’s written and acted well, scoring multiple noms is a long shot.

If there is a thesp nom to come out of it, though, take your pick of either Dean Winters (Ryan O’Reilly), Eamonn Walker (Kareem Said) or Lee Tergesen (Tobias Beecher). Then again, it wouldn’t be a surprise if anyone from the entire cast is chosen.

In original films, the cream of this year’s crop quite possibly is “A Lesson Before Dying,” with Don Cheadle starring as a Louisiana schoolteacher trying to teach a wrongly convicted man on death row how to die with dignity. Cheadle’s credits include “Picket Fences,” “Out of Sight,” “Bulworth” and HBO’s own “The Rat Pack,” when he portrayed Sammy Davis Jr.

Irma P. Hall, as Miss Emma, might get a supporting nod in a powerhouse performance that complemented Cheadle’s.

“Shot Through the Heart” is another movie that was well-received when it debuted in September and has a chance to gain some Emmy kudos.

Other various noms that may come to fruition for HBO are Susan Sarandon in “Earthly Possessions,” Stanley Tucci in “Winchell” and, in a supporting role, John Goodman in “The Jack Bull.”

The comedy series from Tracey Ullman, who just won a Screen Actors Guild award for a female actor in a comedy series, and Dennis Miller are always critically well-received and a nom for either of those wouldn’t be a surprise.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more