'Wing,' 'Sopranos' take 18 nods each; NBC leads nets

For complete nomination list and more coverage, visit Variety’s Emmy Central.

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The White House is getting ready to take on the mafia.

NBC’s critically hailed frosh drama “The West Wing” and HBO’s incumbent media darling “The Sopranos” each snagged a leading 18 primetime Emmy nominations Thursday, setting the stage for an epic battle between network TV’s hottest newcomer and cable’s groundbreaking sophomore mob drama.

In addition to best drama, “West Wing” cleaned up in the acting categories, scoring noms for lead actor (Martin Sheen), supporting actor (Richard Schiff and John Spencer) and supporting actress (Stockard Channing and Allison Janney.)

“The Sopranos” also landed hits in all the key thesp categories, with James Gandolfini again earning a nomination for lead actor and Lorraine Bracco and last year’s winner Edie Falco returning as lead actress nominees for the second consecutive year.

The late Nancy Marchand was remembered with a supporting actress nom for her portrayal of matriarch Livia Soprano, while Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior) earned his first supporting actor nomination for his work on the HBO skein, which earned two more noms than last year’s tally.

NBC was the clearcut leader among webs, snagging 97 noms to HBO’s 86. ABC again finished third in the tally with 64, followed by CBS (41), Fox (26), PBS (12), Showtime (11) and TNT (10). UPN snagged seven noms (all for “Star Trek: Voyager”), while the WB racked up five.

Among suppliers, Warner Bros. Television led all studios with 43 noms spread over six series and one special. Twentieth Century Fox TV had 33 divided among 11 of its skeins. The Paramount Television Group tallied 22. A total of 397 separate noms were announced Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at its home in North Hollywood.

In the comedy competish, NBC’s “Will & Grace” broke through with Emmy voters in its second season, leading the way with 11 noms. Last year, the skein earned just one nod, for directing.

With “Ally McBeal” losing favor with voters, the young segment of the Academy clearly shifted its support to rising star “Will & Grace,” which landed its first nod for comedy series.

All four principal stars of the laffer earned their first Emmy bids: Eric McCormack (lead actor), Debra Messing (lead actress), Megan Mullaly (supporting actress) and Sean Hayes (supporting actor).

The timing of the noms couldn’t be better: “Will & Grace” settled into its new 9 p.m. Thursday tentpole position Thursday night, with NBC hoping the sitcom will help re-energize the night in the fall.

The NBC Studios-produced laffer will compete against a largely stable comedy field. Though last year’s winner, “Ally McBeal,” didn’t make the cut, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Frasier,” “Friends” and “Sex in the City” are all back as comedy nominees.

In the writing categories, Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” and David Chase’s “The Sopranos” dominated the drama field, each snagging two noms.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” also landed a writing nom — for a Joss Whedon-penned seg titled “Hush” that features large stretches of silence. Despite an aggressive Emmy campaign by 20th Century Fox TV and the WB, “Buffy” remains hard sell to Academy voters: Show failed to land a best drama nom or a mention for star Sarah Michelle Gellar.

While annual fave “Frasier” again scored a script nom, the comedy writing competish was filled with fresh faces. HBO’s “Sex and the City” garnered two bids, while Linwood Boomer got big ups from ATAS for the pilot episode of Fox’s frosh hit “Malcolm in the Middle.” Overall, “Malcolm” nabbed five noms, making it Fox’s biggest Emmy hopeful after “The X-Files” (six noms).

While “Freaks and Geeks” may be dead and buried, Paul Feig can take some comfort in his drama writing nom for the pilot of the critically loved NBC hour.

‘RKO’ nabs 13 noms

Meanwhile, HBO’s “RKO 281,” which recounted the making of “Citizen Kane,” picked up 13 noms, topping all other longform competish and earning the highest tally of any program other than “Sopranos” or “West Wing.”

ABC’s Robert Halmi-produced spectacular “Arabian Nights” was the most honored mini, with five noms.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that the folks at production powerhouse Storyline Entertainment were smiling Thursday morning: The company’s “Annie” and “The Beach Boys: An American Family” landed noms for best telepic and miniseries, respectively. “Annie” was the most celebrated network telepic, with 12 noms overall.

Two shows that have been Emmy faves were largely missing from major categories: “NYPD Blue” and “Ally McBeal.” David E. Kelley’s “Ally” went from 13 noms in 1999 to just three this year; Steven Bochco’s “Blue” dipped to two noms from eight.

‘Everybody Loves,’ ‘Sex’

Other skeins, meanwhile, picked up steam with Emmy voters.

“Everybody Loves Raymond,” which earned just six noms in its first two seasons, snagged nine this year, as did longtime Emmy fave “Frasier.” The Academy even showed loved to “Raymond” co-star Brad Garrett, who picked up his first nom.

“Sex in the City,” which earned two noms last year, is now a bonafide Emmy darling, tallying nine nominations, including comedy series, lead actress (Sarah Jessica Parker) and supporting actress (Kim Cattrall.)

Emmy voters also made a few bittersweet choices this year, giving canceled shows such as “Sports Night” and “Freaks and Geeks” a strong send-off. “Sports Night,” picked up four nominations this year; critical fave “Freaks” picked up two noms, including writing in a comedy series.

Among the busted series to pick up noms, CBS’ mob drama “Falcone” took two, while short-lived sitcoms “Battery Park” and “Love & Money” landed one apiece.

The comedy acting categories, when it concerns vets and newcomers, are diametrically opposed: The men have been to the podium before but no matter who wins the comedy actress trophy this year, it will be that person’s first time clutching an Emmy.

Jenna Elfman (third nomination for “Dharma & Greg”), Patricia Heaton (second nod for “Everybody Loves Raymond”) and Sarah Jessica Parker (second nom for “Sex and the City”) have never won. “Will & Grace’s” Messing and “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Jane Kaczmarek are first-time nominees.

Familiar actors

The actor in a comedy nominations, on the other hand, are dominated by familiar names. Three-time winner Michael J. Fox, coming off his well-publicized “Spin City” swan song, will do battle with three-time winner Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”) and four-time winner John Lithgow (“3rd Rock from the Sun”). They’ll go up against McCormack and second-timer Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”).

Meanwhile, somebody give a raise to the casting exec behind the guest spots on “The Practice”: The legal skein took three of the five guest actor noms (Paul Dooley, James Whitmore and Henry Winkler) and two of the guest actress noms (Marlee Matlin and Beah Richards).

Winkler scored another guest actor nom for an appearance in the short-lived NBC laffer “Battery Park.” In an ironic twist, NBC never broadcast the seg in which Winkler appeared.

‘Law’s’ streak continues

“Law & Order” continued its drama nomination streak. The show racked up its ninth consecutive nom, the most consistent performance of any drama in Emmy history.

Overall, “Law & Order” took six noms and sister series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” got one. Additionally, in an unusual move, both series shared a nomination: Jane Alexander was nominated as guest actress for her appearances in both “Law & Order” and “SVU.”

As a result, Alexander’s nom wasn’t counted in the tally for either show, but in a separate tally for the “Law & Order”/ “Law & Order: SVU” hybrid.

“L&O” vet Jerry Orbach also got some good news, earning his first lead actor in a drama nom. He’ll compete against Emmy vet Sam Waterston for the same series.

In the late night race, Saturday suddenly got interesting. Fox’s young upstart “MadTV,” now in its sixth year of eligibility, tied NBC’s old faithful “Saturday Night Live,” which is in its 24th year of eligibility. Both sketch laffers landed four nominations. A primetime “SNL” 25th anniversary spec pulled in five noms.

Variety show noms were virtually unchanged from last year, except “The Chris Rock Show” took the spot vacated by fellow HBO series “Tracey Takes On.”

Usual suspects “Dennis Miller Live,” “Late Show With David Letterman,” “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” filled out the category.

Fox’s “The Simpsons” again landed a nom for animated program, as did Cartoon Network’s “Powerpuff Girls.” Newcomers to the category this year are Fox’s “Family Guy,” “MTV Downtown” and “South Park.”

Awards will be handed out Sept. 10 at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. during a primetime telecast on ABC. Tech Emmys and 54 award categories and areas will be distributed Aug. 26 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

For complete nomination list and more coverage, visit Variety’s Emmy Central.

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