Series of successes for HBO

Skeins rather than longforms power cabler

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HOLLYWOOD — At first glance, HBO’s dominant Emmy nomination tally might be something to yawn about.

After all, the pay cabler now has dusted its broadcast competish for the third consecutive year. But while HBO has traditionally relied on its successful longform department to guarantee a strong nomination total, this year it’s all about the series.

For the first time, HBO has landed two series apiece in the drama and comedy series categories: “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” on the drama side, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Sex and the City” among the laffers.

It’s those extra shows that helped push the cable behemoth toward its record-setting 106 noms.

“This is a good sign. I do feel good about the fact that we’re competing consistently,” said HBO chairman-CEO Chris Albrecht.

HBO has consistently scored high with series noms over the last decade, with skeins like “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Tracey Takes On” and, more recently, “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” But the cabler has never had so many series dominate the major Emmy categories before.

It’s an unusual feat, given how few original shows HBO programs — and its relatively small household reach, at least compared to the broadcast webs.

Future uncertain

With the end of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” in sight (although, admittedly, two years from now in the case of “Sopranos”), rival net execs have begun to whisper about the future of HBO. Without those two signature shows, they argue, HBO — the network that says it’s not TV — may float back down to earth.

But “Six Feet Under” now has proven its standing power, having outgunned older sibling “The Sopranos” in the noms. And as hard it is for HBO to say goodbye to the ladies of “Sex and the City,” the cabler’s Larry David-led hit “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has come into its own, scoring an impressive 10 noms.

Albrecht said he hoped the latest Emmy standings would put to rest grumbling that the channel hasn’t been able to replenish its hit shows.

“I also think even shows that didn’t get acknowledged, like ‘The Wire,’ are ready at the gate to be nominated in several categories,” he said.

Mini vacuum

Without any miniseries this year, HBO was slightly less represented than usual in the longform arena. Still, Albrecht stressed the channel’s broad nomination intake.

“We were everywhere: movies, series, specials, documentaries, latenight stuff,” he said. “It’s across-the-board acknowledgment for all the different areas. Having it spread out that way is what matters.”

Meanwhile, the exec braced for another round of criticism that it’s unfair for HBO to compete against the broadcast nets.

“The TV Academy is a group of people who take their responsibility very seriously,” Albrecht said. “To think they’re going to be swayed by a nice package of tapes or an ad on the side of a bus is ridiculous. I never understood the argument. These are people who watch TV, are aware of the industry they’re in and make their choices with a much bigger base of information than the general public.”

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