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Emmy narrows down favorites

Top 10 finalists for drama, comedy

Critical cable darlings “The Wire,” “Mad Men,” “Flight of the Conchords” and “Damages” are one step closer to an Emmy — while “Family Guy” may be on the way to breaking the kudofest’s animation barrier.

That’s a quick read of this year’s finalists in Emmy’s drama and comedy categories. The nomination ballots have been counted, and the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences quietly posted the top 10 finalists in both categories on its website Thursday afternoon.

Early indications hint at another good year for cable, which secured half of the top 10 drama spots and four of the comedy finalists. (Last year, cable contributed just three finalists in both categories.)

The tally, which reps votes from the entire TV Academy body, is 50% of what will ultimately become the final nomination roster. The other 50% will be decided by a blue ribbon panel, which will screen the top vote-getters this weekend and then vote on their picks.

The drama competish is wide open, as last year’s winner, “The Sopranos,” is obviously ineligible. Most of last year’s other final nominees — ABC’s “Boston Legal” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and Fox’s “House” — made it back to the top 10 this year, although NBC’s “Heroes,” which was nominated for an Emmy last year, didn’t even crack the top 10 this time.

Also among the top 10 are Showtime’s “Dexter,” NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” and ABC’s “Lost” — critical darlings that made the top 10 last year but ultimately didn’t secure nominations. Newcomers “Damages” (FX), “Mad Men” (AMC) and “The Tudors” (Showtime) also made this year’s list.

Then there’s the one inclusion that’s sure to have TV critics cheering: HBO’s “The Wire,” which just completed its final season.

On the comedy side, last year’s Emmy winner, NBC’s “30 Rock,” is back, as are all four other nominees: “Entourage” (HBO), “The Office” (NBC), “Two and a Half Men” (CBS) and “Ugly Betty” (ABC).

“Weeds,” which made the top 10 last year but didn’t score a nom, is back as well.

Newcomers include HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” and ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” while HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — an Emmy fave that wasn’t eligible for inclusion last year — is back.

Then there’s the case of Fox’s “Family Guy,” which is one step closer to becoming the first animated primetime series in history to score a nod in the comedy category.

Other shows, including “The Simpsons,” have attempted to break the live action-dominated category in the past to no avail. Plus, toons have mostly stuck to the animation category so that the show’s animators would be eligible for an Emmy as well.

The folks behind “Family Guy” figured out a way around that Emmy conundrum. They entered the show itself in the comedy category, while at the same time submitting its hourlong season opener, the “Star Wars” parody “Family Guy: Blue Harvest,” in the animated category (Daily Variety, June 2).

Among the surprising omissions besides “Heroes” are “How I Met Your Mother,” which, despite a strong campaign, fell short, as did new sitcoms “The Big Bang Theory” and “Samantha Who.” “Desperate Housewives” failed to make the cut, as did cable ratings hits “The Closer,” “Rescue Me” and “The Shield.” In the drama realm, “Breaking Bad,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “In Treatment” also didn’t hold sway with voters.

ABC landed the most shows on both lists, with five, followed by HBO, which scored four shows. Showtime and NBC landed three each, while Fox got two on the list and CBS, AMC and FX each landed one.

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