New crop of cable TV shows break through at Emmys

Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:10pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Three cable TV shows from three networks, "Mad Men," "Damages" and "Dexter," claimed Emmy nominations for best drama on Thursday, marking a turning point in the 60-year-old competition for U.S. television's highest honors.

"Mad Men," the AMC network's new 1960s period piece set in the world of advertising, "Damages," the freshman legal hour on FX starring Glenn Close, and "Dexter," the serial killer drama from Showtime, are the first shows originating on a cable network other than HBO to be nominated for best drama series.

They will be competing against three shows from broadcast television in a rare six-way race -- Fox medical drama "House," ABC's castaway thriller "Lost," which won the best-drama Emmy in 2005, and ABC courtroom drama "Boston Legal.

NBC's network TV spoof "30 Rock" was the most recognized series overall with 17 nominations, including best comedy, a category it won last year, and best-acting bids for its two stars, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.

"Mad Men" was close behind with 16 total nominations, two of them -- for best lead actor and supporting actor -- going to Jon Hamm and John Slattery, respectively.

"30 Rock" will compete in the comedy series category against fellow NBC workplace sitcom and 2006 comedy champ "The Office," the bawdy CBS hit "Two and a Half Men" and a pair of HBO series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage."

But HBO, home of such past Emmy darlings as "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood," was shut out of the best drama derby for the first time since 1998.

Still, the heavy presence of contenders from a variety of cable channels reflected the recent flourishing of cable as an incubator for high-quality dramas. Emmy watchers said that phenomenon was made more pronounced by the shortened season on broadcast TV this year due to the Hollywood writers strike.   Continued...

<p>Actress Kristin Chenoweth (L) reacts as Academy Chairman and CEO John Shaffner (C) reveals that she is a nominee for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, as actor Neil Patrick Harris looks on during the announcement of nominations for the 60th Prime Time Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles July 17, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>