"Mad Men" set to make Emmy history

Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:44pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The chain-smoking, booze-swilling, skirt-chasing advertising executives from "Mad Men" are expected to make Emmy history when U.S. television's highest honors are handed out on Sunday.

The AMC network's critically acclaimed period piece, set in the social cross-currents of New York's Madison Avenue in the early 1960s, is the overwhelming favorite to win this year's Emmy prize as best drama series.

If it prevails, "Mad Men" would become the first show from a cable network other than HBO to claim the prestigious best-drama title, marking a new turning point in the 60-year-old Emmy competition and prime-time television itself.

But HBO remains a major Emmy force with its biographical portrait "John Adams" poised to tie or surpass a record 11 wins for a miniseries, set in 2004 by HBO's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Angels in America."

Broadcast TV, meanwhile, still dominates sitcom territory, thanks to NBC's show-within-a-show "30 Rock," ranked as a virtual shoo-in to be named best comedy series for a second straight year, according to a poll of Emmy pundits and TV critics posted at the awards Web site TheEnvelope.com.

Although cable shows are attracting more attention this year, chief pollster Tom O'Neil said "30 Rock" has proven "irresistible" to Emmy voters precisely because "it does a brilliant job of savaging the broadcast TV industry."

Four other comedy nominees are considered relative longshots -- the CBS hit "Two and a Half Men," NBC's "The Office," which won in 2006, and two HBO series -- "Curb Your Enthusiasm and "Entourage."

On the drama side, two non-HBO cable shows broke ground with "Mad Men" in landing nominations for top series -- the freshman legal hour "Damages" on FX and the serial killer saga "Dexter" from Showtime. Three broadcast series round out a rare six-way drama contest -- ABC's "Boston Legal," the Fox medical hit "House" and the 2005 winner, ABC castaway thriller "Lost."   Continued...

<p>File photo shows actors John Slattery (L) and Jon Hamm during the 24th Annual Television Critics Association Awards in Beverly Hills July 19, 2008. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas</p>