When it comes to comedy, Emmy loves Sex and Raymond, but her favorites are Will & Grace. The NBC comedy about a straight girl and her gay best friend got a major boost as it heads into its new prime Thursday time slot: It nabbed 11 Emmy nominations, the most of any comedy series.
Debra Messing, who scored her first nod as neurotic New Yorker Grace, was watching the announcements live on TV. "She's incredibly excited," noted her publicist, Betsy Boudreau, adding that the actress was more pumped for her co-stars Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes, all of whom were recognized. "Obviously they're so supportive of one another. This is a huge thing for them."
Following Will & Grace with nine nominations each were CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, NBC's Emmy stalwart, Frasier, and HBO's no-strings-attached romp Sex and the City. Sex star and Lead Comedy Actress nominee Sarah Jessica Parker says the cast and crew of the cable series "feel like the kids in school when you get invited to the popular kids' party."
Raymond star Ray Romano was on vacation with his family at the New Jersey shore when he got the news that he'd been nominated for Best Comedy Actor. "It got a little nerve-racking because they announced it in alphabetical order and mine was the last one," the comedian told Access Hollywood. "My mother went in the kitchen and cried. My kids threw some M&M's around."
Romano, who also received a writing nod with fellow executive producer Philip Rosenthal, was particularly delighted that Brad Garrett, the only cast member snubbed last year, finally was recognized. "Thank God we all were nominated," he added, "because there's enough tension [on the set] already."
TV's top-rated comedy series, Friends, scored eight nods, including the fifth for previous winner Lisa Kudrow and the first for co-star Jennifer Aniston. "She was absolutely thrilled," says publicist Stephen Huvane. "She's proud that Lisa's nominated as well, she doesn't feel weird about that at all." And although Huvane conceded that his client would have hoped more of her co-stars were going for the gold, he points out that "when anyone gets nominated they always feel like it's for the show, too ? it's a reflection on all of them. That's really how they feel. It would have been nice for all of them to have been nominated but that wasn't the case."
Fox's freshman smash Malcolm in the Middle received five nominations, including nods for Outstanding Writing and Lead Actress, Jane Kaczmarek, who told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CA, "I'm so proud to be a part of this network." Added Fox entertainment president Gail Berman: "[Jane] and the series Malcolm are tied together inseparably... she's done everything an actress can do in Hollywood. She's been an extra, a bit player. She's played everyone's sister and best friend."
The network's other new midseason hit, Titus, was shut out. But as the show's executive producer Jack Kenny noted, "Will & Grace had more ads then we had episodes. Nobody up here expected to be nominated this year." Series star Christopher Titus then added with a laugh: "But frankly I think it sucked!"
Also absent from the comedy fray was last year's winner, Ally McBeal, which managed just a single Supporting Actor nod for Peter MacNicol. "That's a great surprise," cheered Roush. "There was a real critical backlash as the season progressed. Everybody began to pound on it and the [ratings] were actually going down."