Can the president of the United States take on the mob? That's the question all of Hollywood is asking in the wake of yesterday's Emmy nominations, which awarded NBC's White House drama The West Wing and HB0's mob hit The Sopranos 18 nominations apiece.
"It's a total horse race," offers TV Guide critic Matt Roush, adding that he's hard-pressed to name a favorite. "The Sopranos should have won last year, so it is probably positioned to win this year. As it is, the Emmys institutionally are slow to the draw in terms of acknowledging new programs." Tom O'Neil, author of The Emmys (Perigee Books), says West Wing is going to be tough to beat. "It's a classic Emmy show," he says. "It is well written and appeals to a more mature demographic."
Even West Wing nominee John Spencer admits that he's a fan of the competition. "I love The Sopranos," the actor told Access Hollywood. "I probably shouldn't say that, but I think it's a great show."
Despite West Wing's strong showing practically the entire cast was nominated some were surprised that Bradley Whitford didn't make the cut for his role as the deputy chief of staff. But, as Roush points out, "not everyone can get nominated. But I know he's happy because his wife [Malcolm in the Middle's Jane Kaczmarek] was nominated."
Sopranos nominee Edie Falco, a Lead Actress winner last year for playing devoted wife Carmela Soprano, told E! that the success of The Sopranos had no impact on her performance this season. "Some people were getting caught up in, 'Oh, are we going to be able to live up to the first season,' " she says. "I think the further we get away from worrying about that the better our chances are of keeping the quality up."
The West/Soprano juggernaut knocked ABC's NYPD Blue out of the drama series category for the first time since it premiered in 1993. Although the buzz is that Blue's late start this year (it premiered in January) may have accounted for the snub, Roush believes the show has "kind of peaked creatively."
Other Emmy MIA's in the drama arena include Buffy the Vampire Slayer (see related Insider story), Freaks and Geeks and Once and Again, which only saw its leading lady, Sela Ward, acknowledged. "I think that is going to be corrected in seasons to come," Roush says of the ABC drama. "It was too bad... shows like ER and Law & Order are perfectly fine shows but seem to be nominated by rote every year."
On the movie front, HBO's RKO 281 had the most nominations with 15, followed by ABC's acclaimed remake of Annie with 12 and HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge with 11. X-Men's Halle Berry, who won a Golden Globe for her starring role in Dandridge earlier this year, was bouncing off the walls. "Just when I thought life was as good as it gets with [the success of] X-Men and all that excitement, and then this," Berry, who recently was put on three years probation stemming from a February hit and run, told Access Hollywood. "It's just been overwhelming."