The Writers Guild of America selected the 101 best written TV series of all time. Here's what we have to say about the top five.
1. The Sopranos It would be a crime NOT to put David Chase's mob drama about Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini) at the top of the list. By showcasing intense issues with an artistically graphic and entertaining flair, the writers struck ground in the mafia genre and created a family that "gave us an offer we couldn't refuse." Six un-fogget-able seasons led us to an infamous series finale that left viewers forever in disbelief. No one can remember what the episode was about, but the cliffhanger ending will forever stick in our minds. Cue "Don't Stop Believing."
2. Seinfeld There might be "no soup for you" but WGA gave a second place nod to Seinfeld's co-creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Although David's spot at #30 for Curb Your Enthusiasm recognizes the show's "retroscripting" of an outlined plot filled with improvised dialogue, Seinfeld is a sitcom where the writers essentially write about "nothing." While episodes are mainly based on the writers' real-life experiences, the fictionalized antics of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer have become a cultural phenomenon through classic episodes such as "The Puffy Shirt" and "The Pez Dispenser." Yada, yada, yada.
3. The Twilight Zone It is easy to recognize the haunting success of the sci-fi fantasy series through its evolution into a feature film, a radio series, a comic book and a variety of other spin-offs. But however revered the series is in the world of sci-fi lovers, it is difficult to decipher who should be commemorated for the series' lasting effect on pop culture: the writers of the series or the composers of the iconic theme song. The thrilling Twilight Zone achieves something that is less common in television today by allowing the politically symbolic stories to be the star of the series, even though several of the actors (i.e. Robert Redford, William Shatner, and Carol Burnett) went on to become icons.
4. All in the Family While the CBS sitcom wasn't initially a television hit, it soon blew up with its depiction of controversial issues never before seen in a sitcom format. Notorious for using television comedy to generate a national conversation on difficult issues, the writers revolved present day conflicts around family life inside a Queens home. A true test of the show's success is that even though the show ended over 30 years ago, the well-written but not always politially correct characters still influence their most faithful viewers: the recent death of beloved actress Jean Stapelton, best known as the family's matriarch Edith Bunker, has left many fans in mourning.
5. M*A*S*H M*A*S*H, starring Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers, is most notable for being the only long-running series based around a war zone. However, it is also commemorated for its flawless integration of comedy and the traumatic themes inevitable in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The series spans a three-year military conflict during the Korean War, but the real beauty of many of the plotlines is that they were founded on stories told by real MASH surgeons interviewed by the production team. To make M*A*S*H even more deserving of a top spot on the list, its series finale in 1983 was the most-watched television show of that time.
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The M*A*S*H veteran starred in a number of theatre productions in his youth, including The Apple Tree, which earned him a Tony Award nomination in 1967, but Alda eventually turned his back on his thespian pursuits - because he couldn't escape his string of bad luck.
He recalls, "I was playing Job from the Book of Job, from the bible. I was very young, I was 24. I was about 40 years too young to play him. So I had all this crepe hair on my face and I didn't really know how to put crepe hair on so it stayed. It would just like come off. So I took a deep breath to go into a long speech and a crepe hair had floated out in the air... and I (inhaled) and it went right down my throat and I choked, for a long time. And for the first minute, people in the front row were saying, 'He's very realistic.'"
Alda's near-death experiences onstage didn't stop there - his life flashed before his eyes on two other separate occasions.
He continues, "It was an opening night on Broadway and I was supposed to be alone on stage talking to myself and smoking. And I don't know how to smoke, I still don't know how to smoke, so, I lit a cigarette and I put out the match. And I was wearing a cheap robe, made out of something that's very flammable and the match was out, but it was still glowing... And I look down and I'm a sheet of flames...
"And the third time was in a musical on Broadway. It was almost opening night. And a giant light that weighed 200 pounds came out of the flies (the ceiling) and fell within three inches of my face. Boom right on the floor. And it was just before I was supposed to turn and walk away. And it fell right on my cape."
The Sopranos, 24, My Name Is Earl and The Office are leading the way at the Television Critics Awards, after scooping the most nominations for the 22nd annual awards ceremony.
All four shows landed three nods, including one acting nomination each for its stars James Gandolfini, Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Lee and Steve Carell.
Elsewhere there are nods for Grey's Anatomy, Lost, House, Scrubs and Everybody Hates Chris. The ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on July 23.
The full list of nominations is as follows:
Program of the Year
24 Outstanding Achievement In Comedy
The Daily Show
Everybody Hates Chris
My Name Is Earl
Outstanding Achievement In Drama
Individual Achievement In Comedy
Individual Achievement In Drama
Outstanding New Program of the Year
The Colbert Report
Everybody Hates Chris
My Name Is Earl
Prison Break Outstanding Achievement In News & Information
American Masters: Newhart
Broadway: The Golden Age
Frontline: Country Boys
Outstanding Achievement Movies, Miniseries And Specials
American Masters: No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
Masterpiece Theatre: Bleak House
Outstanding Achievement In Children's Programming
Dora The Explorer
Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends
High School Musical
Sesame Street Career Achievement
Mary Tyler Moore
Hallmark Hall of Fame
The West Wing
Will & Grace
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Michael Imperioli said it best-- there are "a lot of new faces."
That's the perfect way to describe the morning's 2005 Primetime Emmy Award nominations that turned out to be a great awakening for some of TVs newcomers, but a rude awakening for those first-timers who got snubbed.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chairman of the Board Dick Askin, along with a very un-gangster-like Imperioli of The Sopranos and Still Standing's Jami Gertz, not looking so Square Pegs in a cleavage baring bustier top (and at 5:30 in the morning, no less), announced the 57th annual Emmy nominations live from the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood.
Askin told Hollywood.com there are about twice as many new faces compared to last year.
And here's a little bit of trivia: Did you know the Emmy nomination broadcast is the only press conference with a jib camera spanning the room (That's right, not even the Oscars has one-you know, that long poled camera arm that can practically reach across a room.) This morning the jib had the best gig in the house; to focus solely on the golden girl herself-Emmy-high atop a platform. With publicists, agents and camera crews filling the theatre, it's not surprising this morning is an event all its own.
The biggest news came for those housewives, who aren't looking so desperate-all but two, at least. Each first-time nominees-- Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman-- all got nods for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, leaving Nicolette Sheridan and Eva Longoria, well, desperate. That feat hasn't been done since Golden Girls 20 years ago.
The nominated housewives are also going up against Malcolm in the Middle's Jane Kaczmarek, who has now garnered six nominations for her role on the hit Fox series, but has never won; and Patricia Heaton, who everybody loves in Everybody Loves Raymond (even this morning's audience cheered for the actress, who's already taken home two statues for her portrayal as Ray Romano's wife.) Romano and the series also got nods for Outstanding Lead Actor and Comedy Series, with Ray also winning twice before. We'll see if the third time's the charm. Peter Boyle, Brad Garrett and Doris Roberts also made the list in the Supporting Actor categories.
And you might recognize other first-time nominees, most of whom hail from the big screen-- Patricia Arquette (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Medium), Hugh Laurie (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, House), Ian McShane (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Deadwood), S. Epatha Merkerson (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, Lackawanna Blues), Debra Winger (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, Dawn Anna), Ed Harris (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Empire Falls), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Elvis), Geoffrey Rush (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers), Jason Bateman (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Arrested Development), Zach Braff (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Scrubs), Charlize Theron (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Empire Falls), to name a lot.
Other silver screen favorites include Halle Berry for her work in Their Eyes Are Watching God, Blythe Danner for Back When We Were Grownups, Kenneth Branagh for Warm Springs, William H. Macy for The Wool Cap and Tony Shalhoub for Monk.
Husband and wife nominated teams this year include Macy and Huffman and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (both for Empire Falls).
Gertz, who commented that she's "been around the block, as they say," has many favorites who are in the running to take home a statue, but she couldn't pick just one to win: "I just want all my friends to win," Jami said, who include Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series nominees Kiefer Sutherland (who's been nominated three times before for 24 and has never won), Hank Azaria (Huff) and James Spader (Boston Legal).
In other legal briefs, The Practice alum Camryn Manheim grabbed a spot in the Supporting Actress/Miniseries category for her portrayal of Elvis's mother in Elvis (to which Gertz did a perfect rendition of that famous Elvis accent), and Boston Legal's William Shatner for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
Lost could only be found in one of the acting categories for Naveen Andrews and Terry O'Quinn for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, but it did nab a top nod for Outstanding Drama Series. And history repeats itself with The West Wing up for Outstanding Drama Series (which holds the titles for most Emmys won by a series in its first and single season with 9), but the Academy didn't salute the President (a.k.a. Martin Sheen) or Allison Janney, who always wins the Emmy. But Stockard Channing and Alan Alda won the Academy's recognition in the Supporting categories.
In a twist, those two high-tech mystery solving ensembles CSI and Law & Order also disappeared from this year's list in the acting categories, except for Mariska Hargitay for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, who's going head-to-head against fellow crime fighter Jennifer Garner (Alias), Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under), Glenn Close (The Shield) and Arquette (Medium). Nip/Tuck was also cut out of the running with the lead characters garnering zero nods.
Nominated shows coming in on top include Desperate Housewives with 15 nods, Will & Grace 15, Everybody Loves Raymond 13, Lost 12, Arrested Development 11, Deadwood 11, 24 11 and Empire Falls, 10.
HBO picked up the most nominations with 93, even without help from the ineligible Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos, but is down from last year because of the absence of Angels In America, which holds the record for most Emmy's won by a miniseries. CBS leads the networks with 59; NBC 54; ABC 51 and Fox 49-all of which have made a comeback this year.
"Another trend I think is the return of the broadcast networks. I mean, all of their nominations are significantly up from last year. ABC was up 65% in numbers and CBS was 75%,"said Askin.
And expect a few modern upgrades to this year's Emmy show.
"There's going to be a lot of things different. I can't tell you anything about the show yet 'cause it's kind of in the planning stages right now. We don't want to change it dramatically, but we want to kind of update it for today's audience," said Askin.
ATAS will hand out the Emmy trophies on Sunday, Sept. 22 at a black-tie ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
A partial list of nominees as follows:
Outstanding Comedy Series
Arrested Development, Fox
Desperate Housewives, ABC
Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS
Will & Grace, NBC
Outstanding Drama Series
Six Feet Under, HBO
The West Wing, NBC
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Zach Braff, Scrubs
Eric McCormack, Will & Grace
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives
Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond
Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond
Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Jessica Walter, Arrested Development
Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Conchata Ferrell, Two and a Half Men
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
James Spader, Boston Legal
Ian McShane, Deadwood
Hugh Laurie, House
Hank Azaria, Huff
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Garner, Alias
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Patricia Arquette, Medium
Glenn Close, The Shield
Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
William Shatner, Boston Legal
Oliver Platt, Huff
Naveen Andrews, Lost
Terry O'Quinn, Lost
Alan Alda, The West Wing
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Blythe Danner, Huff
Tyne Daly, Judging Amy
CCH Pounder, The Shield
Stockard Channing, The West Wing
Empire Falls, HBO
The 4400, USA
The Lost Prince (Masterpiece Theatre), PBS
Outstanding Made for Television Movie
Lackawanna Blues, HBO
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, HBO
The Office Special, BBC America
Warm Springs, HBO
The Wool Cap, TNT
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Elvis
Ed Harris, Empire Falls
Geoffrey Rush, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Kenneth Branagh, Warm Springs
William H. Macy, The Wool Cap
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Blythe Danner, Back When We Were Grownups (Hallmark Hall Of Fame
Debra Winger, Dawn Anna
S. Epatha Merkerson, Lackawanna Blues
Halle Berry, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Cynthia Nixon, Warm Springs
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Randy Quaid, Elvis
Paul Newman, Empire Falls
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Empire Falls
Christopher Plummer, Our Fathers
Brian Dennehy, Our Fathers
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Camryn Manheim, Elvis
Joanne Woodward, Empire Falls
Charlize Theron, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Jane Alexander, Warm Springs
Kathy Bates, Warm Springs
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Da Ali G Show, HBO
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC
Late Show with David Letterman, CBS
Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO
Outstanding Reality Program
Antiques Roadshow, PBS
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, Showtime
Project Greenlight, Bravo
Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, Bravo
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
The Amazing Race, CBS
American Idol, Fox
The Apprentice, NBC
Project Runway, Bravo