It's shaping up as a showdown between organized crime and the White House.
HBO's "The Sopranos" and NBC's "The West Wing" received the most Emmy nominations, tying with 18 each, and will compete for the best drama series award and several of the major acting categories. The nominations were announced in a dawn ceremony today in Los Angeles.
Other top nominees include the made-for-TV movies "RKO 281" with 13 nods, and "Annie" with 12. The HBO movie "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," starring Halle Berry, and the NBC sitcom "Will & Grace" received 11 nominations each.
Halle Berry The nominations were announced by two actors who won Emmys last year: Edie Falco of "The Sopranos," who was nominated again in the best dramatic actress category, and Michael Badalucco of "The Practice," who likewise was nominated again in the best supporting dramatic actor category.
With the mob of nominations for "The Sopranos," the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences seemed to be trying to make up for last year, when the show won Emmys in several major acting categories but lost out to David E. Kelley's "The Practice" (which was nominated again) in the best drama series category. Other shows receiving best drama nods were "ER" and "Law & Order."
Falco, musing on the acclaim for her role as Carmela on "The Sopranos," told Los Angeles station KCBS-TV, "I enjoy playing her, she's very different for me, and I get a kick out of being all the things she is."
And the kudos that the show has received are well deserved, she added. "The actors are good, the writing is amazing, and people, I think, recognize themselves in these characters, as different as they may seem. I am beside myself with excitement for all my friends."
Lorraine Bracco, also of "The Sopranos," likewise was nominated in the lead dramatic actress category. The other nominees are Amy Brenneman of "Judging Amy," Sela Ward of "Once and Again" and Julianna Margulies for her now-departed role on "ER."
"Friends" In the comedy series category, "Will & Grace" will compete with "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Frasier," "Friends" and the HBO series "Sex and the City." But last year's winner, "Ally McBeal," was not even nominated in the comedy category, and it received a scant three nominations overall.
Martin Sheen, who plays "President Bartlet" on "The West Wing," was nominated as best dramatic actor , as expected. Overall, five cast members from the show received Emmy nods: Richard Schiff and John Spencer for best supporting actor in a drama series, and Stockard Channing and Allison Danney in the best supporting actress category.
Dennis Franz Other best dramatic actor nominees include James Gandolfini of (natch) "The Sopranos," Dennis Franz of "NYPD Blue" and Sam Waterston and Jerry Orbach of "Law & Order."
There were also two nominations sure to tug at the heartstrings. Michael J. Fox was, predictably, nominated for lead actor in a comedy after leaving his "Spin City" gig to battle Parkinson's disease, and he'll compete with Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier," John Lithgow of "3rd Rock From the Sun," Eric McCormack of "Will & Grace" and Ray Romano of "Everybody Loves Raymond."
The other nomination sure to stir emotions went to Nancy Marchand of "The Sopranos," who died in June, was nominated for best supporting actress in a drama.
For best actress in a comedy, there were nominations to Jenna Elfman of "Dharma & Greg," Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Jane Kaczmarek of "Malcolm in the Middle," Debra Messing of "Will & Grace" and Sarah Jessica Parker of "Sex and the City."
In the battle of networks, NBC was the leader with 97 nominations, followed by HBO with 86, ABC with 64, CBS with 41 and Fox with 26.
Mel Gibson's been a post-apocalyptic anti-hero, a half-cocked cop and a rich guy at war with kidnappers. But can he beat the redcoats? Can he beat George Clooney?
It's a historic showdown of sorts at the box office this weekend. Gibson's "The Patriot" and 's "The Perfect Storm" are the first two films with $100 million budgets, gigantic marketing campaigns and big buzz to face off over a summer holiday (namely, July 4 or Memorial Day).
Already, "The Patriot" has the competitive edge. The Revolutionary War action flick opened Wednesday and scored $5 million. But that doesn't guarantee a hit -- last summer, "Wild Wild West" opened on a Wednesday too, with a nice $7 mil, and we know what happened to that one.
Oh, and let's not forget the cute lil' animated moose and squirrel in "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," who also figure into this weekend's flicks mix.
Here's a scouting report of the B.O. race ahead:
"The Patriot" THE PATRIOT (See the trailer) The skinny: The guys who made "Independence Day" deliver another Fourth of July blockbuster, but this time instead of Randy Quaid vs. the aliens it's Mel Gibson vs. the Redcoats. Guess who wins? The upside: "Conspiracy Theory" aside, Mel's been a pretty reliable box office commodity over the years, and "Godzilla" aside, director-producer team Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin have had a steady stream of formulaic hits. The downside: The American Revolution ain't exactly commercial material. Remember "1776"? And when they start hiring Yanks to play Australians, drop us a line.
"The Perfect Storm" THE PERFECT STORM (See the trailer) The skinny: Rugged, handsome types George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg ignore the weatherman and go fishing on the (perfectly) stormy seas, with melodramatic results. Based on a real-life incident. The upside: It's this year's "Twister," with a disaster drama interwoven with love stories. The special effects by Industrial Light & Magic are killer. The downside: In case no one's noticed yet, Clooney hasn't exactly had a big hit since being elevated to the leading-man circle. Can you say "Batman and Robin"? "Out of Sight"?
"The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (See the trailer) The skinny: "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!" 'Nuff said. The upside: Evil Russkies Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo slip out of the cartoon world and become three-dimensional villains. If nothing else, it's an interesting premise and a good cast, including Robert De Niro as Fearless Leader. The original 'toon voices of Bullwinkle Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel return. The downside: The Cold War is long since over and done with, and Bullwinkle was never really all that cool to begin with.
Meanwhile, all the other recent summer money-makers will continue to make money, albeit less than last week: "Me, Myself & Irene," "Chicken Run," "Shaft," "Gone in 60 Seconds,"M:I-2," "Big Momma's House," and the list goes on.
Tonight's heavy with recommended shows, but topping the list is another inventive "X-Files" (9:00 p.m. EST/PST, Fox). In one of the more inspired "crossovers" of the season, the episode follows an intrepid camera crew from another long-time Fox staple, the reality-based "COPS," as they hook up with a couple of FBI agents looking for a werewolf in Los Angeles.
Just when you think they may be running out of steam, and rumors that the show won't be back next season might be a merciful thing after all, "The X-Files" reminds you that it's still one of the most clever and entertaining hours on TV.
-- Have you seen the new 2Gether video "U+Me=Us"?! 2 cool! MTV's first-ever made-for-TV movie "2Gether" (8 p.m. EST, MTV) gives the "Spinal Tap" treatment to the boy-band genre. And if the above-mentioned video is any indication, it's 2 fun-E, and 4U2B… oh forget it. Kevin Farley, brother of the late prat-falling dynamo Chris, stars as the band member who doesn't quite fit the traditional boy-band mold. You can check out the hype and see the video for "U+Me=Us (Calculus)" by tuning into the network's "Total Request Live" be-in, Monday at 3:30 p.m. EST. One more cool thing: MTV's planning to run "2Gether" like a real-live movie -- sans commercials. (Well, unless you consider all MTV programming to be one, big-long commercial.)
-- Speaking of music …Many people over the years have laid claim to the label "Creator of Rock n' Roll." Few have as strong a case as Little Richard. Sometime in the early 1950s, when soulful rhythm-and-blues music took a sideways turn and really started to rock, Little Richard's piano was the main reason. And now for his contributions he gets the ultimate tribute -- a TV biopic. Robert Townsend ("The Five Heartbeats") directs the two hour "Little Richard" (9 p.m. EST/PST, tonight). Richard's story features the same highs and lows as most VH-1 documentaries, but with the added drama of being a black man who sold millions of records worth of the most overtly sexual music white people had ever heard in pre-civil rights America. Expect, at the very least, to hear some great tunes and to see a man standing on stage in a metallic Speedo decades before anybody else would ever again think, "Hey, this'll look really cool!"
-- PBS amps up the action in a testosterone-driven "Masterpiece Theatre" (no, really). "All the King's Men" (9 p.m. EST/PST, tonight) draws a rare TV-MA rating for depicting the intense and somewhat grisly real story behind the legendary battlefield disappearance "in a golden cloud" of a British regiment in WWI Gallipoli. David Jason ("A Touch of Frost") stars as the big hearted but dutiful, "ours is not to reason why…"-type commander.
-- Also tonight, TBS is re-running the 1995 Rob Reiner film "The American President" (at 8:05 p.m. EST). You may find it interesting for two reasons. The first, it's a good movie. The second, this film was the spawning ground for a lot of the better things on television in recent years. See, it's a big-hearted, soft- and-squishy, romantic kind of movie, set in a place (the White House) we tend to associate with somewhat un-squishy words like "sex scandal," and "Def-Con 5." As a result, the movie made a lot of people say, "Hey, there just might be a TV show in there somewhere." The first show to come (unofficially) out of "The American President" was ABC's "Spin City," in which Michael J. Fox, who steals a few scenes "President" in a supporting role, basically reprises his character in sitcom-form, working this time for the Mayor of New York. But perhaps the biggest score from "President," was the courting of writer Aaron Sorkin by the networks. The results, so far, are the critically acclaimed but ratings challenged "Sports Night" (9:30 p.m. EST/PST, Tuesday, ABC) and, the most direct descendant of this film, "The West Wing" (9 p.m. EST/PST, Wednesday, NBC.) "President" also features Martin Sheen -- who went on to score a big promotion in "West Wing."
-- Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST/PST on UPN, "I Dare You: The Ultimate Challenge," a show that once proudly boasted "...So we decided to crash an airplane into the back of a semi!," pits host Evel Knievel in a bit of a ratings battle with son Robbie, who a night later over at Fox will be seen jumping his motorcycle lengthwise over a speeding train ("Robbie Knievel: Head-on Train Jump," 9 p.m. EST/PST, Wednesday). With Fox brass recently declaring that they'll be leaning toward more "high brow" fare in the future, this week's showdown between people (and networks) who like to crash stuff may soon be a thing of the past. (We won't hold our breath.)
-- A couple of quick notes… For the more discerning music aficionado, the Learning Channel offers some insights into a hugely influential record producer who worked with pretty much everyone from The Beatles to The Ramones, in "Rock n' Roll Genius Phil Spector" (10 p.m. EST/PST, Saturday)… For fans of the long-running and previously mentioned "COPS" (8 p.m. EST/PST, Saturday, Fox), the Discovery Channel is running episodes of its more-studied hour-long documentary "Real LAPD" every night this week, starting Monday at 8 p.m. EST/PST. ...
And finally, a point of interest for readers who are either dog lovers or, um, males age 18-34… The USA network's delayed airing of its ratings juggernaut "WWF Raw Is War" late-night last Monday still handily beat the primetime numbers for its replacement, "The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show." For those who must know, the dog competition was won by a Brittany Spaniel who upset a rather eccentrically coifed Poodle -- the heavy favorite among Las Vegas oddsmakers. (No kidding). In the spirit of "Raw Is War," the spaniel won the competition when his trainer attacked the poodle with a folding chair when the judge's back was turned. (Okay, now, we're kidding.)
John Waters gives Hollywood the finger with this comedy about cinema purist Cecil B. DeMented and his band of guerrilla filmmakers who kidnap the industry's hottest leading lady Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) during the Baltimore premiere of her latest film a "life-affirming screwball comedy" called "Some Kind of Happiness." DeMented and the group live Rocky Horror-style in an abandoned warehouse with plans to save the public from bad movies while shooting their anarchist film. Honey is won over helping to cause terror at location shoots including an attack at a multiplex screening of "Patch Adams: The Director's Cut." (Hey these guys aren't all that bad!)
Griffith either can't get work or has a great sense of humor. Why else would she play this far-out send-up of a Hollywood glamour girl who is all glitz in public all bitch in private? Cheers to her for taking bold risks and coming out on top. Stephen Dorff is over the top as the title character (even for this film) but still scrapes up laughs with his maniacal rage. Ricki Lake takes a break from her daily TV sleaze getting back to what she does best. Other Waters regulars including Mink Stole and Patty Hearst also return.
Anyone not familiar with the director/screenwriter's work should be cautioned that navigating this Waters could be rough sailing. Some of his films ("Polyester " "Pink Flamingos") would make the cast of "American Pie" blush. His dialogue is stiff and strained and his actors look like they're stuck in an awkward high school play. That said "Cecil" is full of hilarious jabs like the showdown with fat lazy teamsters on the set of the senseless sequel "Gump Again."