Originally created 10/07/01

Subdued Emmys to honor TV's best



LOS ANGELES - The trappings of glamour will be absent from tonight's Emmy Awards: no fancy gowns, no cheering fans, a post-show "unity dinner" in place of the festive Governors Ball.

Intent on showing respect in the shadow of the Sept. 11 tragedy, nearly every feature of the 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards is different.

For the first time in more than two decades, there will be an East Coast-West Coast simulcast so that New York nominees and presenters who prefer not to leave "loved ones and families" can stay put.

Those attending have been asked to wear dressy business attire instead of formalwear, and the bleachers that usually house fans have been eliminated as part of increased security measures.

But one thing can't change in the ceremony delayed three weeks because of the terrorist attacks: The Emmys are a contest, and there will be winners and losers.

Ellen DeGeneres will serve as master of ceremonies, during which 27 awards in acting, directing and writing categories will be presented. Voting was completed Aug. 17.

NBC's White House drama The West Wing is expected to triumph, perhaps matching its own record of nine trophies set last year.

HBO's mob drama The Sopranos earned 22 nominations this year to The West Wing's 18, but the NBC show has top honors, including best drama series and best actor, in its sights.

The West Wing already won four Emmys at a September creative arts ceremony, including trophies for casting, cinematography, editing and sound mixing. The Sopranos claimed a single award, for makeup.

The West Wing built on its first-year with a high-powered story arc about President Bartlet's decision to hide a debilitating illness. It made the most of its talented ensemble cast while giving Martin Sheen, as the president, the chance for a memorable star turn.

A West Wing triumph would add a professional grace note to a difficult personal year for series creator Aaron Sorkin, who pleaded guilty in a drug-possession case in June and entered a treatment program.

There were standout Sopranos episodes and performances - especially from its leading ladies - but the stakes and the drama didn't seem as high this season for mob boss Tony Soprano. Relatively conservative Emmy voters also are more likely to snub the violent, sexually vivid show in favor of the more staid West Wing.

Another factor weighing against The Sopranos: No cable entry has claimed the best drama or best comedy series prize, and it's unlikely the network-TV bias will be broken this year with a strong entry like The West Wing.

It wasn't until 1999, in fact, that The Sopranos become the first cable series to gain even a nomination as best drama.

The Emmy truth, according to The Emmys author Thomas O'Neil, is in the tapes. Performers submit one episode they believe represents their best work for the season. Series offer eight episodes. Judging panels give awards based on those samples, not the entire season.

"If you want to predict who's going to win the Emmys, you have to see what's on those tapes. Stars live or die based on them," Mr. O'Neil advises in his online Emmy forecast.

Here are the nominees in the top categories. Heading into Sunday, NBC is the leader with 11 creative-arts Emmys (Fox matched that number but won't be a major factor in the main ceremony). HBO has eight trophies; ABC has seven; and CBS, PBS and UPN have five each.

Best drama series: The West Wing, Law & Order and ER, NBC; The Sopranos, HBO; The Practice, ABC.

Best comedy series: Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS; Frasier and Will & Grace, NBC; Malcolm in the Middle, Fox; Sex and the City, HBO.

Best actor in a drama series: Andre Braugher, Gideon's Crossing, and Dennis Franz, NYPD Blue, ABC; James Gandolfini, The Sopranos, HBO; Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen, The West Wing, NBC.

Best actress in a drama series: Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco, The Sopranos, HBO; Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy, and Marg Helgenberger, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; Sela Ward, Once and Again, ABC.

Best actor in a comedy series: Kelsey Grammer, Frasier, John Lithgow, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Eric McCormack, Will & Grace, NBC; Frankie Muniz, Malcolm in the Middle, Fox; Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS.

Best actress in a comedy series: Calista Flockhart, Ally McBeal, and Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle, Fox; Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS; Debra Messing, Will & Grace, NBC; Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City, HBO.

TUNE IN

CBS's telecast of the 53rd annual Emmy awards is from 8 to 11 p.m. on WRDW-TV (Channel 12). The ceremony, with host Ellen DeGeneres, is to be shown live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.