A topsy-turvy television season disfigured by Hollywood's labor troubles took one final unpredictable turn Thursday when Emmy voters mutinied, turning their backs on network hits in favor of shows with marginal ratings or obscure cable origins.
AMC's Mad Men, FX's Damages and Showtime's Dexter became the first shows from cable networks other than HBO to be nominated for the best drama award. And the most-nominated show was NBC's ratings-challenged sitcom 30 Rock, which regularly savages network executives as stupid, whorish or both.
"This represents the changing of the guard in a lot of ways," Ken Ehrlich, who'll be executive producer of the Sept. 21 Emmy telecast on ABC, told reporters after the pre-dawn announcement of the nominations in Los Angeles.
Television's old order wasn't exactly dismantled, though. HBO and the four big broadcast networks still collected 290 nominations between them, more than twice as many as all the other channels combined. And there were plenty of familiar faces among the nominees, including Tony Shalhoub (who got his sixth consecutive nomination for comic actor as the neurotic detective Monk) Mariska Hargitay (five in a row for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (whose nomination for The New Adventures Of Old Christine was her 10th for comic actress).
But the absence of hit shows -- including some previously favored by Emmy voters -- was startlingly noticeable. ABC's medical drama Grey's Anatomy, which racked up nominations in the double digits the past two seasons, had just five this year and was shut out of the major acting categories as well as the best drama nomination. Another ABC hit, the mock telenovela Ugly Betty, dropped from 11 nominations to six (though star America Ferrera, last year's best comic actress, did repeat her nomination). CBS cop drama CSI, though never an Emmy magnet (32 nominations in seven years), had its least productive season ever with just two nominations.
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