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Desperate Housewives looms large over Emmys

Desperate Housewives looms large over Emmys

The ABC network, on the rebound from a lengthy ratings slump, appears headed for a banner night at the Emmy Awards on Sunday with its two breakout hits, Lost and Desperate Housewives, heavily favored to sweep U.S. television's highest honors. Both shows represent a turning point for the Emmys and for prime-time TV generally, invigorating the often repetitive awards competition and ushering in a new wave of formula-breaking shows to television this season.

Desperate Housewives, a wry, steamy saga of suburban intrigue that ranked as the top-rated new show last season, is competing in 15 Emmy categories, including the race for best comedy, tying veteran NBC sitcom Will & Grace as this year's most nominated series. If Housewives wins for best comedy, as many expect, it would mark ABC's first outstanding-comedy prize since 1988, when the award went to The Wonder Years. ABC also won the top drama award that year with thirtysomething.

Desperate Housewives, which some TV sitcom veterans have grumbled is more of a drama wedged unfairly into the Emmys' comedy contest, led the way for a ratings turnaround at the Walt Disney-owned network last season and sparked a parade of new female-skewing shows on other networks. Housewives, from out creator Marc Cherry, also has yielded best-actress nominations for three of its stars--Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, and Felicity Huffman--with most critics picking Hatcher and Cross as front-runners. If the ladies of Wisteria Lane end up canceling each other out, however, two-time winner Patricia Heaton could eke out yet another Emmy for her role as the Ray Romano's sharp-tongued wife on the final season of CBS hit Everybody Loves Raymond. The contest for best actor in a comedy is harder to call this year, with most observers seeing a three-way race among three past winners--Romano, Eric McCormack of Will & Grace, and Tony Shalhoub of USA Network's Monk.

Meanwhile, ABC's eerie new castaway thriller Lost, widely seen as sparking a trend toward high-concept, supernatural themes in prime time this fall, leads the field of drama series contenders with 12 nominations. Most observers say Lost--like Housewives in the comedy race--is a virtual shoo-in for the coveted best-drama prize. But they point to the British star of a Fox hit, Hugh Laurie, as the odds-on favorite to win best actor in a drama for his role as the grumpy doctor with a limp on House. James Spader also is a contender for his portrayal of an ethically challenged attorney on ABC's Boston Legal. In the battle for best actress in a drama, Emmy watchers have singled out the stars of two cop shows--Glenn Close for her role on cable network FX's The Shield and Mariska Hargitay from NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

If predictions prove correct for Housewives and Lost, both would break with tradition by winning top honors in their first seasons. Emmy voters typically gravitate toward older, familiar shows. Housewives has another potential strike against it as a show that plays like a prime-time soap opera, a genre that even in its Dallas and Dynasty heyday tended to get snubbed.

Likewise, the fantasy element of Lost could prove a turnoff to Emmy voters, who have a history of preferring more realistic offerings, according to Emmy pundit Tom O'Neil, host of the entertainment awards Web site He said NBC's political drama The West Wing, a four-time past winner, posed the biggest threat to Lost in this year's race because it "feels important." But he said that "buzz and the cool factor" give an edge to Lost. "Lost and Desperate Housewives revitalized broadcast television, which is the business of the vast majority of Emmy voters, and they appreciate that," O'Neil told Reuters.

Other nominees for best drama are the Fox espionage thriller 24 and two HBO productions--the gritty, vulgar Western Deadwood and funereal family soap Six Feet Under, which just ended its last season. Rounding out the comedy race are last year's winner, Arrested Development on Fox, as well as Will & Grace, the NBC hospital sitcom Scrubs, and Everybody Loves Raymond, which just completed its nine-year run on CBS. (Reuters)

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