20 survive Emmys' first cut

Drama, comedy contenders announced to prevent blog-based fakeouts

In an unprecedented move designed to head off the kind of cyberspace leaks that have played havoc with the nomination process the past two years, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on Thursday opted to release the top 10 finalists for nominations for the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in the outstanding comedy series and drama series categories.

The lists represent voting from the entire TV Academy membership and comprise 50% of the nomination tally. The other 50% will be determined this weekend during Blue Ribbon Panel screenings of submitted episodes before a collection of judges. The final list of nominees will be revealed July 17.

As for the shows on the list, there were several surprises of both inclusion and omission. None is bigger than the Fox animated half-hour "Family Guy" making the cut, the result of creator-producer Seth MacFarlane having opted to switch his subversive 'toon to comedy series contention while simultaneously submitting a special episode to the animated program category.

No animated series has ever received a nomination for outstanding comedy. "Family Guy" would be the first, and it's halfway there. The only other series to try a similar gambit was "The Simpsons" in the early 1990s, but it was never able to crack the comedy series list and opted thereafter to place all of its eggs in the animated program basket.

Another unexpected finalist on the comedy short list of 10 is the first-year HBO half-hour "Flight of the Conchords." It's joined by perennial nominees "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage," giving HBO three of the 10 comedy slots, more than any other network.

NBC and ABC claimed two comedy mentions apiece. NBC's contenders include last year's Emmy winner, "30 Rock," and the victor two years ago, "The Office." ABC's shows on the list are "Ugly Betty" and "Pushing Daisies."

Rounding out the comedy finalists are CBS' "Two and a Half Men" and Showtime's "Weeds," which if nominated would become the first non-HBO cable nominee in the category. Among the shows snubbed: "Desperate Housewives" and "Samantha Who?" at ABC and "Scrubs," at NBC and on the way to the Alphabet.

As for the drama series finalists, HBO's never-nominated "The Wire," long a critical darling, made the list of 10 contenders in its final season. It's the only HBO drama nominated.

Of those that landed on the short list, fully half come from cable. Besides "Wire," there are the heavily buzzed first-year entries "Mad Men" from AMC and FX's "Damages" as well as the Showtime second-year pair "Dexter" and "The Tudors." Of the five broadcast network entries, three — Fox's "House" and ABC's "Boston Legal" and "Grey's Anatomy" — got noms in 2007. The other two are ABC's "Lost" (passed over last year) and NBC's "Friday Night Lights."

Failing to crack the top 10 were ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," NBC's "Heroes," TNT drama "The Closer" and AMC's "Breaking Bad."