'Sopranos' goes out with a bing

Final season earns 15 Emmy noms; 'Betty' comes up big

Ruthless New Jersey mobsters and a good-hearted young woman from Queens led the series races in the 59th Primetime Emmy Award nominations an-nounced Thursday (HR 7/20).

Meanwhile, three noms made NBC's "ER" the most Emmy-nominated program ever with 120, surpassing the 117 for "Cheers."

HBO's "The Sopranos" is leaving the primetime scene with a bang, scoring 15 nominations, including best drama series and noms for stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.

ABC's "Ugly Betty" is the belle of the comedy ball with 11 nominations, including best comedy series and a nom for star America Ferrera.

In total, three freshman series, "Betty" and NBC's "Heroes" and "30 Rock," made the cut in the best series categories. The snub of another one, critical darling "Friday Night Lights," was considered one of the major upsets when the main nominations were unveiled at dawn Thursday.

As usual, a longform project, HBO's telefilm "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," leads the Emmy nomination field overall with 17 noms. It is followed closely by AMC's miniseries "Broken Trail" with 16 noms, including one for veteran star Robert Duvall.

Also as usual, HBO racked up the most nominations, 86, while ABC and NBC are neck and neck for second place with 70 and 69, respectively.

But with HBO's tally down from 97 last year and ABC and NBC improving from 63 and 47, respectively, HBO's lead over the broadcast networks is the smallest since four noms separated it from No. 2 NBC in 2002.

Fueled by "30 Rock," NBC's "The Office" (nine nominations), "Heroes" (eight) and the USA Network miniseries "The Starter Wife" (10, including one for star Debra Messing), Universal Media Studios almost doubled its previous record with 60 nominations this year. ABC Studios is a close second with 56, also the studio's best showing.

In the best drama series category, "Sopranos" and "Heroes" are joined by two returning nominees, ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "House," and a surprise newcomer to the field: "Boston Legal," David E. Kelley's dramedy for ABC.

For the second year in a row, the reigning drama series champ didn't make the cut. This year, it is Fox's "24," whose most recent season was knocked by critics.

In the best comedy series field, rookies "30 Rock" and the one-hour "Betty" will compete against another first-time nominee, HBO's "Entourage"; last year's winner, "The Office"; and CBS' "Two and a Half Men."

The first best series nom for Hollywood-centric "Entourage" came on its third try.

ABC's "Desperate Housewives," which won the 2005 Emmy for best comedy series after its freshman season, missed the cut for the second year in a row.

A complete list of Emmy nominees can be found at www.hollywoodreporter.com.