'Wire,' 'Family Guy' among Emmy finalists

ATAS posts list to fight online fakes

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 onto its Web site 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 crank 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," about New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement and their musical hijinks in New York City. "Conchords," joined by perennial nominees "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage," gave HBO three of the 10 comedy slots, more than any other network.

NBC and ABC claimed a pair of comedy nominees apiece. NBC's contenders include last year's Emmy winner, "30 Rock," and the victor two years ago, "The Office." ABC's are Golden Globe winner "Ugly Betty" and the acclaimed rookie hour "Pushing Daisies."

Rounding out the comedy finalists are CBS' "Two and a Half Men" (nominated the past two years) and Showtime's "Weeds," which if nominated would become the first-ever non-HBO cable nominee in the category. Among the shows snubbed this year in comedy are previous nominees "Desperate Housewives" (ABC) and "Scrubs" (NBC) as well as the first-year ABC hit "Samantha Who?"

As for the drama series finalists, one that will receive much fanfare in the critical community is HBO's never-nominated "The Wire," long a critical darling but ignored entirely in the Emmy voting. It made the list of 10 contenders in its final, much-praised season, carrying all of HBO's hopes in the category a year after that network walked off with the gold for "The Sopranos." Indeed, both "Big Love" and the freshman therapy half-hour "In Treatment" were given far better shots at nominations, but neither survived the cut.

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" -- made the nomination lineup in 2007. The other two are ABC's "Lost" (passed over last year) and NBC's "Friday Night Lights."

If "Mad Men," "Damages," "Dexter" or "The Tudors" make it to the nominations round, it would be a first for a non-HBO cable drama.

Failing to crack the top 10 were such favorites as ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," NBC's "Heroes" (nominated a year ago but a victim of losing considerable heat during its second, truncated season), the TNT drama "The Closer" and AMC's quirky and disturbing hour "Breaking Bad" starring Bryan Cranston.

Part of the rationale for the early release of the series short-listers was to avoid the kind of rumors and confusion that circulated in the wake of the publishing of the unofficial lists on blogs. "We thought it a good idea to make sure people weren't forced to get this information from secondary sources but straight from the academy," an ATAS spokesman said.

The TV Academy had reportedly planned to release the 10 top finalists in the acting races, too, but the idea was shelved because of the more individualized nature of judging in those categories, according to a source. The official disclosure of those lists in advance now isn't expected to happen at all.

Full list:

Outstanding drama: "Boston Legal," "Damages," "Dexter," "Friday Night Lights," "Grey’s Anatomy," "House," "Lost," "Mad Men," "The Tudors" and "The Wire."

Outstanding comedy: "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage," "Family Guy," "Flight of the Conchords," "The Office," "Pushing Daisies," "30 Rock," "Two and a Half Men," "Ugly Betty," "Weeds."