'Sopranos,' 'West Wing' top Emmy contenders

— "The Sopranos," roughed up at last year's Emmy Awards, has a chance for revenge. But the mob drama must get past White House security first.

"The West Wing," a feel-good drama set in the White House, and "The Sopranos" received a leading 18 nominations each on Thursday for the 52nd annual Emmy Awards, which will handed out in September.

There hasn't been this kind of friction between the mob and the White House since the Kennedy administration.

"The Sopranos" has to hope that a new generation of Emmy judges, brought in by a procedural change, are more open to its dark humor and violence. Last year, it received 16 nominations and only four awards.

The HBO series and NBC's "West Wing" are competing for best drama series and in most of the acting categories. James Gandolfini as mobster Tony Soprano and Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet, will compete for best dramatic actor.

"West Wing," which just completed its first season, on NBC, may have an edge because Emmy judges have been unwilling to give top series honors to any cable offerings.

In other categories, "Ally McBeal" was a big loser. It was shut out of the best comedy series category it won last year, and star Calista Flockhart failed to get a nomination.

The picture was brighter for "Will & Grace," the sitcom about a gay man-straight woman friendship that was virtually shut out in its first year. It was nominated for best comedy series, for stars Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, and for supporting actors Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes.

Nancy Marchand, who died in June, received a best supporting actress nomination for her role as mob matriarch Livia Soprano in "The Sopranos." She was joined as a sentimental favorite by Michael J. Fox, who was nominated as lead comedy actor for "Spin City." Fox, 39, left the sitcom because of his battle against Parkinson's disease.

NBC, with 97 nominations, was the leading network, followed by HBO with 86, ABC with 64, CBS with 41 and Fox with 26.

The Sept. 10 awards ceremony will air on ABC with Garry Shandling as host.


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