Sunday, October 07, 2001

It will be hail to the chief at Emmy Awards


'West Wing' will blow away 'Sopranos'

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        With all the flag-waving and patriotism at tonight's 53rd Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards, the choice is obvious: I'm supporting the president.

        President Barlet, all the way.

        HBO's The Sopranos has the most Emmy nominations (22), but I'm predicting an overwhelming victory for NBC's The West Wing (second with 18 nominations).

        I wouldn't be surprised if all the president's men (and women) from NBC's White House drama come close to last year's record nine Emmys on tonight's somber telecast (8-11 p.m., Channels 12, 7).

[photo] Martin Sheen (left) plays President Barlet on The West Wing
(NBC photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Emmys, postponed from Sept. 16 because of last month's terrorist attacks, have been toned down this year.

        No shots of stars walking down the red carpet at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.

        No tuxedos and fancy evening gowns. The dress for the show will be “dressy business attire,” says Bryce Zabel, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

        CBS News veteran Walter Cronkite will open the telecast, instead of host Ellen DeGeneres. The former World War II correspondent will deliver “a quieter, more respectful opening,” than what had been planned last month, says Don Mischer, executive producer.

        Mr. Cronkite will be seen live from Conan O'Brien's New York studio. With concerns about air travel and safety, the Emmys will have its first bicoastal awards telecast in more than three decades.

        A collection of Saturday Night Live clips from the Bush-Gore presidential campaign also has been cut from the show.

        “The humor will be different from what we had planned before,” Mr. Mischer says. But there will be some laughs, he promises.

        Ms. DeGeneres and “other people will be doing comedic material,” he says. “The overall result will be a lifting of the country's spirits.”

        Among the special segments will be a tribute to New York police by NYPD Blue star Dennis Franz, a four-time Emmy winner nominated again as best actor in a drama series.

        He's competing with Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe from The West Wing, Andre Braugher from ABC's short-lived Gideon's Crossing and James Gandolfini from The Sopranos.

        Mr. Gandolfini won the category last year, the only Emmy collected by The Sopranos (from 18 nominations) in 2000. The West Wing, in its first season, hauled in nine Emmys (from 18 nominations), eclipsing the record of eight held by Hill Street Blues and ER.

        The West Wing starts the evening with a 4-to-1 advantage. The NBC drama collected four technical Emmys on Sept. 8 for casting, cinematography, editing and sound mixing. The Sopranos claimed one trophy, for makeup.

        The West Wing can shatter last year's mark if it sweeps all six categories in which it goes head-to-head with The Sopranos. The six are: best drama writing, directing, series, lead actor, supporting actor and supporting actress.

        A sweep is plausible, given the strong year for Mr. Sheen; John Spencer or Bradley Whitford; Allison Janney or Stockard Channing; creator Aaron Sorkin; and director Thomas Schlamme.

        Don't be surprised if the mob show takes a hit tonight. And don't attribute The West Wing fortunes tonight to America's rediscovered patriotism. The Emmy voting deadline was Aug. 17, almost a month before the World Trade Center tragedy.

        And as everyone rallies 'round the flag tonight, be prepared for a landslide victory by The West Wing.

        Contact John Kiesewetter by phone: 768-8519; fax: 768-8330; e-mail: jkiesewetter@enquirer.com.

       



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