White House vs. wise guys

'West Wing' and 'Sopranos' in tie with 18 Emmy nominations each

It looks to be a showdown between the good guys and the bad guys for bragging rights at the 2000 Emmy Awards.

NBC's White House drama The West Wing and HBO's above-the-law The Sopranos tied for the most Emmy nominations at 18 apiece, including a nod each for best drama.

The Sopranos has history on its side. Last year, in its initial season, the show earned 16 nominations and four statues but lost the best drama trophy to ABC's The Practice. Its wins included best actor in a drama, James Gandolfini, and best actress in a drama, Edie Falco.

Gandolfini and Falco are both nominated in the same categories this year. The Sopranos' Lorraine Bracco is also in the ring for best actress.

But the White House drama has some momentum. First-timer The West Wing was just crowned best drama, best new series and program of the year by the Television Critics Association.

"The highest [Emmy nomination] number I guessed was half that," said The West Wing executive producer John Wells. "But I'm more concerned with having to go up against ER [another Wells series, which nabbed nine nominations]. It's like going to a soccer game when your kids are on different teams.

"Personally, I thought The Sopranos should have won last year," he added.

NBC and HBO were also the two most-nominated networks, earning 97 and 86 nods, respectively. They were followed by ABC with 64, CBS (41), FOX (26), UPN (7) and The WB (5).

Also contending for best drama are NBC's Law & Order (its ninth straight nomination in this category) and ABC's The Practice.

Leading nominee among sitcoms is NBC's Will & Grace (11), including nods for all four key cast members: first-time nominees Eric McCormack and Debra Messing for best actor and actress, and Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally for best supporting actor and actress.

Everybody loved Raymond, too. Cast member Brad Garrett (the only Raymond player not nominated last year) joins the rest of the principals with a nomination this year.

Rounding out the nominated comedies are NBC's Frasier and HBO's Sex and the City (last year's winner). Notably absent is Fox's Ally McBeal.

Michael J. FOX, who departed Spin City this season, was nominated for best actor, as were Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and John Lithgow (3rd Rock From the Sun).

The 52nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be telecast on ABC Sept.10 from the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is allowing voters to screen nominated shows in their homes rather than in hotel rooms at designated times. ATAS says the added convenience should encourage voting.