Big Buzz for Emmy Newcomers

Tony Soprano must've cut a deal with the Feds and gone into hiding. "Friends" just disappeared. Nobody's getting any "Sex and the City," and you can't even check in with "Frasier" for a quick, mental health pick-me-up.

There will be a changing of the guard at this Sunday's Primetime Emmys -- an awards show often criticized for always honoring the same shows. Newcomers, including ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" and HBO's "Deadwood" are expected to dominate time in the winner's circle, while other TV favorites enjoy their final hurrah.

"It's thrilling," says "Desperate Housewives" Felicity Huffman. "It's the first time I've ever had an Emmy nomination. It's great, it's just that I have to take a shower and find a dress. Other than that, I'm psyched. If I could go in my pajamas, it would be awesome."

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences didn't necessarily change its voting habits. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelsey Grammer and the "Friends" gang simply ended their shows, while other favorites like "The Sopranos" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" were on hiatus or didn't air enough episodes last season to qualify.

The combined effect is somewhat staggering. In the 20 slots for lead acting, only seven of last year's nominees are returning. What's more, only three of the seven -- Tony Shalhoub ("Monk"), James Spader ("Boston Legal") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") -- have won Emmys for their current roles.

Cussin' Cowboys vs. Desperate Castaways

Conspicuously absent from this year's list of hopefuls are such perennial nominees as James Gandolfini, Michael Chiklis and Dennis Franz. Allison Janney would be honored, in part, if "The West Wing," wins as best drama. But Janney isn't up for best actress, which she's won four out of the past five years.

"West Wing," a four-time Emmy winner for best drama, earned an unprecedented fifth consecutive nomination but might not be a factor in this year's voting. Tom O'Neil of sees Sunday's race as a tossup between "Deadwood" and "Lost."

"'Deadwood' is a hard show to like," says O'Neil. "It's full of cuss words and nasty people doing nasty things to each other. Emmy voters tend to like huggable shows. They've given a lot of awards to 'The Sopranos,' but 'Deadwood' is arguably grittier than that."

Among comedy series, ABC's "Housewives" is expected to clean up. The network could have entered its top show as a drama, but didn't want it competing against "Lost." It's a gamble that might backfire if sentiment for CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond," which ended this spring, runs strong. However, the move is not unprecedented.

"'Desperate Housewives' has nothing to be desperate about," says O'Neil. "It's pulling an 'Ally McBeal' in that it's a one-hour dramedy that decided to compete on the comedy side. That worked for 'Ally' in 1999, and it's going to work for the housewives this year."

Katrina-Inspired Touches

Concern over Hurricane Katrina has pervaded almost every aspect of American life, and it will be strongly reflected in Sunday's show, which will be broadcast live from Los Angeles on CBS. Host Ellen DeGeneres is a New Orleans native, and several of her relatives, including an 82-year-old aunt, lost their homes in the disaster.

It's unclear what DeGeneres will say, but each presenter and performer will be handed a magnolia, the state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi, where Katrina unleashed the worst of its fury.

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