Emmy Nominations Announced

The Sopranos and The West Wing each received a leading 18 Emmy nominations today, pitting TV gangsters against political wonks.

The Sopranos’ Edie Falco and Michael Badalucco of The Practice announced the nominees this morning at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles. Both shows won Peabody awards this year.

Last year, The Sopranos was the top nominee with 16 nods, but the cable series about a northern New Jersey mobster lost the best drama prize to The Practice, which has won two years in a row, is nominated again this year, along with ER and Law & Order.

The TV movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and the sitcom Will & Grace also were among top contenders with 11 nominations apiece. Comedian Garry Shandling will host the Sept. 10 awards ceremony, which will air on ABC TV.

The Guessing Game Begins

While HBO’s gritty crime series has become a national sensation, Tom O’Neil, author of The Emmy’s thinks Emmy voters will pass it by again for best drama honors.

“The West Wing’s gonna be the big Emmy story this year,” he says.

“It’s well written, it’s dramatic, it’s important, it’s about the president of the United States, and it has movie stars in it, Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe. Emmy voters are suckers for that.”

NBC’s The West Wing drew nominations for five of its cast members including Martin Sheen (President Josiah Bartlet) as best dramatic actor, and Stockard Channing (Bartlet’s physician-wife) for supporting actress.

Sheen will be competing with James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, along with Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue and Sam Waterston and Jerry Orbach, both of Law & Order.

Competing with Falco for lead dramatic actress are Lorraine Bracco also of The Sopranos, Amy Brenneman of Judging Amy, Sela Ward of Once and Again and former ER cast member Julianna Margulies.

In a bittersweet note, Nancy Marchand, who died in June, received a best supporting actress nomination for her role as a mob mom in The Sopranos.

Vindication for Will and Grace?

Among comedy series, Emmy voters could right last year’s snub of Will and Grace over Frasier, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and Sex and the City. Ally McBeal won last year but failed to make the category this year, receiving only three nominations. .

Michael J. Fox, who retired from Spin City to battle Parkinson’s Disease, is also a heavy favorite to be honored. Other nominees are Kelsey Grammer of Frasier, John Lithgow of 3rd Rock From the Sun, Eric McCormack of Will & Grace and Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Sorry, Regis …

Though Who Wants to Be a Millionaire airs in primetime, the show is ineligible for a Primetime Emmy, even though its been a ratings juggernaut. The television academy says it has no game show category. The Daytime Emmys are charged with honoring such programming.

A revamped awards voting system could help edgier shows, such as Malcom in the Middle, Will and Grace, Once and Again, and Sex and the City.

In a bid to energize the awards, the academy is dispensing with blue-ribbon voting panels that required a weekend spent viewing tapes at a hotel and tended to draw older academy members.

Instead, judges will be allowed to watch the nominated shows on their own.

“You may see programs win that traditionally have been seen as too avant garde or too edgy for the academy,” said academy President James B. Chabin. “What we’re trying to do is throw the doors open and bring in a new generation.”

The academy is experimenting with the approach in the top categories that are part of the Emmy broadcast. Last year, the show drew its lowest ratings since 1990.

ABCNEWS.com’s Buck Wolf, ABCNEWS Radio Bill Diehl, and the Associated Press contributed to this report