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A premium cable show about a family mortuary business in Los Angeles garnered the most nominations for prime-time Emmy Awards during brief ceremonies held by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the break of dawn Thursday.
"Six Feet Under" earned 23 nominations, including outstanding drama series and first-time Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actors in a drama series for Michael C. Hall and Peter Krause, who portray David and Nate Fisher, respectively.
First-time Emmy nominations also went to Frances Conroy, for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her portrayal of the Fishers' mother, and to Rachel Griffiths, who already won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the troubled Brenda Chenowith, in the same category.
In all, the "Six Feet Under" sweep helped make up for the fact that another HBO original drama, "The Sopranos," could not be nominated this year because it skipped the 2001-2002 season.
HBO still drew a whopping 93 Emmy nominations, scoring 19 for its World War II saga "Band of Brothers" and 10 for the comedy "Sex and the City," which won outstanding comedy series last year.
HBO's closest competition, NBC, got 89 nominations on the strength of its own Emmy powerhouses. "The West Wing," which won eight Emmys last year, got 21 nominations, second only to "Six Feet Under."
Among them were are outstanding drama series and outstanding lead actor for Martin Sheen. "The West Wing" won a record nine Emmys its first season two years ago, the most by any series in a single season.
The NBC comedy "Friends" got its most nominations in a year - 11 - with two first-time nominations as outstanding lead actor in a comedy for Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc; Jennifer Aniston was also nominated for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for the third consecutive year.
"Friends" was surpassed in nominations by another NBC comedy, "Will & Grace," which got the most nods for any comedy this year at 13. However, star Erick McCormack, who won last year for lead actor in a comedy series, was shut out this year. Announcing the awards Thursday with "ER" star Laurie Innes at the Goldenson Theatre, McCormack gave a broad look when he saw his name was not among the nominees.
But he said later, amid a gaggle of early morning TV interviews, that he was happy for the "Friends" first-timers and for Bernie Mac, who also got his first nomination as lead actor for his "Bernie Mac Show." The others nominated for outstanding lead actor in a comedy are the oft-nominated Kelsey Grammer ("Fraiser") and Ray Romano ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), whose shows earned nine and 11 nominations, respectively.
Attention was paid to bold new dramatic series, from "Alias," which got 11 nominations, to "24," which got 10, including outstanding drama series.
The nomination of "Law & Order" for outstanding dramatic series ties the record for 11 consecutive nominations, previously reached by "M*A*S*H" and "Cheers."
"ER" was shut out of the outstanding drama nominations this year, and its four nominations overall was its lowest number ever. The highest-rated "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" got six nominations, including outstanding drama series.
Specials on Sept. 11 earned many nominations this year, including the HBO documentary "In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01," NBC's "9/11," each of which got five nominations, and the musical telethon "America: A Tribute to Heroes," which got six.
TNT's film biography of "James Dean" got 11 nominations; the FX cop show "The Shield" got three.
The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live from the Shrine Auditorium on Sept. 14. Last year's event, which had to be postponed twice because of the events of Sept. 11, was finally held in December.