In a clear mandate encouraging network originality, TV industry voters on Thursday rewarded ABC's quirky, mysterious new soap opera, "Twin Peaks," with more nominations than any other show for the 42nd annual nighttime Emmy Awards.
"Twin Peaks," set in a logging town in the Northwest and revolving thus far around the murder of a high school homecoming queen, earned 14 nominations. It edged out NBC's "L.A. Law," which had 13, as did the defunct Fox series "The Tracey Ullman Show" (including four for a special that featured skits from the show). "Cheers" and "Murphy Brown" collected 12 apiece and "thirtysomething" garnered 11.
The brooding, Gothic-style "Twin Peaks" was nominated for best drama series against "China Beach," "thirtysomething," "Quantum Leap" and last year's winner, "L.A. Law." Other "Twin Peaks" nominations went to Kyle MacLachlan, who plays a baby-faced FBI agent with a passion for good coffee and pies; Piper Laurie, whose character is trying to seize control of the local sawmill; and Sherilynn Fenn, a sexy classmate of the murdered girl.
"Twin Peaks" co-creator David Lynch could conceivably win five Emmys--for directing, writing, musical lyrics, co-composing the main title theme and as co-executive producer of the series with Mark Frost.
"I think it's fantastic," Lynch said. "I'm going right out to buy a new chain saw and a dozen doughnuts."
"We're really thrilled," said "Twin Peaks" co-creator Frost. "This is voted on by people who really work in the industry, and I think it shows that people out there are looking for something original."
Ted Harbert, ABC's executive vice president of prime time, agreed: "It's a clear sign that people are looking for smart, fresh programming."
The timing of the nominations is perfect for "Twin Peaks," which begins its reruns Sunday in hopes of building up its sliding ratings in the new season.
The Emmy Awards will be presented on the Fox Broadcasting Co. on Sept. 16 from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, with Martin Starger producing.
While "Twin Peaks" grabbed the lead in the Emmy race, another influential new series, Fox's "The Simpsons," managed five nominations despite being handicapped by the rules of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. As an animated show, the sardonic, weekly half-hour look at family life could not be nominated for best comedy series.
The actors who do the voices of the characters--Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa and the others--were eligible for nominations but did not get them. A nomination for Bart could have posed a delicate problem because a woman, Nancy Cartwright, is the voice of the spike-haired brat--so would she have been nominated for best actor or actress?
"The Simpsons," which is going into head-on competition against NBC's ratings champ, "The Cosby Show," starting Aug. 23, was nominated as best animated program of one hour or less. And one of its shows, "The Simpsons Christmas Special"--which aired before the series formally debuted--was nominated in the same category.
Voters of the TV academy pointedly snubbed ABC's two major ratings hits, "America's Funniest Home Videos" and "Roseanne," while nodding approvingly toward the network's critically praised series such as "Twin Peaks" and "thirtysomething," as well as "China Beach" and "The Wonder Years" (7 nominations each).
"America's Funniest Home Videos" was totally ignored. Voters also turned up their noses for the second consecutive year when it came to "Roseanne"--giving it only two nominations, one for John Goodman as best actor in a comedy series as the husband of star Roseanne Barr.
Barr wasn't nominated, but it had nothing to do with the fuss over her screeching rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a San Diego Padres doubleheader last week because voting for the Emmy nominations had already been completed.
Powered by its big winners, ABC tied for the lead in nominations with NBC, the perennial leader. Each had 95, while CBS had 73.
Fox earned 26 nominations, with its 13 for the Ullman program coming in an odd fashion--nine for "The Tracey Ullman Show" and four more for "The Best of the Tracey Ullman Show," a special made up of segments from the series.
Cable TV, meanwhile, made its best-ever Emmy showing in its third year in the competition, landing 35 nominations--led by HBO's 20, including seven for the special "Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to Moscow."
"We have always had a problem getting people to see our product, and we battled that this year by making our tapes available to the TV academy at the Wherehouse," said HBO spokesman Richard Licata. "We picked seven shows to give out and five of them got major nominations. I know for a fact that it worked."
"China Beach" star Dana Delany, who won last year's Emmy for best actress in a drama series, was nominated again and will defend her title against Laurie, Jill Eikenberry of "L.A. Law," Angela Lansbury of "Murder, She Wrote" and Patricia Wettig of "thirtysomething," who attracted attention this season when her character, Nancy Weston, discovered she had ovarian cancer.
Also back to defend her Emmy crown as best actress in a comedy series was Candice Bergen of "Murphy Brown." Nominated in the same category were Kirstie Alley of "Cheers," Betty White of "The Golden Girls," Blair Brown of "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" and Delta Burke of "Designing Women"--the first female star of that series to be nominated.
There were several eyebrow-raisers in the nominations. Edward Woodward, star of "The Equalizer," was nominated as best lead actor in a drama series even though his show wasn't on last season. A TV academy spokesman said, however, that Woodward was eligible because several original episodes of "The Equalizer" were broadcast last summer. The qualifying period ran from June 1, 1989, to May 31, 1990.
Woodward will compete against MacLachlan, Peter Falk of "Columbo," Scott Bakula of "Quantum Leap" and Robert Loggia of "Mancuso FBI."
Lane Smith, who earned extraordinary reviews for his performance of Richard Nixon in ABC's "The Final Days," was ignored, although the film--which rested entirely on his portrayal--was nominated for best drama special. It concerned Nixon's final days as president before resigning over Watergate.
"Cheers" star Ted Danson, who has never won an Emmy for the series, was nominated again as best actor in a comedy series, along with Goodman, Fred Savage of "The Wonder Years," Richard Mulligan of "Empty Nest" and Craig T. Nelson of "Coach."
Alex Rocco, who was singled out for praise as the Hollywood agent in the canceled CBS show "The Famous Teddy Z," was nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy series. Voters also were unaffected by the two-week drunk-driving jail stay of "Cheers" performer Kelsey Grammer, who plays Dr. Frasier Crane, and they nominated him in the same category.
Top vote-getters in the nominations also included "Star Trek: The Next Generation," with nine; "The Golden Girls" and the miniseries "The Kennedys of Massachusetts," with eight each; "Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration," with seven; and, tied with six apiece, "Designing Women," "Quantum Leap" and the TV movie "Caroline?," a mystery surrounding the identity of a young woman.