“The Sopranos,” the mob series that went to its grave with a shockingly inconclusive finale, found a happy ending Thursday with 15 Emmy nominations including best drama.
The made-for-TV movie “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” led all nominees with 17 bids.
James Gandolfini, who played the emotionally conflicted mob boss on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and Edie Falco, who played his wife, both received top acting nominations.
Other best-drama series were “Boston Legal,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House” and freshman sci-fi sensation “Heroes.”
“Grey’s Anatomy,” which came through a difficult year in which star Isaiah Washington was fired after twice using an anti-gay slur, wasn’t hurt when it came to Emmy bids. Besides best drama series, there were nominations for four supporting cast members and two guest actors.
While Washington was overlooked, co-star T.R. Knight, who said that Washington had directed the slur at him, did receive a supporting actor nod.
The miniseries “The Starter Wife” also was a top nominee with 10 bids.
The freshman hit, “Ugly Betty,” based on a Colombian telenovela, made it into the ranks of best comedy series nominees. It’s joined by “Entourage,” “30 Rock,” “Two and a Half Men” and last year’s winner in the category, “The Office.”
“Ugly Betty” star America Ferrera was recognized with a nod for her starring role.
“Entourage,” about the adventures of a young movie star and his loyal rat pack, was embraced despite mocking industry stereotypes.
“It may seem sometimes like we’re making fun of Hollywood,” said creator Doug Ellin, “but really we’re just trying to take a comedic look at how things are done here, because this is how it really is for people sometimes.”
In the reality-competition categories, the leading nominee with eight bids was “Dancing With the Stars,” followed by “American Idol” with seven.
Falco will compete with Patricia Arquette of “Medium,” Minnie Driver of “The Riches,” Sally Field of “Brothers & Sisters,” Kyra Sedgwick of “The Closer” and last year’s winner, Mariska Hargitay of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Sedgwick got the news immediately. She helped announce bids for the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in a brief ceremony at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.
“She’s all ruffled. She didn’t know that was coming!” said Jon Cryer of Sedgwick, who flubbed her lines after announcing her own nomination.
Cryer himself was nominated for comedy series supporting actor for “Two and a Half Men.” He was unruffled, having had a nomination previously.
“Last year I was totally overwhelmed. I was in my underwear on the sofa at home,” he said.
Executive producer Dick Wolf said its clutch of nominations was a validation of a very difficult project.
“Anybody who says it’s not nice or it doesn’t mean anything to get this many nominations, it’s the ultimate sour grapes because it sure feels great,” he said.
“Friday Night Lights,” the critically acclaimed but low-rated high school football drama that needed an Emmy boost, failed to gain major nominations.
“The Sopranos,” which premiered in January 1999 and had an on-and-off cable run, capped its final episode this year with an ambiguous ending that left fans in the dark about the fate of lead character Tony Soprano, last seen sitting in a diner with his wife and children. A suddenly black screen suggested sudden violence — or not.
The series’ other nominees included Michael Imperioli, who received a bid for best supporting dramatic actor for his role as the ill-fated Christopher. Aida Turturro, who played Tony’s tough sister Janice, and Lorraine Bracco, who co-starred as his uneasy psychiatrist Dr. Melfi, were nominated for supporting actress.
Along with Ferrera in the lead comedy actress category were Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives,” Tina Fey of “30 Rock,” Mary-Louise Parker of “Weeds” and last year’s winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
Their actor counterparts included last year’s winner, Tony Shalhoub of “Monk,” Ricky Gervais of “Extras,” Steve Carell of “The Office,” Charlie Sheen of “Two and a Half Men” and Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock.”
Like “Grey’s” Washington, Baldwin drew unflattering attention this year, in his case because of a leaked recording of an angry telephone call to his daughter, who is caught in a legal dispute with ex-wife Kim Basinger.
Nominees for comedy series supporting actor were Kevin Dillon and Jeremy Piven of “Entourage,” Neil Patrick Harris of “How I Met Your Mother,” Rainn Wilson of “The Office” and Cryer.
Some categories had six nominees this year rather than the usual five.
Supporting comedy actress nominees included Holland Taylor and Conchata Ferrell of “Two and a Half Men,” Jaime Pressly of “My Name is Earl,” Jenna Fischer of “The Office,” Vanessa Williams of “Ugly Betty” and Elizabeth Perkins of “Weeds.”
Another six-nominee category was best supporting actress in a drama series, with Turturro and Bracco joined by Katherine Heigl, Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Rachel Griffiths of “Brothers & Sisters.”
Heigl has also broken out as a movie star with her role in the hit comedy “Knocked Up.”
Besides Knight and Imperioli, drama series supporting actor bids went to William Shatner of “Boston Legal,” “Lost” actors Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn, and Masi Oka of “Heroes.”
Despite receiving the most overall nominations, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” did not receive any bids for lead acting. The HBO movie starred Adam Beach as a Sioux physician struggling with assimilation.
Nominees as top actors in a miniseries or movie included Jim Broadbent for “Longford,” Robert Duvall for “Broken Trail,” William H. Macy for “Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (Umney’s Last Case),” Matthew Perry for “The Ron Clark Story” and Tom Selleck for “Jesse Stone: Sea Change.”
Lead actresses nominated in that category were Queen Latifah for “Life Support,” Debra Messing for “The Starter Wife,” Helen Mirren for “Prime Suspect: The Final Act,” Gina Rowlands for “What If God Were the Sun” and “Weeds” star Parker for “The Robber Bride.”
In June, judges screening potential nominees for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences made their picks from a list of 10 top contenders for the best drama and best comedy series categories.
The top 10 lists given to the judges were based on polling of the general academy membership. Five nominees in each category ultimately were to be chosen, based on a combination of the panelists’ votes and the general polling.
The three-hour Emmy Awards ceremony will be broadcast Sept. 16 by Fox from the Shrine Auditorium.
Other Emmy honors, including those for technical achievement and guest actors and actresses in series, will be given at the creative arts ceremony on Sept. 8.