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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY HOT TOPIC

2002 Emmys finally get hip

Hip check

Garner
Garner-ing praise: Jennifer (shown with her Golden Globe award) is up for an Emmy for her work on ''Alias.''  


By Bruce Fretts
Entertainment Weekly

(Entertainment Weekly) -- Every year, TV critics ask the same question: Will the Emmys finally get hip, or will they nominate the usual suspects? And every year, TV critics complain when they nominate the usual suspects. Well, this year, the Emmys finally got hip.

Sure, there were a few oversights -- The WB's ''Gilmore Girls'' and CBS' ''The King of Queens'' spring to mind -- but this year's list is packed with pleasant surprises.

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The fresh blood in the dramatic categories includes HBO's funeral-home serial ''Six Feet Under'' with 23 nominations overall, including best drama series, two for best actor (Michael C. Hall and Peter Krause), and two for best actress (Rachel Griffiths and Frances Conroy); Fox's real-time thriller ''24,'' up for best drama and best actor (Kiefer Sutherland); ABC's spy caper ''Alias,'' recognized for best actress (Jennifer Garner) and best supporting actor (Victor Garber); and FX's shocking cop drama ''The Shield'' with nods for best actor (Michael Chiklis), best writing (Shawn Ryan), and best direction (Clark Johnson).

Of course, the lack of eligibility of ''The Sopranos'' this year made a lot of room in these races, but it was still nice to see such tired perennial contenders as Dennis Franz, ''ER,'' and ''The Practice'' passed over in favor of bolder choices.

No less refreshing were the comedy nominees. The frequently-snubbed ''Friends'' finally received its due with bids for best comedy, best actress (Jennifer Aniston), and a pair for best actor (Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc). Bernie Mac made the best actor cut for his terrific Fox rookie ''The Bernie Mac Show'' (Larry Wilmore also got a well-deserved writing nom for the pilot).

The oft-underrated Bryan Cranston of ''Malcolm in the Middle'' and Brad Garrett of ''Everybody Loves Raymond'' earned best supporting actor spots. Even such dark horses as Larry David's HBO ego trip ''Curb Your Enthusiasm'' (up for best comedy) and Fox's hysterically surreal ''Andy Richter Controls the Universe'' (a writing nod for creator Victor Fresco) beat out dead horses like ''Frasier'' and ''Ally McBeal.''

"The Shield," ''Six Feet Under,'' and ''Alias'' are three of the surprisingly hip picks by the TV academy."

Okay, there were a few other jaw-droppers on the list. NBC's first-year med-com ''Scrubs'' merited more attention (although Marc Buckland did nab a best director slot for the moving ''My Old Lady''). ''The West Wing'' took way too many acting plaudits: Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, and Martin Sheen, sure, but the underused Dule Hill and Janel Moloney and the painfully stiff Mark Harmon -- c'mon!

There's no excuse for including Amy Brenneman and Tyne Daly from CBS' mediocre ''Judging Amy'' every year. And I'm still scratching my head over Wendie Malick's best supporting actress berth for NBC's on-its-last-legs ''Just Shoot Me.'' But hey, what would TV critics write about at Emmy time if we had no complaints?


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