Here are the Emmy blunders, surprises, and more. Odd guest choices (David Duchovny), overlooked shows (''The Wire''), and some worthy old favorites (Bernie Mac). Bruce Fretts explains

By Bruce Fretts
Updated July 17, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Bernie Mac: Fox

Here are the Emmy blunders, surprises, and more

Pardon me while I check my calendar. Yes, it is 2003. But you wouldn’t know it from the Emmy nominations, which look a lot like last year’s list.

Granted, it’s a good list, with names like Bernie Mac, Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Garner, and Michael Chiklis. But there was no such influx of deserving newcomers this time around. Among the overlooked rookies were Neal McDonough for his bravura performance as a self-destructive D.A. on ”Boomtown,” Anthony LaPaglia for his quietly powerful turn as a missing-persons detective on ”Without a Trace,” and the superb ensemble of HBO’s crime serial ”The Wire.” Plus, in the perennially snubbed category, the Academy will apparently never recognize sleepers like ”Gilmore Girls,” ”The King of Queens,” and ”Scrubs.”

True, there were a few new names on the roster, but for the most part, they were safe choices. Larry David and Cheryl Hines nabbed their first acting noms for ”Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but the semi-improvised HBO farce had already broken through into the Outstanding Comedy Series competition last year. Tony Shalhoub was added as a sixth contender for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy, but the ”Monk” star already won a Golden Globe for the role. The only genuine surprise was the worthy inclusion of Lena Olin in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a drama race as Jennifer Garner’s duplicitous mom on ”Alias.”

Emmy voters didn’t seem to notice the creative slump suffered by ”The West Wing,” renominating it for Outstanding Drama, Actor (Martin Sheen), Actress (Allison Janney), Supporting Actor (Bradley Whitford and John Spencer), and Supporting Actress (Stockard Channing). At least they didn’t go completely overboard as they have in past years and spread the wealth to poorly used players like Janel Moloney and Dule Hill. Oddly, Matthew Perry received an Outstanding Guest Star bid for his ”West Wing” stint as an aspiring White House lawyer, but he didn’t make the Outstanding Comedy Actor cut for his superior work on ”Friends.”

Actually, the guest acting categories contained some of the most shocking selections, like David Duchovny for his amateurish mugging as ”Life With Bonnie” weatherman Johnny Volcano and old pros Betty White and Betty Garrett, who certainly merit recognition for their career longevity — but not for deigning to appear on dreck like ”Yes, Dear” and ”Becker,” respectively. On the upside, Charles S. Dutton’s ”Without a Trace” tour de force didn’t go unnoticed, and Fred Willard and Georgia Engel joined the rest of the Emmy-adored ”Everybody Loves Raymond” family as Brad Garrett’s new in-laws.

Garrett also earned a spot in the Outstanding Actor in a Movie field for his dead-on portrayal of the Great One in CBS’ ”Gleason,” and Helen Mirren doubled her pleasure as well: She’s up for Outstanding Movie Actress (”The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone”) and Supporting Actress (”Door to Door”). In fact, almost every British person who did a TV-movie or miniseries got a nomination: Dame Maggie Smith (”My House in Umbria”), Tom Wilkinson (”Normal”), Helena Bonham Carter (”Live From Baghdad”), Peter O’Toole (”Hitler: The Rise of Evil”). Okay, so O’Toole’s Irish, but you get the point: An accent alone shouldn’t be enough to win an award. I mean, what is this — the Oscars?