Emmy offers a few small surprises in this year's nominations.

By Ken Tucker
August 01, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who’s the single person most deserving of an Emmy award come Sept. 21? That would be one Serena Radaelli, listed as ”Cher’s TV Wig Stylist” by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special category. Do you doubt the heroic patience, labor, and delicate sense of irony it must have required to keep the tempestuous Cher in a variety of hair during her NBC spectacular Cher: The Farewell Tour?

To be sure, beyond Ms. Radaelli, the Emmys are always a crapshoot. Even worse: a repetitive crapshoot. When the nominations were announced on July 17, did Martin Sheen really deserve another Emmy nod for this particular season of The West Wing, during which Aaron Sorkin went so off message — as they say in Washington — that he sailed right out the Burbank studio door? Of course Sheen didn’t. (Loved your Apocalypse Now Redux war-protest-arrest TV news spots, though, Martin.) But I kid the Academy voters; at least they cast off driftwood like Judging Amy in the key categories and provided one small shock: Law & Order failed to secure its 12th Outstanding Drama Series nod, which would have set a new record.

As for actor categories, they usually consist of five nominees — so did Tony Shalhoub really need to be squeezed in as a sixth? Not, I would argue, when the hour-long Monk is being considered a comedy and an infinitely better, funnier hour-long — Gilmore Girls — was overlooked. (Also idiotically ignored: Andy Richter Controls the Universe, The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s final season, and Boomtown’s first.)

HBO racked up 32 more nominations than close competitor NBC (109 versus 77). And while I am gratified that The Sopranos snared 13 of them, I was delighted that the more obscure prank-comedy series Da Ali G Show got three — and I’m over the moon that Cheryl Hines, who plays the most delightful wife on current TV, landed one of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s 10 nominations.

Staying with the worthies for a moment, there’s no question that The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, in this Iraq-war year, deserves to go three-for-three in its nominated categories. And may I put in a plug for Tim Matheson’s always-underrated performance as The West Wing’s vice prez, an uncommonly astute pick in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series list? More good news: Both Jennifer Garner and Lena Olin were recognized as something more than beautiful women in Alias. (Costar and beautiful guy himself Victor Garber also merits his return to nomination-ville.)

Which shows were excessively nominated? The patchy, puffy Six Feet Under, with 16, to be sure. But I certainly hope Peter Krause, so wrenchingly miserable all season, will beat out his best-drama-actor competition of Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland (24), the egregious Michael Chiklis (The Shield), and, yes, even James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) this particular year. I know: fat chance.

I’m expecting a Six Feet sweep again in drama and an Everybody Loves Raymond steamroller in comedy (possible, pleasing upset: Give Matt LeBlanc some love going into Friends’ final season, y’all!). Oh, and Ms. Radaelli, when you and Cher’s wigs win, gimme a little shout-out, okay?