It will be “ER” vs. “NYPD Blue” for prime-time bragging rights at the 47th annual Emmy awards in September.
“ER,” NBC’s freshman-year hospital drama, leads the field of nominations for the Sept. 10 Emmy presentations, but its 20 nods fall short of the record-setting 26 racked up by ABC’s “NYPD Blue” last year in its freshman year. (The show went on to win six Emmys.)
“ER” finished the 1994-‘95 TV season as the year’s top-rated drama and “NYPD Blue” was No. 2. The ABC police drama also was second in nominations this year with 12.
But the series of confrontations between the two hits also symbolizes the wider struggle between their networks, expected to be locked in a tight race for No.1 next season.
ABC has even scheduled “Murder One,” the new show from “NYPD Blue” creator Steven Bochco, opposite “ER” in an attempt to blunt that show’s popularity.
There were the usual surprises among the nominees announced Thursday. One was the poor showing of ABC’s critically acclaimed “My So-Called Life,” which earned only three nominations, one for teen actress Claire Danes in the lead dramatic actress category.
A more pleasant surprise was the strong showing of Fox’s cult sci-fi show “The X-Files,” which received six nominations, including a prestigious one for best dramatic series and another, for writing, for the show’s creator, Chris Carter, for the “Duane Barry” episode.
Another surprise: the debut of brand-new network UPN as an Emmy nominee with seven, six for “Star Trek: Voyager,” the only series returning for a second season. (The seventh nomination was for sound editing on the canceled “The Watcher.”) UPN’s rival new network, the WB, received no nominations.
In the overall quest for nominations, it was no contest: NBC and CBS each collected 85 against ABC’s 39. ABC’s highly rated comedy series, “Home Improvement,” was shut out in the major categories.
The surprise was the strong showing by CBS, which fell from first to third place in the prime-time ratings last season. HBO, the pay-TV network, beat ABC with 48 nominations while Fox, PBS and the TNT cable network each earned 17.
“ER” and “NYPD Blue” will go head-to-head in several major Emmy categories, including best dramatic series. George Clooney and Anthony Edwards of “ER” will compete against Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits of “NYPD Blue” in the lead actor category while Julianna Margulies of “ER” goes against two “NYPD Blue” regulars as supporting actress - Sharon Lawrence and Gail O’Grady. Eriq LaSalle and Noah Wyle of “ER” also were nominated as supporting actors, but nobody from “NYPD Blue” made it.
Ironically, lead actress nominee Sherry Stringfield, who plays Dr. Susan Lewis on “ER,” came to that show from “NYPD Blue.”
In the writing category, novelist Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park,” “Congo”), who created “ER,” was nominated for the show’s pilot episode. He’ll be vying against “NYPD Blue” creator Bochco, David Milch and Walon Green, who were nominated for an episode of that series.
Nominations for dramatic series directing were held up by balloting complications and won’t be announced for three weeks.
In the comedy series category, NBC got all the nominations but one: HBO’s for “The Larry Sanders Show.” Nominated NBC shows: “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld.”
In the made-for-TV movie category, HBO continued its traditional strong showing with three nominations: “The Burning Season,” “Citizen X” and “Indictment: the McMartin Trial.” A notable omission: USA’s “My Antonia,” picked by many critics as the year’s best.