'Ally,' 'Moon' nominations draw Emmy grumbles

By Ray Richmond

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Grumbling and charges of foul play erupted Thursday over two of the leading contenders in this year's Primetime Emmy sweepstakes.

Rivals complained about producer David E. Kelley's ability to enter the Fox series ``Ally McBeal'' as a comedy rather than a drama, allowing the series to avoid competition from his two other shows -- ``Chicago Hope'' and ``The Practice.''

And broadcasters said it was unfair for HBO's 12-part docudrama ``From the Earth to the Moon'' to compete as a miniseries, resulting in a chart-topping 17 nominations.

``Ally'' garnered 10 nominations and became the first 60-minute series to earn Emmy bids in the major comedy categories. (The Fox hit won two Golden Globes this year following Kelley's decision to have it contend as a comedy inthat competition.)

One network executive complained, ``It just doesn't seem fair that you should be able to choose whatever you want tobe.''

Kelley had hoped to avoid cannibalizing himself in the drama series categories, where he was already represented by ``Chicago Hope'' and his sophomore drama ``The Practice'' (which earned four Emmy nominations of its own, including one for best drama).

``It just made more sense to enter 'Ally' as a comedy, since we had always perceived it being more that way than a drama,'' Kelley told Daily Variety Thursday. ``To tell you the truth, I haven't received much flak for it.''

But CBS TV CEO Leslie Moonves complained during a Television Critics Association press tour session Thursday in Pasadena that his beloved comedy series ``Everybody Loves Raymond'' was ``robbed'' in being left out of the comedy category, due in part to ``Ally McBeal's'' inclusion.

The flap over ``From the Earth to the Moon'' has been ongoing for months. It inspired an accusatory ad campaign in Daily Variety and other papers from an anonymous collective of broadcasters that called themselves the Coalition for EmmyFairness.

The charge was that HBO was being unfairly permitted to enter its 12-part, $68 million docudrama on the Apollo space program as a miniseries rather than a series.

The heat intensified Thursday when the show not only landed 17 nominations -- the most Emmy nods for any longform project since ``Lonesome Dove'' nearly a decade ago -- but also racked up three sound mixing noms for different installments.

``When we saw that in the Emmy list, we all assumed it was a misprint,'' said one industry insider. ``Imagine our surprise when we discovered that it wasn't.

``If ever there were evidence that this project was in fact a series of stand-alone episodes rather than a miniseries, thiswas it.''

Nonsense, replied HBO programming chief Chris Albrecht.

``The effort to quash this miniseries was malicious, it was transparent, it was unprofessional,'' Albrecht said. ``And it didn't fool anybody. CBS and NBC were the chief gripers, and I'm just happy that NBC got more nominations than we did and CBS got one for a TV movie so maybe we won't have to listen to thisagain.''