LOS ANGELES - ''The Sopranos,'' roughed up at last year's Emmy Awards, has a chance for revenge. But the mob drama must get past White House security first.
''The West Wing,'' a feel-good drama set in the White House, and ''The Sopranos'' received a leading 18 nominations each on Thursday for the 52nd annual Emmy Awards, which will handed out in September.
There hasn't been this kind of friction between the mob and the White House since the Kennedy administration.
''The Sopranos'' has to hope that a new generation of Emmy judges, brought in by a procedural change, are more open to its dark humor and violence. Last year, it received 16 nominations and only four awards.
The HBO series and NBC's ''West Wing'' are competing for best drama series and in most of the acting categories. James Gandolfini as mobster Tony Soprano and Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet, will compete for best dramatic actor.
''Martin Sheen believes if I create the character of attorney general, have him walk into the Oval Office and say, 'I've wiped out organized crime,' then David Chase will have to stop writing 'The Sopranos,''' joked ''West Wing'' creator Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin's NBC drama, which just completed its first season, may have an edge because Emmy judges have been unwilling to give top series honors to any cable offerings.
But the wild card is the new voting system, which allows judges to watch videotapes of the nominees at home. Previously, panels had to gather for a monitored weekend of viewing at a hotel.
The change was intended to bring a new generation into the pool, which was previously dominated by older members of the entertainment industry with conservative artistic tastes.
''We're just delighted,'' Chase said Thursday, shrugging off any hard feelings about last year's results.
Thomas O'Neil, author of ''The Emmys,'' is uncertain the revamped system that allows unmonitored viewing will have the result the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences wants.
''The change in allowing judges to watch at home - or not watch - invites the influence of popularity and sentiment in voting,'' O'Neil said. ''The new system could reward the hot new thing, and the hot new thing is 'West Wing.'''
In other categories, ''Ally McBeal'' was a big loser. It was shut out of the best comedy series category it won last year, and star Calista Flockhart failed to get a nomination.
The picture was brighter for ''Will & Grace,'' the sitcom about a gay man-straight woman friendship that was virtually shut out in its first year. It was nominated for best comedy series, for stars Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, and for supporting actors Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes.
Nancy Marchand, who died in June, received a best supporting actress nomination for her role as mob matriarch Livia Soprano in ''The Sopranos.'' She was joined as a sentimental favorite by Michael J. Fox, who was nominated as lead comedy actor for ''Spin City.'' Fox, 39, left the sitcom because of his battle against Parkinson's disease.
NBC, with 97 nominations, was the leading network, followed by HBO with 86, ABC with 64, CBS with 41 and Fox with 26.
The Sept. 10 awards ceremony will air on ABC with Garry Shandling as host.
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