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A dramatic shift toward cable

Basic cable TV looked more like a pop-culture bargain Thursday as AMC's “Mad Men” and FX's “Damages” snared best-series Emmy nominations, while stars from cable's less glamorous channels also made a splash in major acting categories.

Meanwhile, HBO and the broadcast networks saw their share of awards glory erode.

In the lead drama actor category, four of the six nominees were stars of cable shows, including Jon Hamm of “Mad Men.” The sleek drama about 1960s America set in New York's advertising world was also the leading drama series contender, with 16 nominations.

Three best-actress nods also went to cable series stars, including Glenn Close of “Damages.” The hard-nosed legal drama joins “Mad Men” as the first basic-cable shows put up for best series.

“I think it's changed the landscape of television,” Close said of basic cable's growing creative strength.

HBO failed to field a best-drama series contender for the first time since 1998, after its now-departed “The Sopranos” claimed the honor last year. The premium cable channel still scored a leading 85 bids overall, followed by ABC, which received 76.

Boosting HBO's total was the historical drama “John Adams,” the overall front-runner, with a record 23 bids. That included a lead-actor nomination for Paul Giamatti's turn as one of America's founding fathers.

Charlotte-based makeup artist John Bayless was nominated in two categories for his work in “John Adams” – one for non-prosthetic makeup in a miniseries and the other for non-prosthetic work in a miniseries. Bayless just wrapped filming “W,” about President Bush, in Shreveport, La.

“30 Rock,” last's year's best comedy series winner, was the top nominee among sitcoms with 17 bids. Other best comedy series nominees were “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “The Office” and “Two and a Half Men.”

“The Wire,” the just-ended, critically acclaimed HBO drama about police and drug dealers in Baltimore, lost its last shot at a best-drama nod after years of Emmy snubs. It received one nomination Thursday, for writing.

Broadcast favorites that failed to make a serious showing included “Grey's Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives,” both left out of the best-series categories. “Grey's” stars Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson received nominations – but the “Desperate” cast was shut out.

“Lost,” rebounding with a well-received season, joined “Mad Men” and “Damages” in the best-drama series category with six nominees, including “Boston Legal,” “Dexter” and “House.” Only one acting nomination went to “Lost,” a best-supporting actor nod for Michael Emerson's role as the manipulative Ben.

The Emmy Awards ceremony will be held Sept. 21 and broadcast on ABC. Sarah Aarthun contributed.

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