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That’s what I said when I turned on the t.v. this morning, discovered that the prime-time Emmy nominations had been announced, and heard folks talking about the fact that James Gandolfini did not get nominated for his work as Tony Soprano in Season 6 of “The Sopranos.”

How is that even possible? That is the one nomination that I was sure was guaranteed. Not even worth questioning. His omission was a bet I would never have taken.

I am almost as incensed by the omission of Edie Falco, who was nothing short of brilliant this year in her portrayal of Tony’s conflicted, but ultimately loyal wife, Carmela.


It just goes to show that acting awards mean nothing. Yes, I am thrilled for Denis Leary and Kiefer Sutherland, both of whom deserved to be nominated for Best Actor for their work in “Rescue Me” and “24,” both of which are on my list of can-never-be-missed shows.

And let me digress for a moment: If you haven’t been watching “Rescue Me,” you are missing what is, in my opinion, arguably the third best show on t.v., right after “The Sopranos” and “24.” Denis Leary is fascinating to watch as a NY City firefighter who lost his cousin and best friend, not to mention several other firefighters from his house, on 9/11, and is still trying to deal with the emotional aftermath of that day. In the first two seasons, his marriage disintegrated, as did his reckless affair with his cousin’s widow, as his drinking spiraled out of control, and, ultimately, he lost his only son. This season, the exploration of his marriage resulted in the highly controversial scene a couple of weeks ago that some have called a rape, while others have said it was consensual intercourse. (Leary denies that his character raped his estranged wife and basically thumbs his nose at the critics he accuses of neither understanding the complexity of the relationship or that particular scene.) Either way you look at it, it is compelling television.

I am also delighted that Peter Krause and Frances Conroy were both nominated for the final, delicious season of “Six Feet Under.” Oh, how I miss the dysfunctional Fisher clan. If you didn’t watch “Six Feet Under,” run — do not walk — to the video store and get the DVD’s. It is among the all-time best series ever produced for television.

But “The Sopranos” is far and away the best series in the history of broadcast television. Period. There is no other show that compares. There is no other cast that can command your attention the way the cast of “The Sopranos” does. There is no other combination of script wedded with actor that can leave you scratching your head long after the episode is over the way “The Sopranos” does. There is no other television program that you can spend your entire lunch hour discussing and debating with your coworkers — and still not be finished with the conversation by the time you must return to the office.

I’ve heard the criticisms of Season Six and do not agree with them. Even on its worst day, “The Sopranos” is still more interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking than 99.999% of the rest of what is on television these days. I’ll take a lousy episode of “The Sopranos” over the best episode of any other show on television.

And I think those who complained about the 12 most recent episodes are going to be eating a big dish of crow in early 2007 when David Chase wraps up the story.

But back to the baffling Emmy nominations announced today . . . There is simply no greater actor on television — now or ever — than James Gandolfini. As the cliche goes, I would watch the man read the phone book. White or Yellow Pages. He is just that good. Just that fascinating. The character of Tony Soprano is just that complex, complicated, frustrating, enthralling, enticing, and bewitching solely because he is played by James Gandolfini.

So if I were handing out the Emmy awards, Gandolfini would be collecting his sixth very soon, one for each and every season to date of “The Sopranos.”

The fact that he is not nominated means that I don’t have to bother watching the broadcast of the show. Wanna guess what I plan to do that evening? You got it: I’ll be watching a few episodes from Season Six and drinking a toast to Gandolfini, et. al.

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