Academy loves the bad guys
Showbiz has always had a thing for hookers with hearts of gold. Now, it's got a taste for a serial killer with one. He's the star of Showtime's darkly comic "Dexter," which made history Thursday when it became the cable network's first contender for Emmy's top drama series prize. The series, which wrapped its second season in December, scored five nominations overall including one for lead actor Michael C. Hall. Executive producer Sara Colleton may have been more surprised by the series recognition than anyone else. "We always felt like 'Dexter' was an acquired taste," she says. "It defies every instinct as a human to root and feel genuine affection and identification for someone who is a killer."

Hall says Dexter's voice-overs, weaving the audience in and out of his thoughts, "makes them complicit in the how and why of his crimes. It makes it easier to sympathize."

And bad behavior seems to be the theme among the top acting contenders: Bryan Cranston is up for his work as a chemistry teacher-turned-crystal meth cook in AMC's "Breaking Bad," and Glenn Close landed a nomination for her role as a diabolical high stakes litigator in "Damages."


Denise Martin

Nod thrills rookie Bergeron

Jeff Probst started it all with "The tribe has spoken." Howie Mandel urges "Deal or no deal?" Heidi Klum warns contestants, "Either you're in, or you're out." Ryan Seacrest exclaims, "This is ' American Idol!' "

And Tom Bergeron? He may not have a signature catchphrase, but the "Dancing With the Stars" host wasn't at a loss for words on Thursday, saying he was pleased the television academy created the new reality show host category and "doubly happy that I'm in the virgin group. I only hope that they're gentle.

"I suppose the PC thing to say is that I'd be happy to see any one of them up there," Bergeron said of his fellow nominees, "but, of course, I wouldn't," he said and laughed.

Probst, who is in Gabon, Africa, shooting the 17th season of "Survivor," wrote in an e-mail that " 'Survivor' is considered by many to be the first reality show, so it's especially fun for me to be one of the first nominees recognized. . . ."

Seacrest joked during his radio show Thursday that he now has two opportunities to lose, since "American Idol" has been nominated for reality-competition program six times and has never won.


Maria Elena Fernandez

'Pushing Daisies' is a late bloomer

Despite expectations that broadcast series, interrupted by the writers strike, might suffer at Emmy time, two ABC series appeared to overcome that handicap. "Pushing Daisies" landed a dozen Emmy nominations on Thursday, including acting, writing and art direction nods. The network's "Samantha Who?" was also nominated twice, for lead and supporting actresses in a comedy series.

While most basic cable shows, the major force in this year's nominations, were able to finish their full seasons before the writers strike began in November, many series on broadcast TV were truncated when the strike put casts and crews out of work. "Pushing Daisies" filmed only nine of 22 planned episodes in its first season and was expected to suffer from "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome. Season 2, which began filming in June, will launch in October. "Samantha Who?" filmed 15 of 22.

Kristin Chenoweth, who was nominated for supporting actress in "Pushing Daisies," suggested the show's writing was the source of its success in its limited first season. Others pointed to its distinctive look. "It's just a little gem of a show," Chenoweth said. "I was hoping the public would embrace it and they did. It was really a critical hit."


Lynn Smith