EmmaThompson and Dame Helen compete for best actress Emmy

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The Independent Online

Emma Thompson and Dame Helen Mirren will go head to head for the outstanding actress award at this year's Emmys, the most prestigious awards in American television.

Emma Thompson and Dame Helen Mirren will go head to head for the outstanding actress award at this year's Emmys, the most prestigious awards in American television.

Dame Helen is in the running for her performance as Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect 6, and Thompson earned her nomination for the surreal Aids drama Angels In America, in which she plays a nurse, an angel and a homeless woman.

The show, on Channel 4, led the Emmys race with 21 nominations, beating The Sopranos, with 20 on the shortlist. Both women were nominated in the outstanding actress in a mini-series or movie category. They are up against Glenn Close, Meryl Streep and Judy Davis.

The ritual announcement of the nominations by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles brought special cheer to HBO, the premium cable channel that made Angels in America, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tony Kushner. The channel, which also gave us The Sopranos, eventually won almost twice as many nominations as the traditional US network channels, underscoring how far the big three of NBC, CBS and ABC, are losing their grip on primetime schedules.

The awards night - television's version of the annual Oscars extravaganza - is on 19 September and will be hosted by the comedian and HBO veteran Gary Shandling. The judges showed some nostalgia for departed shows, including Sex and the City, nominated for best television comedy. There were no nominations for two old staples of NBC, Frasier or Friends. Nominees in the best drama category included 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland, and last year's winner, The West Wing.

Edie Falco, playing the wife of the Mafia chief Tony Soprano, won a best-actress nomination. James Gandolfini, who plays Tony, was also nominated. He was best actor last year.

The Reagans, a television film that caused so much controversy that it had to be moved from the CBS network to its sister cable channel, Showtime, also came out well, with seven nominations.

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