A black comedy about a family of dysfunctional undertakers, Six Feet Under, is leading the field of nominees for the Emmys, the annual American television awards.
The programme, which began airing on Channel 4 a few weeks ago, was nominated in 23 categories, including best drama, yesterday. No fewer than six of its cast members are up for acting honours.
The list included some notable British actors. Kenneth Branagh was nominated for his leading role in Shackleton, a docudrama about the explorer Ernest Shackleton. Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave were recognised for their performances as Winston and Clementine Churchill in the drama The Gathering Storm.
Competing with Six Feet Under for best drama were two other newcomers, the spy series24 (shown in this country on BBC2 and BBC Choice), and the police show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Two familiar titles rounded out the category – The West Wing and Law and Order.
Six Feet Under's nominations were not a record – falling four shy of the 27 racked up by the series NYPD Blue in its first season – but do reflect the critical enthusiasm that has greeted the series on both sides of the Atlantic. It was conceived by Alan Ball, the screenwriter for the film American Beauty.
The list contained some old favourites, notably Friends (up for 11 categories). But The X-Files, which recently came to an end, and the long-running ER were both overlooked.
The Sopranos, the much-praised mafia drama, was not eligible for the awards because it did not produce any new episodes this year.
The Emmys will be awarded in Los Angeles in September.