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Focus : Emmysomethings : A Critic Makes His Annual Picks

August 25, 1991|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

Tonight, on KTTV Channel 11 and XETV Channel 6 (San Diego), you'll learn who actually wins the Emmys. Today, in this space, you'll learn who deserves to win.

Fox's 8 p.m. Emmycast has the attention, but as always, yours truly has the answers.

Being arrogant is a filthy job, but somebody has to do it. Thus, exhibiting a critical conceit that is truly obnoxious, we begin the annual ritual of ripping open the only envelopes that matter.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Lifetime's late, great "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" was not really a comedy. Whatever it was, though, Blair Brown deserves an Emmy for brightening the cable network's days and nights with one luminous performance after another.

Her competition is Kirstie Alley of NBC's "Cheers," Delta Burke of CBS' "Designing Women," Betty White of NBC's "The Golden Girls" and probable three-time winner Candice Bergen of CBS' "Murphy Brown."

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

John Goodman had the kind of season on ABC's "Roseanne" that elevated him above Craig T. Nelson of ABC's "Coach," Richard Mulligan of NBC's "Empty Nest" and Burt Reynolds of CBS' "Evening Shade."

But not above "Cheers" star Ted Danson on NBC, arguably the most consistently good comedy performer in prime time.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The usual suspects return from last year, except for Sharon Gless of CBS' "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill" supplanting Jill Eikenberry of NBC's "L.A. Law" in a category also including Dana Delany of ABC's "China Beach," Angela Lansbury of CBS' "Murder, She Wrote" and deserving repeat winner Patricia Wettig of ABC's "thirtysomething."

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

That fine actor James Earl Jones was the match that lit ABC's "Gabriel's Fire," earning him the Emmy nod over Peter Falk of ABC's "Columbo," Michael Moriarty of NBC's "Law & Order," Scott Bakula of NBC's "Quantum Leap" and Kyle MacLachlan of ABC's "Twin Peaks."

Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special

It's a thinner field than in past years, with the edge going to Barbara Hershey of Showtime's "Paris Trout" over Glenn Close of CBS' "Sarah, Plain and Tall." Other nominees are Lynn Whitfield of HBO's "The Josephine Baker Story," Suzanne Pleshette of CBS' "Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean" and Lee Purcell of NBC's "Long Road Home."

Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special

Emmy voters rarely miss a chance to reward a civil rights story. So Sidney Poitier is the likeliest winner for playing recently resigned U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in ABC's "Separate But Equal."

But the vote here goes to John Gielgud for his comedic contributions to "A Summer's Lease" on PBS, closely followed by Dennis Hopper as the psychopath in "Paris Trout." James Garner of NBC's "Decoration Day" and Christopher Walken of "Sarah, Plain and Tall" fill out the category.

Comedy Series

ABC's "The Wonder Years" is increasingly predictable, making the still-funny-after-all-these-years "Cheers" 90-proof in this category. Also in the pot are "Designing Women," "Golden Girls" and "Murphy Brown."

Drama Series

Canceled "China Beach" was uneven, "L.A. Law" has slipped and CBS newcomer "Northern Exposure" is still a couple of inches short of the brass ring. And although "Quantum Leap" is always interesting, a rational judge would be hard-put to deny an Emmy to lame-duck "thirtysomething" anytime, anywhere. So why do it here?

Miniseries or Special

Gory "Paris Trout" tops a field that is only modestly distinguished. The also-rans deserve to be "Decoration Day," "The Josephine Baker Story," NBC's "Switched at Birth" and probable co-favorites "Sarah, Plain and Tall" and "Separate But Equal."

Variety, Music or Comedy Program

On its good nights, Fox's "In Living Color" can turn you blue with laughter. However, its good nights are too infrequent.

On the other hand, every night is a good one for NBC's Emmy-meriting "Late Night With David Letterman." Also in the field are ABC's Academy Awards telecast, "The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts" on CBS, "The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson" on CBS and "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" on NBC.

Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program

Dana Carvey remains one of the most bankable assets of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Yet even when his material sags, Emmy-worthy Damon Wayans just soars Sunday after Sunday on "In Living Color." Emmys are frequently won for much less.

Other nominees are Wayans' brother and "In Living Color" executive producer Keenen Ivory Wayans, Billy Crystal for hosting the Oscarcast and Harry Connick Jr. for "Swinging Out With Harry" on the PBS series "Great Performances."

Informational Series

This is a no-contest category in which Ken Burns' extraordinary PBS documentary series "The Civil War" is head and epaulets above even such superior PBS competition as "The Astronomers" and "Smithsonian World." If "The Civil War" doesn't win, there should be a court-martial. Lesser also-rans here are NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" and the syndicated "Entertainment Tonight."

Animated Program of Less Than an Hour

Another easy call, with Fox's far-in-front-running satirical sitcom "The Simpsons" practically lapping the field of "Garfield Gets a Life," "Tiny Toon Adventures: The Looney Beginning" and "Will Vinton's Claymation Comedy of Horrors," all from CBS.

Homer, Bart and Co. have no peers. The biggest horror would be failing to reward TV's hilariously dysfunctional family with TV's highest honor.

The 43rd Annual Emmy Awards show airs tonight at 8 on Channels 11, 6.

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