If you want to predict winners on "The 47th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards," to be broadcast Sunday night at 8 on Fox, you've got to know what's in the nominees' clips.
Leading actors are judged by the single episode they submit to the television academy's judging panel, so if it's a standout segment like Cybill Shepherd's season opener, the nominee can start rehearsing an acceptance speech right now. If the contender carelessly handed in just any ol' thing (John Goodman, take note) he or she is gonna get trounced.
Shows competing for best comedy and drama series submit eight episodes (up from two last year) in order to offer voters a much broader sense of a program's full season. Here's how the contents of episode entries should influence who wins the top Emmy races:
Surely, lots of voters were humming "I'll Be There for You" as they marked off their ballots for the irresistible No. 1 hit "Friends." The 1993 champ, "Seinfeld," is about due for a comeback, though, and last year's victor, "Frasier," had another strong season. So it's close. Tipping the balance: "Frasier's" recent Peabody and the laurel just tossed to it by the TV Critics Assn., hailing it as the tube's best comedy for a second year in a row.
No one should feel sorry for "Roseanne's" John Goodman when he gets clobbered in this category for a seventh time. Frankly, he deserves it. In the dud segment he handed in this year, the only emotion he shows is a whiny outburst ("She's a bully!") uttered to protest the sour-faced girl his son DJ is dating. Goodman's acting is actually far better in the episode that co-star Roseanne entered for best comedy actress (see below). Who's picking his Emmy submissions anyway? Tim Allen?
Last year's champ, Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier"), has the best submission this year: When a chance run-in with his ex-"Cheers" wife Lilith spoils his romantic getaway to Bora Bora, he nails her back, screeching, "I'd drive a stake through your heart, but I don't think anything could kill you!"
Potential upset: Paul Reiser ("Mad About You") has a killer segment in which he fights off a sleeping pill taken just moments before his surprise birthday bash.
Emmy ceremony co-host Cybill Shepherd ("Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander shares the stage with her) will probably win for her pilot episode because:
-- She had a seductive giggling fit when bit by a vampire.
-- She practically gave birth when she heard she was going to become a grandmother.
-- She tenderly tamed her hellcat daughter while coming to her rescue in a 7-11 parking lot in the middle of the night.
Possible spoiler: In the segment entered by "Mad About You's" Helen Hunt, fireworks flew when she got deliriously mad at hubby Reiser in the back seat of a cab while they recalled the disastrous party they had just fled.
Two years ago, Roseanne staged a coup in this category when she submitted a heart-tugger about sexual abuse. It could happen again because of her touching performance in the Thanksgiving Day episode in which she and Goodman anguished over the possibility of having to abort their child.
Even if every extraterrestrial life form in the universe (plus all the ghosts and warlocks) rallied on its behalf, nothing could help the worthy "X-Files" here. It's the year of the dueling docs and "ER" seems to have the right prescription for victory: the most nominations (23), a Peabody and that thrilling infusion of adrenaline.
Executive producer/writer David E. Kelley's "Chicago Hope" does have some reason for optimism, though. It was Kelley's "Picket Fences" that stopped the "NYPD Blue" bandwagon last year and froze "Northern Exposure" two years ago.
But expect "ER" to come crashing through, sirens blaring.
DRAMA SERIES ACTOR
"NYPD Blue" coppers Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits can take a powder. This year the doctor is in. But which one?
George Clooney is endearing as he helps out young boys (one who loses a leg to cancer, the other a prostitute with AIDS), but co-star Anthony Edwards has "ER's" best chance to win. The episode he submitted was TV's single most jolting hour this year: A pregnant woman dies when he botches her delivery.
But this category seems to be all sewn up by a "Chicago Hope" actor: Mandy Patinkin is at his grandstanding best when he chews out the hospital's board of directors one moment, then chews on a colleague's finger the next when it's pointed accusingly at him. Patinkin may be considered equally haughty for leaving "Chicago Hope" after one and a third seasons, but he's doing so with style, citing family reasons, and he'll take an Emmy with him. (David Caruso, take note.)
DRAMA SERIES ACTRESS