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Before the Congrats ... a Few Picks

September 13, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

How time flies. Has it been half a century since "Seinfeld" received its first Emmy nomination? Or does it just seem that way?

Sunday is the night that the most repetitious of all awards shows expands to four hours. And with good reason: Three hours is hardly enough time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Emmys. So gather the balloons.

In other words, the telecast will feature the industry congratulating itself for its half century of congratulating itself. I just hope that NBC uses this extra time productively by dropping that ridiculous rule limiting acceptance speeches to 15 minutes. If a winner can't thank his dog, therapist and plastic surgeon, what's the point?

Meanwhile, on with this show, as, in the true spirit of repetition, I again share my impeccable taste with the masses. What follows are most of the major Emmy categories with my bold personal choices.

Comedy series: A very strong field, as always, especially with NBC's "Mad About You" getting bumped by Fox's often-terrific "Ally McBeal," a hybrid series that just as easily could pass as a drama, and whose executive producer, David E. Kelley, merits an Emmy for writing the "Theme of Life" episode. But the series Emmy should belong to "The Larry Sanders Show," which ended its run on HBO darker than ever, but no less brilliant. Other nominees are NBC's "Frasier," "3rd Rock From the Sun" and tuckered-out "Seinfeld."

Drama series: Except for ABC's "The Practice" supplanting CBS' "Chicago Hope," same old crowd here. But a fine one it is, also featuring NBC's "ER," Fox's "The X-Files" and my choices--all right, I'm fence sitting--NBC's "Law & Order" and ABC's "NYPD Blue." Meanwhile, NBC's ignored "Homicide: Life on the Street" was more deserving than either "ER" or "The Practice," and the nominated James Yoshimura deserves an Emmy for writing "The Subway" episode of "Homicide."

Miniseries: A hemisphere higher than their competitors are HBO's "Earth to the Moon" and TNT's "George Wallace." The former has scope and size going for it, the latter heart. A tossup, but I'll go with heart only because HBO wins everything. Also nominated are "Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City" from Showtime, NBC's "Merlin" and USA's "Moby Dick."

Movie: An easy call. Showtime's "12 Angry Men" and HBO's "Gia" were superior, but picking a winner other than HBO's "Don King: Only in America" would be a flagrant slanderosity with historical ramifications. In other words, a mistake. Moreover, Kario Salem deserves to cash in on his nomination for writing the "Don King" script. HBO's "A Bright Shining Lie" and CBS' "What the Deaf Man Heard" are also nominated for best movie.

Variety, music or comedy series: Supremely gifted Tracey Ullman's characters are so vivid and imaginative on HBO's "Tracey Takes On..." that she deserves the Emmy hands down over HBO's "Dennis Miller Live," CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman," "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher" and NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

Actor, comedy series: Garry Shandling may have done his best work in winding down "The Larry Sanders Show." So he gets the edge over this good field: Michael J. Fox of ABC's "Spin City," Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier," John Lithgow of "3rd Rock From the Sun" and Paul Reiser of "Mad About You."

Actor, drama series: Another strong group, but Emmy-worthy Dennis Franz electrifies everything he touches on "NYPD Blue." His competitors are Andre Braugher of "Homicide: Life on the Street," David Duchovny of "The X-Files," Anthony Edwards of "ER" and Franz's "NYPD Blue" co-star, Jimmy Smits.

Actor, miniseries or movie: Ving Rhames was a knockout in "Don King: Only in America." But I've flipped a coin and come up with Gary Sinese, for his extraordinary work in "George Wallace." Other nominees are Jack Lemmon of "12 Angry Men," Sam Neill of "Merlin" and Patrick Stewart of "Moby Dick."

Actress, comedy series: I'm a late convert here, coming to believe in "Ally McBeal" star Calista Flockhart only after total immersion. But an Emmy babe she deserves to be, edging Kirstie Alley of NBC's "Veronica's Closet," Ellen DeGeneres of ABC's "Ellen," Jenna Elfman of ABC's "Dharma & Greg," Helen Hunt of "Mad About You" and Patricia Richardson of ABC's "Home Improvement."

Actress, drama series: Gillian Anderson acts with so much economy and subtlety on "The X-Files" that she's easy to overlook in this swollen field. But I say give her the Emmy over Roma Downey of CBS' "Touched by an Angel," Christine Lahti of "Chicago Hope," Julianna Margulies of "ER" and Jane Seymour of recently canceled "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" on CBS.

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