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Eyes on Victory

Looking to Sunday's Emmys, an intrepid columnist ponders the nominees and selects those he thinks are golden.

September 22, 2002|HOWARD ROSENBERG

The annual prime-time Emmys return Sunday with none of the allure, glamour and mystique of the Oscars and Grammys. But with all the pomp.

No stargazing. Ignore stretch limos dropping celebrity-loads at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in front of paparazzi, and the groupies shouting from afar. Forget the empty red-carpet chatter, the borrowed gowns, the implanted breasts, the cosmic hair, the tweaked faces, the leased smiles, the stunning spontaneity of rehearsed ad-libs. Stay focused on what really counts. Only one thing should matter to you now.

My unique insights.

What am I, stone? Would I be doing this if not for a public groundswell demanding that I disclose my own choices in advance of Sunday's telecast on NBC? These are not predictions, merely a wish list.

So here it is, on a page that is not only suitable for framing, but has the added advantage of fitting nicely in the bottom of a birdcage.

As always, there is this disclaimer: In an act of integrity amazing even to me, these Emmy picks are confined to shows that I have actually seen.

Whoa!

First, some striking omissions. Fox's "The Bernie Mac Show" and Showtime's "The Chris Isaak Show" deserved the comedy nominations they didn't get, and the latter show's Kristin Datillo the supporting mention she was denied.

Ron Livingston and Neal McDonough were snubbed despite memorable supporting work as World War II combat officers in HBO's "Band of Brothers." And most boggling of all is the absence of Ryan Gosling, miraculously good as the Jewish neo-Nazi in Showtime's "The Believer." Emmy voters just didn't get it.

Now, my picks:

Drama Series: Four of five nominees are CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," NBC's "Law & Order," perennial winner "The West Wing," and Fox's "24," which roared from the gate impressively but ended its first season on an empty tank.

Bury 'em. My choice: Groundbreaking "Six Feet Under," a complex, sneaky funny, highly original HBO series about a mortuary family. It enters with 23 nominations. And no wonder, for its scripts, direction and performances are as stunning as anything on TV since, well, HBO's "The Sopranos," whose production schedule took it out of the running this year.

In fact, HBO's overall Emmys supremacy surely will build in 2003, when "The Sopranos" again becomes eligible, joining contender "Six Feet Under" and HBO's superb new cop series, "The Wire." To say nothing of its cheeky comedy, "Sex and the City."

Lead Actor, Drama Series: Scratch Kiefer Sutherland of "24," Michael Chiklis of FX's "The Shield" and even Martin Sheen, though he remains strong as the Prez in "The West Wing."

Topping this field, instead, are Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall, splendid as the brotherly protagonists on "Six Feet Under." I can't choose between them.

Lead Actress, Drama Series: Amy Brenneman of CBS' "Judging Amy" and Jennifer Garner of ABC's "Alias"? Very nice. Allison Janney of "The West Wing"? Even better.

But enough of them. Aussie Rachel Griffiths and Frances Conroy had seasons of transcendence on "Six Feet Under," the former as the brilliant but wacky girlfriend of Krause's character, the latter as the funeral home's tightly wound matriarch. No choosing between them either.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Victor Garber is mentioned for "Alias," Freddy Rodriguez for "Six Feet Under" and Dule Hill for "The West Wing," a series notable for its acting depth. Affirming that are "The West Wing's" strongest nominees in this category, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and John Spencer. After two coin flips, Spencer's chief of staff wins.

Supporting Actress, Dra-ma Series: No close call here, despite Mary-Louise Parker and Janel Moloney of "The West Wing," and especially Stockard Channing from that series and Tyne Daly from "Judging Amy."

Gifted young Lauren Ambrose earns the award for her troubled teen on "Six Feet Under."

Comedy Series: One reason Emmys are so tedious is that the same names show up year after year. Except for HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the field here consists of same old same-olds: "Sex and the City," NBC's "Friends" and "Will & Grace," and CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond." Although "Sex" and "Raymond" are world-class, I'm flipping coins again and going with Larry David's "Curb" if only because its episode titled "The Doll" was last season's funniest half-hour on the planet.

Lead Actor, Comedy: Nominees are Bernie Mac of "The Bernie Mac Show," Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier," Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry of "Friends," and my choice, Ray Romano of "Raymond."

Lead Actress, Comedy: From "Friends" comes Jennifer Aniston, from "Raymond" Patricia Heaton, from "Will & Grace" Debra Messing, from "Sex and the City" Sarah Jessica Parker. Nice crowd. But I've anointed amazing Jane Kaczmarek of Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle."

Supporting Actor, Comedy: My pick is Kaczmarek's "Malcolm" husband, Bryan Cranston, over Brad Garrett of "Raymond," Sean Hayes of "Will & Grace" and David Hyde Pierce of "Frasier," if only because he's the least celebrated of this group.

Supporting Actress, Comedy: Another coin flip gives it to wonderful Doris Roberts of "Raymond" over Cynthia Nixon of "Sex and the City," whose work gets better and better. Other nominees are Kim Cattrall of "Sex and the City," Megan Mullally of "Will & Grace" and Wendie Malick of NBC's "Just Shoot Me."

Movie: TNT's "James Dean" was a dud, HBO's "Dinner With Friends" so-so. Vastly better were HBO's "The Laramie Project" and "The Gathering Storm" and, my choice, its "Path to War."

Miniseries: Three of the four nominees are ABC's "Dinotopia," TNT's "The Mists of Avalon" and A&E's "Shackleton." In other words, if "Band of Brothers" doesn't win, Emmy voters should be checked for lobotomy scars.

"The 54th Annual Emmy Awards" can be seen Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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