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It's Comedy Central

September 12, 2007|TOM O'NEIL

Comedy series

"Two and a Half Men" is the funniest of these five series, but it has three strikes against it: 1) it's shamelessly crass 2) it's an unapologetic knee-slapper 3) Emmy voters are snobs.

"Entourage" has a high cool factor that may appeal to uppity academy members, but it probably skews too young.

So this category is a tossup between "30 Rock," "The Office" and "Ugly Betty."

"Ugly Betty" has pretty good odds since it's loaded with enough Armani skirts and Jimmy Choo shoes for any snob. It's also a TV critics' darling and swept the Golden Globes, but it may be too chick-friendly for Emmy voters who are mostly older guys.

That boosts the odds of those dumb guys at "The Office," who blundered into a win last year and could do so again because Emmy voters get the joke.

But one show does an even better job exposing the lunacy in offices: "30 Rock." That may make it irresistible to Emmy voters who like helping Nielsen-challenged series such as "Arrested Development."

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Lead actor in a comedy series

Many Emmy gurus believe this is a race between two film superstars slumming it on TV as bosses from hell: Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock") and Steve Carell ("The Office").

If so, Baldwin may have an edge because voters recognize his mad tyrant from the TV biz, but Carell's is more idiotic and therefore more tempting. Both submitted superb episodes to judges that reveal a teasing flash of humanity, even heart, albeit just temporarily.

Will Alec Baldwin's performance off screen with his daughter and ex-wife affect voters? He may be an unstoppable awards juggernaut, having already reaped prizes from the Golden Globes, SAG and the Television Critics Assn.

How curious that Carell competes against "The Office's" original boss from Hades, Ricky Gervais, now behaving devilishly on "Extras." Gervais has a serious shot at being the spoiler for his fearless turn as a surprisingly successful sitcom star who freaks out when he's supposed to kiss a man in a play. Emmy voters are so smitten with the "Ian McKellen" episode that they also nominated Gervais for writing and directing it.

But perhaps no rivals have a shot at beating the flamboyant, obsessive-compulsive role that keeps cleaning up in this category. Tony Shalhoub has won three times for "Monk," which may have an unfair screen-time advantage as a one-hour show competing against half-hour rivals.

Most unfair of all, however, is Emmy voters' bias against frat-boyish sitcoms they probably don't feel are dignified, even when they're slickly done as on "Two and a Half Men." But even if voters did forgive the breast and bathroom jokes, it's unlikely they'll ever give Charlie Sheen an Emmy for apparently playing himself -- even though he's fab at it.

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Lead actress in a comedy series

The star of "Ugly Betty" is sure looking good, maybe even invincible. America Ferrera is the breakout star of the TV season and she gives a hilarious and heartbreaking performance in a one-hour program that's twice as long as most of its rivals. Screen time often plays a big part in Emmy victories.

But Ferrera needs to watch out for sneaky Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who pulled off an upset over front-runners Jane Kaczmarek and Lisa Kudrow last year. Pundits dismiss her chances because she's in a traditional laugh-track comedy ("The New Adventures of Old Christine"), but Emmy judges are fellow actors who know expert timing and perfect-pitch delivery when they see it.

Voters adore Mary-Louise Parker so much that they also nominated her in the TV movie lineup. And they gave her a bid for portraying a pot-peddling suburban mom in "Weeds."

Felicity Huffman ("Desperate Housewives") feels like a straggler who wandered into this category from the drama lineup, but she pulled off a surprise win in 2005. Now she gives a high-caliber performance as a hostage in a grocery-store shootout in "Bang," one of the season's most critically acclaimed episodes.

It seems like Tina Fey ("30 Rock") sneaked in from the writing categories. She won't convince judges of her acting chops by her episode submission, "Up All Night," in which she is merely a supporting player giving a fairly inexpressive performance.

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Supporting actor in a comedy series

In a category with a long history of repeat winners, last year's champ Jeremy Piven ("Entourage") could easily prevail again for embodying someone every Emmy voter can't resist hugging: a heartless Hollywood agent. In "Manic Monday," Ari is -- uh, oh -- almost angelic at first, but then -- whew -- his therapist wakens his inner devil.

Castmate Kevin Dillon plays Johnny Drama for laughs in "The Resurrection" when his character, a once nearly famous actor, copes with the stress of his comeback in a new TV series about to debut.

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