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September 12, 2007|TOM O'NEIL

Reality program

Undefeated "The Amazing Race" has zoomed past all nominees in this Emmy race four years in a row, leaving the No. 1-rated TV show, "American Idol," in the dust. To date, the singing competition has gone 0 for 22. If all of "Idol's" seven bids this year come up scratch, it will surpass the "Newhart" shutout record of 25.

What gives "Idol" some Emmy hope is its special episode that gave hope to charities: "Idol Gives Back." Technically, there's no element of competition in it, thus its eligibility is dubious, but it may have been allowed because it offers TV's most popular program its best hope of not becoming the biggest loser in the history of TV's top award.

"Idol" faces more amazing rivals beyond "Race." Also in this lineup are three challengers that have a serious chance to pull ahead: "Dancing With the Stars," "Project Runway" and "Top Chef."


Variety, music or comedy series

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" has won this annually for four years and could do it again. But just as spin-off "The Colbert Report" follows it on the Comedy Central schedule, it could follow here, launching a new winning streak.

"The Late Show With David Letterman" once ruled in this category, sweeping for five years in a row (1998-2002), but Emmy voters now seem to prefer a newer, snarkier form of variety humor.

Sadly, voters never seem to prefer the program showcasing Letterman's replacement at NBC. "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" has lost this award four times -- and 21 Emmys in all categories, with no wins. If "Conan" doesn't win any of its four nominations this year and "American Idol" nabs an Emmy, "Conan" would tie "Newhart" as the awards' biggest loser.

If Bill Maher loses as a producer of "Real Time" in this category and his separate writing nomination, his 19 total losses would surpass the record of 18 held by Angela Lansbury. But since Maher's bids include producing, writing and performance, Lansbury would remain Emmy's biggest loser among performers.



"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" has many other factors in its favor, including a weighty subject (Native Americans' struggle to keep their lands), record-tying 17 nominations and the backing of HBO, which has won this category 12 times in 15 years. The other HBO film, "Longford," also explores a serious issue -- prison reform in the U.K. Also nominated: The Discovery Channel's "Inside the Twin Towers," about 9/11, and the biopics "The Ron Clark Story" (TNT) and "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy" (Lifetime).



Good news for "Prime Suspect: The Final Act" and "Broken Trail": the most serious-minded mini usually wins.

The seventh and last installment of "Prime Suspect" may have the edge, considering parts 2, 3 and 5 claimed this category in the past. "Final Act" wraps up the celebrated British detective series with poignancy as its defiant, flawed heroine (Helen Mirren) is finally forced into retirement.

Also heading into the sunset are those cowpokes of "Broken Trail," who are superheroes at AMC for rustling up 9.8 million viewers, tripling the network's previous high for any original program. Its first mini was so successful, with 16 nominations, that AMC plans more.

Based on the beach read by former Hollywood wife Gigi Levangie Grazer, "The Starter Wife" is a savage exposé of Hollywood that obviously connected with Emmy voters, scoring 10 nominations.


Lead actor in a miniseries or movie

Past honorees read like a roll call of Oscar champs -- 17 over the years with several, including Laurence Olivier, having multiple wins. This year has two such contenders: Robert Duvall ("Broken Trail") and Jim Broadbent ("Longford").

Duvall is used to waiting to win awards. It wasn't until his fourth Oscar nomination that he triumphed for "Tender Mercies." This is his fourth Emmy bid, hailing his turn as a cowboy who rescues Chinese prostitutes while herding horses from Oregon to Wyoming.

Broadbent won his Oscar for portraying a writer in "Iris" and has been honored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for his introspective role as a crusader for prison reform in "Longford."

Some familiar Emmy faces round out the category: William H. Macy, who won this category four years ago for "Door to Door," scored his seventh Emmy nom for "Nightmares and Dreamscapes"; Tom Selleck, a one-time winner for "Magnum, P.I.," reaps his seventh career Emmy bid for "Jesse Stone: Sea Change"; and Matthew Perry, earning his fourth nomination, is up for "The Ron Clark Story."


Lead actress in a miniseries or movie

No doubt Emmy voters howled with laughter while watching the DVD screener of "Prime Suspect: The Final Act," seeing Helen Mirren gasp in exasperation, "What do you want from me?! I'm not the queen!"

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