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Who Wins? What Drama!

September 12, 2007|TOM O'NEIL

THE Emmys is the most exciting awards show to watch because it features the most jaw-dropping upsets. But that makes it the toughest to predict. Winners are determined by small groups of judges evaluating sample videos, not by all 13,000 members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences expressing industry buzz about TV shows and stars in general that can be sensed from afar. Here's the inside track on the top races.


Drama series

Everybody's saying that "The Sopranos" has this in the bag. But everybody isn't an Emmy expert. Rarely do series win after they exit the airwaves and this one left viewers hanging. "The Sopranos" has lost five times and won only once (2004).

Yes, it still may be the front-runner because it's the Greatest TV Show Ever -- and if any series can break the curse, "Sopranos" can -- but alternatives must be considered.

"Boston Legal" doesn't pack as much muscle as its predecessor, "The Practice," which beat out "Sopranos" in 1999.

"Heroes" could swoop into the winner's circle. Its sci-fi/fantasy elements usually doom a contender, but "Lost" prevailed two years ago when it was the hot new show. One factor that could hurt its chances: "Heroes" may be too young-skewing.

Of the two nominated medical shows, "House" may be too focused on just one person, who's too grumpy at that.

"Grey's Anatomy" may have just the right prescription to win. It's classy. It feels important. It's overdue. Could be an irresistible combo to voters.


Lead actor in a drama series

Last year Kiefer Sutherland pulled off a jaw-dropping upset that's unlikely to be repeated. Voters wanted to reward an overdue star after a stellar season, but now that bill's paid and "24" is back to being merely good.

TV thug James Gandolfini is most likely to snatch the gold. The three-time champ hasn't won since 2003, but could rally, thanks to the bravura sample episode he gave to judges. In "The Second Coming," we see him flex his muscles as an actor: one minute knocking out the teeth of a bully who insulted his daughter, then showing us the tender heart of a papa who comforts his sobbing son after a suicide attempt.

But Gandolfini could be bumped off by TV's sneakiest doctor. "House" star Hugh Laurie won the Screen Actors Guild award once and Golden Globe twice, but he's still Emmyless. Now he can finally prevail after impressing judges in his episode "Half-Wit" with, egad, humility and a surprising ability to play the piano.

An upset is possible from Denis Leary. The "Rescue Me" firefighter really burns up the screen as an alcoholic falling off the wagon in "Retards," raging, "I'm more bad boy than you'll ever be able to handle!" Voters in rehab-chic Hollywood are addicted to boozy story lines, which have fueled past Emmy wins by Dennis Franz, Candice Bergen and Kirstie Alley.

Devilish "Boston Legal" lawyer James Spader pulled off two surprising Emmy verdicts in the past, often thanks to flashy jury speeches. But this year he may need to wipe that smirk off his face. He gets three minutes to grandstand in his episode, "Angel of Death," but not much additional airtime.


Lead actress in a drama series

This crowded race is a tossup -- with six women instead of the usual five, all giving impressive diva turns. That means one could triumph with merely 17% of the vote.

Like Oscar voters, Emmy judges really, really like Sally Field. She's won two of each award, but she may have trouble nabbing a third Golden Girl because of limited face time in the "Brothers & Sisters" episode she gave to judges ("Mistakes Were Made, Part 2"). Bravely, she bears a mother's broken heart and private terror as her soldier son marches off to Iraq, but she's often upstaged and outranked by Calista Flockhart.

Edie Falco is on screen for only 13 minutes during her "Sopranos" episode, "The Second Coming," at one point bravely bidding adieu to her son, who enters a mental institution. But it's her fierce face-off against tough Mafia hubby Tony in the kitchen one morning over breakfast that could nab her a fourth career victory. Allison Janney claimed this category in 2002 with a just-as-impressive and equally brief turn on "The West Wing."

Patricia Arquette staged an upset the other time she was nominated, but her episode of "Medium" ("Be Kind, Rewind") doesn't have the same emotional depth and ache of her 2005 winner.

After Emmy losses in 2004 and 2005 for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Mariska Hargitay's victory last year was a surprise. She could win again, thanks to the tender, tortured performance she gives while trying to determine if her newfound brother is a rapist.

Golden Globe champ Kyra Sedgwick is overdue and could finally take the gold as a reward for battling L.A.'s tough street gangs in "The Closer."

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