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EMMY AWARDS PREVIEW

'Family Guy' players aim for fun on Emmy night

Cast and crew of the animated series, only the second such nominee in the comedy category, may not be expecting an upset win but that's not going to stop them from having a good time.

September 19, 2009|Greg Braxton

Alex Borstein of "Family Guy" is standing on the brink of a milestone. Her show could make TV history Sunday by becoming the first animated series to win an Emmy as outstanding comedy.

But just a few days before the gala, Borstein, who provides the voice of Lois, the loving wife of oafish lead character Peter Griffin, had another kind of history in mind -- the kind that might earn a citation from TV's fashion police.

"I haven't even gotten a dress yet," Borstein confessed. "I may make history by wearing something I've already worn."

Borstein's attitude is indicative of the casual approach her "Family Guy" colleagues have taken in the wake of their historic nomination: It's great to be in the race, but there's virtually no chance of victory.

Said Borstein: "I basically feel there's no way we're going to win. The voters seem to be in love with '30 Rock' and 'The Office,' which are really great shows. I would truly be shocked if we won."

Her feelings were echoed by executive producer Steve Callaghan, who helps run "Family Guy" with its creator, Seth MacFarlane.

"Honestly, I don't think anyone here expects us to win," he said as he sat in one of the show's production offices. "Our goal is to go have a good time and watch 'The Office' or '30 Rock' take home some awards."

Though Callaghan admitted that it sounded like a cliche, he stressed that the show's cast and crew had already scored the most significant win: becoming only the second animated nominee in the comedy category, after "The Flintstones" in 1961. "Family Guy" has been nominated three times for outstanding animated program but has never won.

"What's important is the big hurdle that we've already overcome -- that people are recognizing animation can be regarded on the same level as live action." Callaghan said. "That's the victory."

Added Borstein: "I feel like the TV academy is headed for change. But I don't think it's going all the way, at least not now."

The Emmy breakthrough is particularly sweet for "Family Guy" in light of its turbulent history. The series was canceled twice by Fox, but was resurrected after strong DVD sales and solid ratings for cable reruns. Despite prompting several controversies and protests by the Parents Television Council over its edgy, often caustic humor, the show stands alongside "The Simpsons" as an anchor of Fox's Sunday animation block, has made MacFarlane a rich man, and has sparked a spinoff, "The Cleveland Show."

MacFarlane -- who also provides the voices of Griffin and the show's most distinctive character, the diabolical baby Stewie -- declined to be interviewed for this article.

There's little doubt "Family Guy" faces an uphill battle in the Emmy comedy division. In addition to "30 Rock" and "The Office," the cartoon is up against CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," Showtime's "Weeds" and HBO's cult favorite "Flight of the Conchords."

Still, Emmy shows in recent years have served up more than their share of upsets.

In 2007, "30 Rock," which was limping in the ratings, won its first Emmy for outstanding comedy series after being trounced in nine other major categories. That same year, James Spader of "Boston Legal" beat out James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos" for outstanding actor in a dramatic series, clouding the mob drama's farewell to television. And the consistently ratings-challenged "Arrested Development" triumphed over more popular shows in 2004 in the best comedy category.

The main objective for the cast and crew of "Family Guy" on Emmy night is not to hope for a miracle but to have a good time. About 40 to 50 members of the production staff plan to attend the ceremony, which will be televised on CBS at 8 p.m.

"It's just great that we're all going to be together," Callaghan said.

And what happens in the case of a "Family Guy" upset?

"Wow, I would be stunned if we pulled it off," he said. "It would be a solid night of celebration. But I would get up early the next morning and get back to work. We have a lot of work to do."

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greg.braxton@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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Shockers? Hey, it could happen

What are the favorites and what are the stunners that could happen on Sunday night? We asked our Emmy expert Tom O'Neil to make some predictions:

DRAMA SERIES

Favorite:

"Mad Men"

Last year's winner had another stellar season.

Shocker:

"Dexter"

Emmy voters may secretly appreciate this show about a sexy serial killer because they work in a cutthroat biz.

COMEDY SERIES

Favorite:

"30 Rock"

The two-time past champ has never lost this category.

Shocker:

"Family Guy"

Remember, with seven nominees here, a nominee can win with just 15% of the vote.

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES

Favorite:

Bryan Cranston

"Breaking Bad"

Ex-underdogs become front-runners after they win.

Shocker

Simon Baker

"The Mentalist"

Considered a lightweight because he's a pretty boy in a crime procedural, but, remember, he's got secret mentalist powers.

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES

Favorite:

Glenn Close

"Damages"

No one survives a battle against dragon corporate attorney Patty Hewes.

Shocker:

Elisabeth Moss

"Mad Men"

Peggy has a big moment when she reveals her big secret to her devious lover: "I had your baby and I gave it away."

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES

Favorite:

Alec Baldwin

"30 Rock"

Voters don't dare to cross the guy who represents their own tyrannical TV boss.

Shocker:

Tony Shalhoub

"Monk"

Everyone was flabbergasted the three times he's won in the past, so maybe a fourth?

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES

Favorite:

Tina Fey

"30 Rock"

The show and the star are clearly Emmy faves.

Shocker:

Christina Applegate

"Samantha Who?"

Voters don't care if TV shows are canceled and they adore actors performing multiple roles.

REALITY COMPETITION PROGRAM

Favorite:

"The Amazing Race"

What's really amazing about this Emmy race is that this six-time winner has never lost.

Shocker:

"American Idol"

Even more surprising: TV's top-rated series has suffered more than 30 Emmy defeats.

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