If "Lost" can move an island, resurrect the dead, and keep a shipwrecked Hurley in a constantly beefy state, can it also persuade Emmy voters that it's one of the year's best dramas?
The ABC show, which ended its six-season run in May, will be among those vying for recognition when the Emmy nominations are announced early Thursday. Joining it are other long-running and popular series that won't be returning to TV such as ABC's "Ugly Betty," Fox's "24," USA Network's "Monk," Showtime's "The Tudors," and, of course, "Law & Order" on NBC.
Hardcore fans can get wistful — weepy, even — when a beloved show leaves the air, and that sense of loss and nostalgia may rub off on Emmy voters when they pick the top comedies and dramas, industry watchers say. (If history is any guide, though, winning is a much tougher matter. HBO's "The Sopranos" is the only drama in recent memory to win best series on its way out, and "Everybody Loves Raymond" was the first comedy in decades to get a series trophy as a parting gift).
"A series' final season can cut two ways," said television historian Tim Brooks. "Some go out with a bang, and they're real contenders for that. And some have already been pushed aside by newer shows and they've lost their specialness. Particularly if they were embraced early on, they find it difficult to keep topping themselves and they can run out of steam by the end."
Not everyone has the luxury of planning for a finale — "Law & Order" was canceled at the last minute — but shows can pull out all the stops when there's a set end date. Andy Breckman, creator and executive producer of "Monk," had a year to prepare and wrap up loose ends.
"We knew this was our swan song, which made for more emotional storylines, and we really stepped up," Breckman said. "I think we delivered episodes that could be considered some of the best of the whole series. I hope we don't need the sentimental vote to be recognized."
"Monk" finished its run after eight seasons — with 16 Emmy nods and seven wins during that time — by having the germaphobe detective solve the biggest case of his life, his late wife's murder. Ratings for the two-part finale broke USA and basic cable records.
Voters may be influenced by real-life events, like a series' farewell or high-profile episodes in the current season, even though those aren't the ones under consideration. Take, for instance, Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch," and its now-running story arc about boat captain Phil Harris' untimely death. Cameras rolled from his stroke on board the Cornelia Marie to his death in an Anchorage hospital because Harris wanted it all captured for the show, which is garnering its highest ever ratings.
"I'd hate to think the death of a good friend is what brings recognition to a show, but when you're in the zeitgeist, there is such a thing as momentum," said Thom Beers, creator and executive producer. "If you're in the ether, people may give you more consideration."
There's pre-Emmy buzz aplenty around shows like ABC's "Modern Family" and its voluminous cast, all running in the supporting actor categories, and Fox's first-season breakout hit "Glee," with so-bad-she's-tantalizing Jane Lynch and young songstress Lea Michele often singled out as awards bait. Contenders from the past, such as "The Office," "The Big Bang Theory" and reigning champ " 30 Rock," are expected to be elbowing for trophies again.
Show business "it" girl Betty White could pop up for her hosting role on "Saturday Night Live" or her guest appearance on ABC's sitcom, "The Middle." And CBS' "The Good Wife," one of the only hour-long successes of the new broadcast season, may edge into the cable-heavy best drama race.
HBO is expected to rack up armloads of nods for its movies and miniseries, such as the World War II saga "The Pacific," and its powerful biopics — "Temple Grandin," a portrait of an autistic woman who changed the livestock industry, and "You Don't Know Jack," a look at Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" will be nominated for its already-decorated choreography, and CBS' perennial winner "The Amazing Race" will get a shot at another trophy for reality show/competition.
Some of the big unknowns include whether Conan O'Brien will snag a nomination for his short stint on "The Tonight Show" — his new network, TBS, ran a tongue-in-cheek Emmy campaign for him, partly as marketing for his fall jump to the cable channel. And, after being nominated last year as the first animated series since "The Flintstones" to contend for best comedy, will "Family Guy" repeat? That may depend on how voters accept (or reject) its sardonic Emmy campaign, which is designed to look like the posters from Oscar-winning film "Precious" and says, bluntly: "Vote for us or you're a racist."