On Sunday the predominantly Hollywood-based members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will once again have the opportunity to demonstrate just how out-of-touch they are with the American public. The annual Emmy Awards, celebrating excellence in television, will once again be one of the year's most frustrating viewing experiences for fans of great television programming. Submit your predicted winners in the comments area and the person with the most correct predictions in the categories included here will win lunch for two at Michael's Restaurant in New York or Santa Monica (or a selected restaurant in your home town).
It's already a fait accompli that the Academy will get the awards wrong this year. No matter who walks away with the statues, Emmy voters screwed it up in the nominating process in many categories. Each year, ratings have sunk lower and lower, and while there are more qualified series and great performances on television than ever before, the Hollywood Academy seems intent on ignoring great new series like Friday Night Lights and The Closer. And, just for balance, they ignored Gilmore Girls, as they have for every year in its seven year existence.
All that aside, anyone in the TV, entertainment and advertising community should be watching the Emmy Awards at 8 PM ET on Fox, along with pre-award red carpet coverage on TV Guide Channel and E!. My colleague, Ed Martin has weighed in with his commentaries and favorites to win at JackMyers.com (where we will be blogging live during the awards and pre-show). While the most enjoyable part of the awards is matching your picks to the actual winners, with the Emmy Awards this has become an increasingly frustrating experience. It's been tough to swallow the Academy's choices in recent years. Barry Manilow for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program; Tony Shalhoub again winning last year for Monk; Julia Louis-Dreyfus' shocking win last year for The New Adventures of Old Christine.
But no matter what injustices the Academy might impose, and no matter which of my favorites were snubbed in the nominating process, here are a few of my choices for this year.
Outstanding Drama Series
Prediction: Boston Legal
Friday Night Lights should have been included in the category, but it would not have changed the outcome. The winner will either be The Sopranos or Boston Legal. It really comes down to Hollywood attitudes toward David Chase's finale: was it a classic (which it was) or was it a disappointing dud (idiocy). The Sopranos has always been more of a New York series than a Hollywood one, and there could be some backlash against HBO this year for a variety of reasons. But Boston Legal, as I have written many times, is in my opinion the only network series that consistently elevates the role of dramatic television as a contributor to the national dialogue and debate on issues ranging from Iraq, President Bush, abortion, diseases, insurance companies and other critical concerns. David E. Kelley proves himself, week after week, as the best writer in television history, and his team delivers week after week, delivering classic scenes that will be viewed for years. Why oh why haven't ABC and Fox Television (the studio) taken Alan Shore's (James Spader) summations to the jury and re-issued them all over the web, on DVDs and on iPod. Unfortunately, a website that was offering those scenes has been converted to a spoof of the series.
Another series I believe should be included in this category is FX's Rescue Me, in which Denis Leary delivers one of the great all-time TV performances, is consistently well written, and has great characters. Somewhat uneven this year, last year's season was a classic.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
Hugh Laurie, House
Denis Leary, Rescue Me
James Spader, Boston Legal
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
Prediction: Denis Leary
I can't be too disappointed with any winner here, except Hugh Laurie was not at his best and last year's winner Kiefer Sutherland and 24 were a joke this year. James Spader and James Gandolfini are both superb, and Spader transcends acting, giving real expression to Kelley's words. But his performance, as great as it may be, belongs to Kelley. Spader could surprise again, and it will either be the year of The Sopranos, or the series will walk away almost empty-handed. If it's the latter, Leary will be a winner, and well-deservedly. There are few performances on network television that are as captivating and few actors dominate the screen as completely as Leary does. Again, no one would have complained if Michael C. Hall (Dexter) or Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) had been nominated.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Patricia Arquette, Medium
Minnie Driver, The Riches
Edie Falco, The Sopranos
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Prediction: Minnie Driver
OK, this is a real long shot, and an unlikely one. I really think Kyra Sedgwick will win for The Closer, but I also believe the Hollywood Academy members tend to vote against series produced in New York and performers who live in New York. So while my second choice (and preference) is Edie Falco, she is also in a New York series and is a New Yorker. Ed Martin thinks Sally Field will win, since Hollywood really does like her; but I really don't like Brothers & Sisters.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
William Shatner, Boston Legal
T.R. Knight, Grey's Anatomy
Masi Oka, Heroes
Michael Emerson, Lost
Terry O'Quinn, Lost
Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
Prediction: Michael Imperioli
I know, he's a New Yorker in a New York series. But William Shatner has won multiple times, favorite Masi Oka really isn't that great an actor and O'Quinn could be a sleeper. But, damn it, Imperioli has delivered great performances year-after-year, and although he has already won for season five, I predict he'll win again this year. Actually, though, I'm rooting for Shatner. His performances, week-after-week, are classic, but I think even Hollywood doesn't want him to win again.
For best supporting actress in a drama series, I have no prediction. All the actresses are excellent and deserving. For the heck of it, I'll throw out the name Rachel Griffiths of Brothers & Sisters, mostly for her performance on Six Feet Under.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Two and a Half Men
Prediction: Ugly Betty
This is my favorite category, which The Office won last year, deservedly. I don't especially like Ugly Betty, couldn't care less about the characters, and really don't like the idea of predicting it to win. I love Entourage, but last year's season was far from great. Every episode of The Office is a classic and it deserves another Emmy. 30 Rock is the best sitcom on television and would get my vote. But the New York jinx will hurt its chances. Two and a Half Men sucks, although Charlie Sheen is great. So that leaves Ugly Betty. It's the category that will leave me scratching my head.
Outstanding Lead Actor in Comedy Series: There is no doubt whatsoever that Alec Baldwin should win, but I don't think he will. The New York thing. Steve Carell should win, but something tells me he won't. No, I think the Academy will prove how cool it is and give the statue to Ricky Gervais. And there is nothing wrong with that. I'm okay with anyone except Tony Shalhoub.
Outstanding Lead Actress in Comedy Series: If Louis-Dreyfus wins again, the Academy has neither taste nor intelligence. How she gets nominated is beyond me. Mary-Louise Parker is stunning and deserving, but a New Yorker (and is Weeds actually a sitcom?) Tina Fey is brilliant, but more as writer than actor, and she's a New Yorker in a New York series. I suppose Felicity Huffman could win but last year should have been her year. No the winner will be America Ferrara, for Ugly Betty. No complaints if she wins.
Outstanding Supporting Performances in Comedy Series: I'll give best supporting actor in a comedy series to Rainn Wilson, and will be okay with any winner other than Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men. But since he's the new Sean Hays (Will & Grace), he just might take the trophy. And finally, for best supporting actress in a comedy series, I'd like to see Jenna Fischer on stage for her beautifully nuanced performance, but I expect to see Elizabeth Perkins for Weeds, who actually delivered the best supporting performance of the year and is a blast to watch.
Outstanding Reality Competition Program: The Amazing Race (although I'd love to see Top Chef win).