Veterans, newcomers contend for Emmy glory

Chris Letso

As the fall television season begins to take form, the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards have arrived to honor the best of the past year in TV.

If your busy schedule forced you to fall behind on the finest shows of 2008 and 2009, the Emmys will serve as a great reminder of what to catch up on through reruns or your online video player of choice. The Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles will be the site of this year’s star-studded ceremony.

Hosting duties are reserved for Mr. Doogie Howser himself, Neil Patrick Harris. Judging by his cameos in the “Harold and Kumar” films, it is sure to be an entertaining evening.

The popularity of HBO’s ever-growing amount of original programming makes it no surprise that the premium cable network leads the night with 99 nominations (this doesn’t make up for the fact that “The Wire” never won anything).

NBC’s comedy-infused lineup comes in second with 67 total nominations, while ABC, CBS and FOX round out the top five, respectively. In what some have labeled the “New Golden Age” of television, there are no sure-fire winners, but here are some of the favorites to take home the golden statues:

Best Series, Drama

AMC has to like its chances with both “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” representing for the movie-oriented channel; “Mad Men” is especially beloved by critics and viewers alike.

The rabid fans of ABC’s “Lost” are hoping for a follow up to 2005’s win in this category, and they certainly have a shot after a highly suspenseful penultimate season.

Also nominated are “Big Love,” “Damages,” “Dexter” and “House.”

Predicted Winner: “Mad Men”

Best Series, Comedy

The surprises here are “Flight of the Conchords” and “Family Guy,” and the former’s genre-spoofing tunes and deadpan comedy may actually give it a chance to win.

“The Office” is a consistent nominee but will probably not be victorious after a season that got off to a slow start.

Fellow NBC Thursday night comedy “30 Rock” is an Emmy powerhouse and is unlikely to slow down now.

Also nominated are “Entourage,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Weeds.”

Predicted Winner: “30 Rock”

Best Actor, Drama

Hugh Laurie receives his fourth nomination for his role in “House,” and having gone home empty-handed each of the previous three times, he’s a definite contender.

Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Simon Baker (“The Mentalist”) and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) all deserve praise for their work as well.

However, “Mad Men” has the critics’ hype that often leads to big nights for individual shows. Jon Hamm may very well take home his first Emmy from this category for his performance as Don Draper.

Also nominated is Gabriel Byrne, for “In Treatment.”

Predicted Winner:

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

Best Actress, Drama

In a field of veteran actresses, it could be the younger Elisabeth Moss who gets the Emmy for her role as Peggy the copywriter in “Mad Men” and possibly a sweep of the major Drama awards for her show.

Glenn Close is another favorite for her work in FX’s “Damages” as litigator Patty Hewes, while Kyra Sedgwick is up for the Emmy as Deputy Johnson in “The Closer,” her fourth nomination with no previous wins.

Also nominated are Sally Field in “Brothers & Sisters,” Mariska Hargitay in “Law & Order: SVU” and Holly Hunter in “Saving Grace.”

Predicted Winner:

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Best Actor, Comedy

Steve Carrell may be rewarded for his role as Michael Scott on “The Office” after losing three straight years.

Tough competition is provided by Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” and Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory,” two first-time acting nominees who are both deserving of an award.

Alec Baldwin, last year’s winner, is a critics’ favorite for his portrayal of Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock,” but it just might be a year for the newcomers; Clement is an especially deft comedian.

Also nominated: Tony Shalhoub, “Monk”; Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men.”

Predicted Winner:

Jemaine Clement,

“Flight of the Conchords”

Best Actress, Comedy

After Tina Fey’s epic year filled with Sarah Palin impersonations and the subsequent rise in popularity of “30 Rock,” there is little hope for any other actress in this category.

Also nominated are Toni Collette for “The United States of Tara,” Christina Applegate for “Samantha Who?”, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Sarah Silverman for “The Sarah Silverman Program” and Mary-Louise Parker for “Weeds.”

Predicted Winner:

Tina Fey, “30 Rock”

Best Reality-Competition Program

“The Amazing Race” has won this honor the past six years; why not bring it to a lucky number seven?

Although “American Idol” is the most-watched show on television, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has never been a fan.

“Project Runway,” “Top Chef” and “Dancing With the Stars” all have their share of hardcore viewers, but “The Amazing Race” seems to have the type of compelling drama, suspense and humor the voters value.

Predicted Winner:

“The Amazing Race”

Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series

“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” is looking to grab its seventh straight Emmy under this category, and it would be well-deserved. Stewart’s ability to permeate his comedy with sharp political commentary makes for a well-spent half-hour of TV.

Stephen Colbert’s “Colbert Report” deserves props as well, but he’s never beat out his counterpart for the Emmy, and he probably won’t now.

Election season brought “Saturday Night Live” back into the spotlight, but a couple months of McCain and Palin gags will not be enough to secure the award for Lorne Michaels and company.

Also nominated are “Late Show With David Letterman” and “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

Predicted Winner: “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”