In Depth

Familiar Faces Or Fresh Blood?

TV Academy May Break Away From Usual Suspects

When the 60th Primetime Emmy Award nominations are announced July 17 at 5:35 a.m. PT, will we be hearing the names of the same actors, actresses and shows the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has honored in the past? According to one expert, Joel Keller of AOL’s TVSquad.com, we should not be surprised if that’s the case.

“The Academy has proven that it’s not particularly adventurous,” Mr. Keller said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Tony Shalhoub nominated and winning almost every year.”

On the other hand, Michael Ausiello, who just moved from TV Guide to Entertainment Weekly, has faith in the Academy. “Last year I seem to remember it felt like the same old, same old, but I have a feeling that this is the year we’re going to see cable’s dominance, even more so than seasons past. I’m pushing for some new blood.”

In particular, Mr. Ausiello expects the story of the day on July 17 will be AMC’s “Mad Men.” Created by “The Sopranos” veteran Matthew Weiner, the cutting-edge drama, set in the world of advertising in the 1960s, dissects the culture, attitudes and mores of the time.

“I look for ‘Mad Men’ to really sweep the nominations, especially the acting in a drama series; it’s a show that enjoyed enormous critical response,” said Mr. Ausiello. “Even though it wasn’t seen by a whole lot of people, it seems to me the kind of show that Emmy voters would love.”

Mr. Keller also is sure “Mad Men” will get a slew of nominations, including drama series.
“Also ‘House,’ ‘The Wire’ and ‘Friday Night Lights,’” he said. “‘In Treatment,’ maybe, just going by buzz. Not sure about ‘Dexter’ or ‘Lost.’”

HBO’s sophomore series “Big Love” gets big props from Mr. Ausiello. “It would top my list. That was the most entertaining hour of TV last year. Whether the Emmy voters agree, who knows?” he said. “‘Friday Night Lights’ is a long shot, again, but it deserves to be nominated and was snubbed last year. Many people believe that ‘The Wire’ is the best show on television. For the final season, ‘The Wire’ deserves to be on the list, but it’s a crowded competition. And ‘Lost’ had a great season, too.”

In addition to those dramas, there are others that will get consideration, like two critical favorites from Showtime, “Dexter” and “The Tudors.” FX’s “Rescue Me” and “Damages” also are high-profile cable candidates.

CBS’ procedural dramas—the “CSI” titles, “Cold Case,” “Without a Trace,” “Numb3rs” and “Criminal Minds”—would be surprise nominees, despite their strong Nielsen numbers. However, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Boston Legal” and “Brothers & Sisters” might sneak in.

“Battlestar Galactica,” a water-cooler hit in its final season on the Sci Fi Channel, could be a surprise Emmy nominee as well. Many insiders have pointed to Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, the two leads, as actors who should be on Emmy’s short list.

There is no shortage of talented men to consider for actor in a drama series. James Spader won last year for “Boston Legal,” so he would seem a likely repeat nominee. Ted Danson has received critical praise for his change-of-pace dramatic turn in “Damages,” and Jon Hamm is called a dead certainty for “Mad Men.”

According to Mr. Ausiello, “You can add Bryan Cranston from ‘Breaking Bad.’ I would definitely add him. Hugh Laurie was snubbed the year before last. He should definitely get nominated. He’s so consistently awesome, and God knows he’s in every scene of that show. He deserves to finally win.”

The Television Critics Association awarded “Friday Night Lights” its highest honor for drama last year, but the Emmys didn’t even give it or its stars a nomination.

“I am personally pulling for Kyle Chandler for ‘Friday Night Lights.’ He was snubbed last year and he deserves to make the cut,” said Mr. Ausiello, adding he also thinks “Lost” will be recognized. “Matthew Fox on ‘Lost.’ People always take him for granted; he’s an under-the-radar actor. He doesn’t do flashy, scenery-chewing work. He’s very subtle and very reliable. I’d like to see him nominated, but Jon Hamm in ‘Mad Men’ and Michael C. Hall in ‘Dexter’ are shoo-ins.”

So, too, is Mr. Chandler’s leading lady, said Mr. Ausiello. “I’ve got to pull for Connie Britton from ‘Friday Night Lights.’ She was just fantastic.” Other potential nominees for actress in a drama include last year’s winner, Sally Field, from “Brothers & Sisters,” as well as Golden Globe winner Kyra Sedgwick for TNT’s “The Closer” and heavyweights Glenn Close for “Damages” and Holly Hunter for TNT’s “Saving Grace.”

“Do not rule out the three women from ‘Big Love,’” said Mr. Ausiello. “The first season was not so great, but in the second season it became a completely different show and it was so much better. The three women delivered the work of their careers, particular Ginnifer Goodwin. She might have gotten overshadowed by Chloe Sevigny and Jeanne Tripplehorn, but I’d be happy with any one of them nominated. Glenn Close is a shoo-in for ‘Damages.’”

For comedy series, both Mr. Keller and Mr. Ausiello agree that ABC’s new dramedy “Pushing Daisies” is a sure thing. “It’s going to have the most decent showing of all the new broadcast shows,” said Mr. Keller. “That’s the one that made the Golden Globes cut and I think it’ll be the same thing with the Emmys.”

NBC has done well with the comedy series Emmy, with “The Office” and “30 Rock” winning in recent years. “But you can rule out ‘My Name Is Earl,’” said Mr. Ausiello. “The ratings were down … with the Earl-in-prison plot. ‘Ugly Betty,’ too. And I think ‘The New Adventures of Old Christine’ could get a crack at the best comedy category. If the Emmys decide to shake things up this year and inject some new blood, there’s a shot for ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ but what do you leave out, ‘The Office’?”

The dark horse in the comedy category could come from HBO. “‘Entourage’ is eligible, but the feeling is that ‘Entourage’ had an off season. But ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ was really revitalized. Larry David was great and it was really funny this year,” said Mr. Ausiello.

Another dark horse, one not likely to be remembered, is a young actor from the recently canceled CW show “Aliens in America.” “I’d give Adhir Kalyan [as Raja] a nomination, but he’s a total long shot for a show that few people saw,” Mr. Ausiello said. “If Emmy voters remember that and don’t just vote out of habit, then I think this could be the year for new blood.”

The usual suspects in the actor in a comedy category include Alec Baldwin for “30 Rock,” Steve Carell for “The Office” and Charlie Sheen for “Two and a Half Men.” The star of “Pushing Daisies” is a possible nominee.

“Yes, Lee Pace might slide in there. As for ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ I can’t see Josh Radnor being enough of a standout from the rest of that cast to make it. Eddie Izzard on ‘The Riches’ seems way too serious this year to be considered a comedy,” said Mr. Keller.

In the category of actor in a comedy, however, the name of Tony Shalhoub must be included. The star of “Monk” has won three Emmys for portraying the title character, and unless he removes his name from contention, he’ll continue to be a prime candidate to win.

“I’ve often believed that when an actor wins so many times for the same role, the right thing to do is bow out gracefully and give other people a shot,” said Mr. Ausiello. “What tends to happen is that after you keep winning, there’s a little bit of a backlash against that person. I know I feel it in the pressroom every time Tony’s name comes up and he wins, there’s this sigh because it’s the same old, same old.

“It’s not that he isn’t a fantastic actor, and I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve to win, but it’s nice to see new faces get into the race. It’s nice to see surprises,” he added. “It gets boring when the same actors win over and over again.”