Envy At The Emmys

It's not just HBO: Basic cable channels may steal more of broadcast networks' thunder at tonight's awards

September 16, 2007|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

HOT ON THE HEELS OF A SUM-mer that saw audience levels sink to an all-time low, the broadcast networks could be in for more pain yet tonight at the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

The Emmy telecast is designed to promote the start of the new fall season on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW. But tonight's program on Fox could wind up celebrating the cable industry instead -- all those regulation-free channels that have been thrashing the networks in the ratings in recent months.

Cable has come to be the place for quality TV series, and that claim isn't limited to such expensive premium channels as HBO and Showtime. Basic advertiser-supported outlets, such as TNT and AMC, which boast such hits as The Closer and Mad Men, respectively, should be among tonight's biggest winners. AMC's Broken Trail, a sprawling Western miniseries starring Robert Duvall, has 16 nominations.

In fact, it could be an all-out cable romp depending on whether Hollywood wants to give HBO's The Sopranos the sendoff it deserves despite creator David Chase's copout of a finale. The telecast will feature a musical salute to the series by the cast of the Broadway show Jersey Boys. (The production is based on the music of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, and Valli played a gangster in the HBO series.)

Here are my picks for who will win tonight, and they are decidedly cable-centric.

Full disclosure: I have recently screened many of the episodes entered in major categories. I received them from Tom O'Neil, columnist for the Envelope.com, a Hollywood awards Web site. In return, I share my picks with O'Neil, who posts them on his site.

The judges of the Emmys that will be awarded tonight are supposed to have voted on the basis of those episodes only -- not the overall performance during the year.

According to O'Neil, author of The Emmys, the definitive book on the history of the awards, fewer than 150 members cast the final votes in each category.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

ON TV The 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards show airs at 8 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45)

Readers' top Emmy picks

Sun readers expect The Sopranos and The Office to win Emmys, in more than 1,100 votes cast by Thursday at baltimoresun.com.

Drama

The Sopranos

Comedy

The Office

Actor, drama

James Gandolfini, The Sopranos

Actress, drama

Edie Falco, The Sopranos

Actress, comedy

America Ferrera, Ugly Betty

Actor, comedy

Steve Carell, The Office

Supporting actor, comedy

Rainn Wilson, The Office

Supporting actor, drama

Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos

Supporting actress, drama

Lorraine Bracco, The Sopranos

Supporting actress, comedy

Jenna Fischer, The Office

Reality-competition

American Idol

Miniseries

Prime Suspect

Up for awards: `Sopranos,' `Closer,' `Monk'

DRAMA SERIES - Sopranos (HBO), Grey's Anatomy (ABC), Heroes (NBC), House (Fox) and Boston Legal (ABC)

My pick: The Sopranos

My reasons: Among the episodes entered by HBO is "Kennedy and Heidi," the one in which Tony (James Gandolfini) kills his nephew, Christopher (Michael Imperioli), and then goes off on a hero quest that ends in the desert outside Las Vegas - with Tony high on peyote, sex and the sunrise. The hour was so shocking, rich and emotionally rocking that it left me exhausted. As compelling as Grey's Anatomy has been week to week, and as great a lift as the refreshingly original Heroes gave all of network TV, nothing on either series can compare with The Sopranos in an episode like this. Even though the series has won only once, and no other drama that has already ended its run has ever won, I'm betting on the bad guys.

COMEDY SERIES -Ugly Betty (ABC), 30 Rock (NBC), The Office (NBC), Entourage (HBO) and Two and a Half Men (CBS)

My pick: 30 Rock

My reasons: I probably should be picking Ugly Betty. It certainly was the most pleasant comedic surprise of the last season. But I have been pulling for 30 Rock since I saw its frenetic and daring pilot last year. That episode alone should earn an Emmy. And there's no better comedy ensemble right now than Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski.

ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES - Hugh Laurie, House (Fox); James Spader, Boston Legal (ABC); Denis Leary, Rescue Me (FX); Kiefer Sutherland, 24 (Fox); James Gandolfini, The Sopranos, (HBO)

My pick: James Gandolfini

My reasons: Acting awards are based on only one episode this year (up until last year, it was two). Gandolfini's episode is "The Second Coming," which included Tony knocking out the teeth of a rival wiseguy who menaced his daughter, and rescuing his son from a suicide attempt in the backyard pool where Tony once played host to a family of ducks. Gandolfini's range is extraordinary, and in this episode, he plays rage better than anyone this side of Robert De Niro. No contest. Even Hugh Laurie as the cranky Dr. House doesn't play in this league.

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