60 years of Primetime Emmy Awards

Can a slew of cable nominations put a new shine on the statuettes?

No one should have been surprised when, following the July 17 televised nomination announcements for the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, a cake festooned with candles was brought onstage to celebrate the milestone. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences clearly feels there's something to celebrate.

And in a sense, there is: Television in the new millennium is brighter and bolder than ever. The flip side, however, is that given more choices of what to watch, splintered audiences have driven ratings down across the board -- a situation that wasn't helped by the 100-day WGA strike of 2007-08. And Emmy's own ratings have been sliding -- last year's 8.4 rating was the lowest since 1990 according to The Nielsen Co., though ads were more expensive than ever ($535,100 for 30 seconds, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus).

The 60th ceremony on Sept. 21 could prove a watershed for the medium. Cable nominations totaled 224 this year, setting a record; and despite some repetition in reality show and comedy categories, three new drama programs pushed their way into the top slots.

Additionally, if voters so choose, L.A.'s Nokia Theatre might light up with such live wires as Robin Williams (for guest actor drama on NBC's "Law & Order: SVU"), Larry David (for HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm") or Sarah Silverman (for her digital short, "I'm F***ing Matt Damon" -- one of her three noms) taking the stage.

Of course, none of them may make it up there. Prevailing wisdom says it's much tougher to guess an Emmy victory than an Oscar win, but that won't stop The Hollywood Reporter from trying. Here we begin the first of seven issues that dissect the awards and look at potential winners.

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