Critics choice: Expect strong 'Sopranos' showing

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I've been working on a computer program that can spit out Emmy winners when I input all the nominees. I've developed a factor for nostalgia and sentiment, an adjustment for the number of voting members of each network, an algorithm to account for the specific episodes that are chosen and a coefficient to account for the impact made by changes in voting rules. I recently tried it. Ready for the results, I clicked on "winners." The program made a shrieking noise and began printing out a list of agents, managers, directors, producers and executives who need to be thanked. So, once again, it's back to the Ouija board.

COMEDY SERIES

What will win: ABC's "Ugly Betty." It's a perfectly respectable choice and a unique opportunity for the Academy to spotlight a show with a diverse cast and a Latina star. The only obstacle is Emmy's traditional reluctance to associate with freshman series.

What should win: NBC's "30 Rock." Half-hour comedy is struggling, but this could be the series that reignites the genre. Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels have created the ultimate sitcom from a world they know all too well. An Emmy win could bring in the viewers the show deserves -- and desperately needs.

DRAMA SERIES

What will win: HBO's "The Sopranos." It has been nominated every year it's been eligible since 1999, but won only in 2004. Blame "The West Wing." This year, for its final season, it should receive a nice parting gift.

What should win: NBC's "Heroes." It's a breath of fresh air and the forerunner of a new and powerful wave of sci-fi/fantasy programming.

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Who will win: James Gandolfini. The real competition is from James Spader, but it's hard to buck sentimentality for "The Sopranos."

Who should win: Denis Leary. This is his third consecutive nomination in this category, so obviously some people are taking notice. Just not enough.

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Who will win: Edie Falco. She's won three times before. Stay tuned for a "Sopranos" clean sweep of the top three drama categories.

Who should win: Minnie Driver. She crossed the pond, put on an American accent and soared in a role that was as complex as anything on TV last season.

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Who will win: Steve Carell. True, he's up against three-time winner Tony Shalhoub. But this might be an instance of the new voting rules having an impact.

Who should win: Carell. It's tempting to say Alec Baldwin, but his performance, good as it is, is not nearly as crucial to the overall quality of the series.

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Who will win: Tina Fey. It's risky to predict an Emmy for an actress in a freshman series, but Fey is not a TV newcomer and voters can relate to her character.

Who should win: Fey. She is brilliant. Beyond that, she proved that simply tweaking old sitcom formats the right way can make them young again.

MINISERIES

What will win: AMC's "Broken Trail." It has the stars, the sentiment, the second most Emmy noms -- and only two competitors in a category going the way of the buggy whip.

What should win: PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act." Helen Mirren surely will win for her final performance as Jane Tennison, but the entire miniseries is a winner as well.

MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE

What will win: HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." It led this year's field with 17 noms. That should translate to an Emmy victory.

What should win: "Wounded Knee." This wasn't a strong year for movies. HBO's "Longford" is a contender, but "Wounded Knee," with its conscience and perspective, will win the day.

REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM

What will win: CBS' "The Amazing Race." It's won the past four years because it has heart. Force of habit will help this year.

What should win: Bravo's "Project Runway." This is its third consecutive nom, and they've been deserved. It has a low exploitation factor and still manages to be highly entertaining.

VARIETY, MUSICAL OR COMEDY SERIES

What will win: Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." Stewart's acceptance speech is anticipated almost as much as the opening monologue.

What should win: Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." Has this become better than "The Daily Show" mother ship? Depends on the night, but "The Daily Show" has won this category four years running, so voters might opt to recognize "The Report's" smart satire this year.
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