One critic's opinion
Will win: "Mad Men" (AMC)
Should win: "House" (Fox)
With a category made up of nearly all cable nominees (the exceptions, "House" and "Lost" are essentially cable shows that happen to be on broadcast), picking a winner is harder than asking Don Draper to keep it in his pants. "Mad Men" has zeitgeist, buzz and major marketing on its side, and is probably on its way to garnering another statuette. But season after season, "House" maintains credibility, intensity and sheer ballsiness -- and doesn't need the crutch of cable to do it. A combination of familiar structure (crazy illness, drawn-out diagnosis) and storytelling grit (this season: suicide, drug-fueled hallucinations, the madhouse) makes this show a can't miss every week -- though waiting until after the dinner hour is advisable.
Will win: "30 Rock" (NBC)
Should win: "The Office" (NBC)
Barring a tsunami-sized backlash, "30 Rock" should hit the trifecta this year. But the ephemerality of its humor can make whole episodes feel like extended interstitials. Contrast that with "The Office," which consistently delivers more bang per buck, more wry and dry laughs side-by-side with Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson's egoless physical comedy, plus empathetic, believable (yes, I did say that) romances -- and add in that they pumped out 26 episodes in Season 5, and the choice should be clear. Staple that to your forehead.
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Will win: Jon Hamm, "Mad Men" (AMC)
Should win: Hugh Laurie, "House" (Fox)
Like his show, the all-American Hamm has an "it" factor right now that's hard to beat. But after five seasons and four nominations, for crying out loud -- give it to the Brit. Laurie stunned everyone at the show's debut by not just doing a spot-on accent, but by creating the most unstinting, irresistible curmudgeon ever seen on television. A hundred-plus episodes after he instantly found a groove for that characterization, Laurie could have relaxed and gone stale; instead, he continues to plumb new depths in his doctor -- letting the audience search desperately for a heartbeat.
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Will win: Glenn Close, "Damages" (FX)
Should win: Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men" (AMC)
It's hardly shocking to see such heavyweights as Holly Hunter, Glenn Close or Sally Field nominated; being a lead actress almost inevitably means you're in a role geared to your strengths. But over time there's been a meeting of the minds between "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner and his creation Peggy Olsen, and Elisabeth Moss has more than risen to the task. Olsen is the iconoclast in a series about conformity; Moss' combination of wide-eyed earnestness and steely feistiness makes her its heroine. Watching her step to the fore, fueled by better and better story lines, provides a weekly splash of color in the land of gray flannel suits.
Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Will win: Ernest Borgnine, "ER" (NBC)
Should win: Michael J. Fox, "Rescue Me" (FX)
Michael J. Fox has run the gamut of roles in his career, but it took "Rescue Me" to make him frightening. Each week, the show continues to add new shades to dark humor, and by throwing Fox as a wheelchair-riding loose canon into the mix, things went off the rails. Thanks to a mesh of wide-eyed crazy and focused anger, Fox forced audiences to look past the initial reaction of "Hey, Michael J. Fox is looking all right!" and see the actor beneath. Emmy's virtual shunning of "Rescue Me" has to come to an end sometime, but with "ER's" last gasp in the mix, don't count on it.
Reality -- Competition Program
Will win: "The Amazing Race" (CBS)
Should win: "American Idol" (Fox)
"The Amazing Race" is a worthy show, but it has hogged the award every year since inception. That said, "Race" has no global footprint when it isn't on. Compare that with "Idol," which spends a little more than four months each year actually airing, and then the remaining eight letting the world feel its aftereffects (bye, Paula!). This is a year-round, worldwide phenomenal spectacular that affects virtually all areas of the entertainment industry and draws every age group to the communal fireplace, while giving a pulse rating on the American people no poll can detect. The tide has to turn sometime -- and this year oughta do it.