Experts make their primetime Emmys predictions

5:00 AM PST 08/15/2007 by Randee Dawn, AP

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Getting paid to review TV shows might seem like the life of a couch potato, but television critics, like many who review the arts, wage a constant battle over what they think should win awards and what will likely win.

That's why, among the four critics selected to predict the results of this year's Primetime Emmy Awards, there's much hemming and hawing over not just who gave great performances or which shows put on outstanding productions (America Ferrera, James Gandolfini, Kyra Sedgwick and the much-overlooked Fox reality show "American Idol") but over the titles, networks and names that will likely swing voters in their respective categories. It's the last season of HBO's "The Sopranos," so it will win. CBS' "The Amazing Race" always wins, so it'll keep the streak going. And if you've made a longform production and you're up against HBO, well, enjoy the shrimp and the limo ride, buddy. (That said, AMC's "Broken Trail" has a lot of good Emmy karma behind it.)

After a year of watching more TV than just about any other American soul, these critics have their choices down pat. Well, mostly. Here are our four: USA Today's Robert Bianco, Newsday's Diane Werts, TV Guide's Matt Roush and Dallas Morning News vet Ed Bark, who now runs unclebarky.com.

Robert Bianco, USA Today

Drama series: "The Sopranos" (HBO)

"The expectation has to be that 'The Sopranos' will win in its final season as a validation less of this season than of all that has gone before in the show's history. Would have been a more interesting race if (ABC's) 'Lost' and (NBC's) 'Friday Night Lights' had been nominated -- two shows that might have given it a run for its money, but out of this group it's hard to imagine any of those shows beating 'The Sopranos.' How can you watch 'The Sopranos' and then vote for (ABC's) 'Boston Legal'?"

Comedy series: "30 Rock" (NBC)

"Comedy is such an interesting race this year because you have (CBS') 'Two and a Half Men,' which is a solid, standard sitcom. You have (NBC's) 'The Office' and '30 Rock,' both funny, edgier comedies, (HBO's) 'Entourage,' which has a big following, and (ABC's) 'Ugly Betty' if people want to go the drama/comedy route. My guess is that '30 Rock' wins, that it has the best ability to produce six very funny episodes for judges to watch. 'Ugly Betty' can be rewarded in other categories. I like the comedy series to go to an actual comedy -- I'm funny that way."

Lead comedy series actor/actress:
Alec Baldwin (NBC's "30 Rock")
America Ferrera (ABC's "Ugly Betty")

"It's hard for me to imagine anyone other than Alec Baldwin taking this unless they just decide that it's too much of a supporting role. He was so funny and brilliant in that show, which takes nothing away from Ricky Gervais (HBO's 'Extras'), who is flat-out brilliant in everything he does. As for actress in a comedy, I think that's ... America Ferrera; they (should) reward her for 'Ugly Betty,' where she was so funny yet so sweet and daring."

Lead drama series actor/actress:
James Gandolfini (HBO's "The Sopranos")
Edie Falco (HBO's "The Sopranos")

"It's hard to imagine not rewarding James Gandolfini -- although (voters) have not always rewarded James Gandolfini in that category. As wonderful as Denis Leary (FX's 'Rescue Me') and Hugh Laurie (Fox's 'House') were this year, given one last chance to honor one of the great acting performances of our time, you take it. Sally Field in that category makes it a much closer race, because she's also a wonderful actress making a star turn in (ABC's) 'Brothers & Sisters,' but again, the way TV works, she can win next year. I would go with Edie Falco this year."

Lead made-for-TV movie or miniseries actor/actress:
Robert Duvall (AMC's "Broken Trail)
Helen Mirren (PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)")

"When you look at these categories, it just shows you what a weak year it was for miniseries and movies. But I would hope they give it to Robert Duvall, just to make up for not giving it to him for (1989's) 'Lonesome Dove.' This is a chance to right one of the most egregious of the Emmy wrongs. And how can Helen Mirren not win again for a magnificent performance in a character that had so much influence and so much impact on other actors in other shows? You don't get Kyra Sedgwick in (TNT's 'The Closer') without Helen Mirren in 'Prime Suspect.' "

Made-for-TV movie/miniseries:
"Longford" (HBO)
"Broken Trail" (AMC)

"The miniseries category isn't a bad race, because you have (USA Network's) 'The Starter Wife,' which is the lighter one, and it's nice to see someone doing a comedy miniseries. I'm guessing 'Broken Trail' on this one only because (voters) may feel if they reward Helen Mirren, then 'Prime Suspect' has won already. In the made-for-TV movie category, if (we) rush right now and put something on YouTube, we might be able to compete in this category. This may be one of the worst groups I've ever seen, so I'll go with 'Longford' because they have to give HBO something."

Reality program/reality competition program:
"Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" (Bravo)
"American Idol" (Fox)

"Why we need to have an Emmy competition between (PBS' 'Antiques Roadshow') and (Showtime's 'Penn & Teller: Bullshit!'), I don't know. It will probably go to (ABC's) 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' because it's hard to compete with the 'queen for a day' aspect of that show, but I would give it to ('Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List') because she amuses me and none of the others do. In the competition category, it would be fair if this was the year of 'American Idol,' since it never won, but since it was a down year -- oh, it can't possibly be 'The Amazing Race' again."


Diane Werts, Newsday

Drama series: "The Sopranos" (HBO)

"Please, no, say it isn't so -- not 'The Sopranos!' But the much-discussed finale, the series' initial impact and continuing cachet, and the HBO hype machine practically guarantees creator David Chase this last-chance award. I'd rather see the continually compelling -- and much more creative -- 'Heroes' (NBC) here. I'd like to see Santa Claus, too. Or at least the season's no-contest best drama, (FX's) 'The Shield,' actually getting a nomination!"

Comedy series: "30 Rock" (NBC)

"Call me crazy -- I still think the most reliably funny show on the tube is (Comedy Central's) 'South Park.' Fat chance there. If we must consider series with live people in the cast, I suspect the academy might actually go for '30 Rock.' It's got that adorable Tina Fey, that wacky Alec Baldwin, some smart writing and a focus on the industry itself. Possible demerit: filmed in New York, not Hollywood, thus enabling more runaway production. In that case, give 'The Office' the Emmy again."

Lead comedy series actor/actress:
Alec Baldwin (NBC's "30 Rock")
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine")

"Alec Baldwin in '30 Rock.' Otherwise, why bother? If the comedy award really goes for funny, then Julia Louis-Dreyfus will nail it again for the only conventional sitcom role on the list."

Lead drama series actor/actress:
Hugh Laurie (Fox's "House"); Multiple

" 'House' lead Hugh Laurie is head and shoulders above everybody else -- even the sainted 'Sopranos' god Gandolfini -- but he must make it look too easy. I'd like to believe voters are finally paying closer attention to the nuance of his abrasive genius. Two old faves are likely neck and neck on the femme side -- Sally Field and Edie Falco, both of whom merit recognition for fine work in tough roles."

Lead made-for-TV movie or miniseries actor/actress:
Tom Selleck (CBS' "Jesse Stone: Sea Change")
Helen Mirren (PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)")

"Robert Duvall might seem the clear favorite here for 'Broken Trail,' but never underestimate the appeal of Tom Selleck, especially when he plays more complex than viewers expect, as he does in CBS' films. And can anybody vote against 'Prime Suspect' diva Helen Mirren these days?"

Made-for-TV movie/miniseries: Multiple

" 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' is a big movie. Very Big. And important. Very Important. And it's HBO. Never mind that it's kind of a dramatic dud. Academies both movie and TV love this kind of big-ticket serious stuff. Robert Duvall's exquisite Western 'Broken Trail' actually deserves the miniseries award it will probably get simply for being epic and reviving a genre old-line Hollywood still loves."

Reality program: Multiple

"Wouldn't I love to see (Showtime's 'Penn & Teller: Bullshit!') debunkery take this one? It's such a fun, well-produced, surprising show. But alas, I'm sure, too 'edgy.' Nasty language and naked people! Let's figure the academy goes more for something sentimental -- (National Geographic Channel's) 'The Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan' -- aww -- or 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' -- double awwww."


Matt Roush, TV Guide

Drama series: "The Sopranos" (HBO)

"From this list, it's hard to see anything but 'The Sopranos' winning. One last salute to this landmark program for a stimulating, if imperfect, final season. The other nominees are on far shakier ground -- and without 'Lost,' (HBO's) 'The Wire' and 'Friday Night Lights' in the running, who really cares?"

Comedy series: "The Office" (NBC)

" 'The Office' will probably repeat for another strong, innovative season, but if lovability were the main factor, 'Ugly Betty' would have the best shot."

Lead comedy series actor/actress:
Alec Baldwin (NBC's "30 Rock")
America Ferrera (ABC's "Ugly Betty")

"Alec Baldwin was pure genius in '30 Rock': mercurial, unpredictable, hilarious. He deserves it, regardless of what the tabloids say. America Ferrera in a landslide (for actress). Warm, funny, never losing the heart beneath the grotesque facade, she is a breakout star in a breakthrough role."

Lead drama series actor/actress:

Hugh Laurie (Fox's "House")
Multiple

"A mix of the overnominated and the overdue. I've been predicting Hugh Laurie the last few years. I'll keep doing it until he wins. The show's incredible success rests on his shoulders. As long as he makes everyone but the viewer suffer, he's my pick, though James Gandolfini could benefit from a 'Sopranos' sweep." (For actress,) a tough call, with no evident front-runner. Sally Field is probably the popular and sentimental choice, and she was terrific, so she's my gut-reaction winner. But one last triumph for Edie Falco or a first win in the category for Kyra Sedgwick are just as likely scenarios."

Lead made-for-TV movie or miniseries actor/actress:
Robert Duvall (AMC's "Broken Trail")
Helen Mirren (PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)")

"This will make up for (Duvall's) somehow not winning one for 'Lonesome Dove.' This Western was almost that good. Likely dark horse among anglophiles: Jim Broadbent's heartbreaking performance as 'Longford.' Helen Mirren completes her trifecta begun last year with her dual Queen Elizabeths. Her final bow as Jane Tennison was electrifying."

Miniseries: "Broken Trail" (AMC)

"A throwback to the days when Western epics ruled TV and, again, correcting the injustice done to 'Lonesome Dove,' the gold standard of the genre."

Made-for-TV movie: "Longford" (HBO)

"Slim pickings here. ('Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee') is the most-nominated, but got mixed reviews. HBO's more intimate but devastating character study 'Longford' is the right, best and only choice."

Reality competition program: "The Amazing Race" (CBS)

"Once and for always, until something more spectacular comes around, 'The Amazing Race.' Even its more popular competition is puny in scale by comparison."

Reality program: "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (ABC)

"What an eclectic list this is. Again, purely in terms of production degree of difficulty and impact, I'd go with 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,' though Kathy Griffin's ('My Life on the D-List') is a lot more entertaining."

Bonus Extra Category

Lead drama supporting actor: Multiple

"Toughest call to me is drama supporting actor. It's the only place 'Lost' has a shot at winning, for either Michael Emerson or Terry O'Quinn. But how can you count out Masi Oka as the most endearing of the 'Heroes'? And T.R. Knight coming into his own as an essential team player (on ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy'). Factor in past winners William Shatner ('Boston Legal') -- again? -- and Michael Imperioli ('The Sopranos') -- who died for his character's sins --and you've got the year's biggest, best tossup."


Ed Bark, Unclebarky.com

Drama series: "The Sopranos" (HBO)

" 'The Wire' and 'Lost' should be in this category, displacing 'Boston Legal' and 'Grey's Anatomy.' But given the nominees, 'The Sopranos' should win in a walk and get a deserved curtain call. None of the other series are even in the vicinity in terms of quality, impact, or any and all other forms of excellence."

Comedy series: "30 Rock" (NBC)

" 'Ugly Betty' seems to be the odds-on favorite, given its success at past awards ceremonies. But I'd go with '30 Rock,' not only because it's consistently clever and funny but because it really could use a boost."

Lead comedy series actor/actress:
Alec Baldwin (NBC's "30 Rock")
America Ferrera (ABC's "Ugly Betty")

"Alec Baldwin is the likely winner, and there'd be no quarrel here. Still, I'd rather see Ricky Gervais at the podium. He's both the architect and the lead actor. Anyone but Tony Shalhoub (USA Network's 'Monk'), who's won quite enough, thank you. America Ferrera seems to be almost a cinch winner. I'd take Tina Fey for the same reasons as Gervais. Both on-camera and off -- she's '30 Rock's' driving force."

Lead drama series actor/actress:
James Gandolfini (HBO's "The Sopranos"); Multiple

"James Gandolfini doesn't need another Emmy but deserves this one anyway. Ditto for Edie Falco, although my pick would be Kyra Sedgwick, whose distinctive performance consistently overcomes shortcomings in the murder mystery plotting. Don't be surprised if Sally Field wins, though. The Emmy people love to honor feature film stars."


Lead made-for-TV movie or miniseries actor/actress:
Robert Duvall (AMC's "Broken Trail")
Helen Mirren (PBS' "Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)")

"The academy has a chance to atone, at least in small measure, for its most egregious gaffe ever -- not giving Robert Duvall an Emmy for 1989's 'Lonesome Dove.' Then again, Duvall might still be upset and not show up. And for best actress, you can never go wrong with Helen Mirren, although Queen Latifah was really good in HBO's little-seen 'Life Support.' "

Made-for-TV movie/miniseries: Multiple

" 'Broken Trail' and 'Prime Suspect' likely will be in a very close competition. For me, 'Broken Trail' was the tougher project to do right, and should get the statue. Ho-hum, the made-for-TV movie contenders make for a very weak field. In fact, (HBO's) 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' was voted the worst movie of the season in a trade magazine critics poll. For that reason it likely will win, although I'd go with 'Longford' on the strength of Jim Broadbent's strong performance in the title role."

Reality competition program: "American Idol" (Fox)

" 'The Amazing Race' has won every time out in this relatively new category. So let's swallow hard and give 'American Idol' an Emmy. Its impact alone tilts the scale in its favor."

Reality program: "Antiques Roadshow" (PBS)

"In the other reality category, I'd go with the venerable 'Antiques Roadshow.' But again in terms of programs that really make an impact, 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' also is worthy."
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