Long shots look to derail Emmy favorites

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Here's something crazy: It's going to be difficult for Sunday's 59th Primetime Emmy Awards to top last weekend's Creative Arts Emmy extravaganza that found Kathy Griffin managing to use Christ's name in vain during an acceptance speech and Elaine Stritch declaring, "I'm a recovering alcoholic, a riddled diabetic and I've got laryngitis -- but I just won an Emmy!"

Indeed, Tony Soprano has nothing on Griffin, whose outstanding reality series triumph for her Bravo series "My Life on the D-List" inspired her to utter remarks that are being censored from Saturday night's taped telecast on E! even though a "Saturday Night Live" parody tune titled "Dick in a Box" earned its own Emmy the same night.

By contrast, decorum is expected to carry the night Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium -- along with 15-time nominee "The Sopranos." It would, to be sure, prove a monumental upset were the iconic HBO mob hour somehow to be denied the statuette for outstanding drama series in its much-hyped swan song campaign.

However, if these confounding awards have taught us anything, it's that the Emmys are rarely anyone's rubber stamp. Were a long shot to derail the "Sopranos" coronation, it would prove on a par with Michael Chiklis' shocking victory in 2002 as lead drama series actor for FX's "The Shield." This, despite the fact a victory would make "Sopranos" the first drama in 30 years -- since PBS' "Upstairs, Downstairs" in 1977 -- to win in the category in its final season.

Of the four other nominees for outstanding drama, ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" is given the best shot at pulling the upset, more so than ABC's "Boston Legal," Fox's "House" or NBC's freshman hit "Heroes."

The race looks to be significantly more wide open for top comedy series, where there is no true heavy favorite and a case can be made for each of the five nominees. That said, it appears to be a three-way race between last year's victor, NBC's "The Office," and two rookies: the ABC hour "Ugly Betty" and NBC critical darling "30 Rock." But it wouldn't be a major shock were either HBO's "Entourage" or CBS' "Two and a Half Men" -- the only traditional comedy in the group -- to cart off the gold.

"Entourage" is bidding to become only the second cable comedy to earn a series Emmy (the first was HBO's "Sex and the City" in 2001). And were "Office" to win, it would become the first comedy to repeat in nine years, or since "Frasier's" five-year winning streak ended in 1998.

Speaking of five consecutive wins, that's precisely what CBS' "The Amazing Race" is looking to do in the reality-competition series category. It would tie "Frasier" for that particular Emmy record, but it's hardly considered a sure thing. Not only might "American Idol" finally win one of these things, even Bravo's "Project Runway" or ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" are seen as having a legitimate shot this time.

Despite the whole Sanjaya fiasco of the past season, "Idol" looks to have a little momentum. After having lost on its first 22 Emmy nominations, the show broke its drought Saturday when its "Idol Gives Back" special earned two statuettes, which means it's no longer in danger of breaking the all-time futility record of 25 winless noms set by "The Bob Newhart Show." There also is the synergy thing, with the Emmycast on Fox and "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest presiding this time.

Seacrest, by the way, will be the focus himself of much attention as he strives to rise above a reputation for being slick and smooth but bland. He has hinted that he might be doing a little song and dance on the show, which is typically hosted by a comedian like last year's host, Conan O'Brien, Ellen DeGeneres or Garry Shandling.

It also remains to be seen whether "Sopranos" has coattails that extend to its nominated performers, particularly its three-time Emmy-winning leads Edie Falco and James Gandolfini. Gandolfini will be hard-pressed to upend "House" star and this year's Golden Globe winner for lead drama actor, Hugh Laurie, while Falco is pitted against another Globe victor from this year, Kyra Sedgwick from TNT's "The Closer," as well as sentimental favorite Sally Field from ABC's first-year drama "Brothers & Sisters."

The lead comedy acting lineup finds Tony Shalhoub from USA Network's "Monk" bidding for his third victory in four years, though he isn't seen as the favorite. That would be "30 Rock's" Alec Baldwin (another Globe winner this year), who will be trying to snatch the trophy from Shalhoub and last year's favorite, Steve Carell for "Office."

America Ferrera looks to be the choice for lead comedy actress for her Globe-winning turn on "Betty," seen as emerging from a talented field that includes last year's winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus from CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine," as well as "30 Rock's" Tina Fey and Mary-Louise Parker from Showtime's "Weeds."

The made-for-TV movie race tips heavily in favor of HBO's American Indian saga "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," if not before then certainly after its chart-topping five wins at the Creative Arts ceremony. The top miniseries looks to be something of a dunk for the AMC two-part Western saga "Broken Trail," which starred Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church.
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