Guest stars lend invaluable presence


Series guest actor and actress Emmy categories usually feel like an homage to the fine art of stunt casting. Episodes with "special guest stars" typically air during ratings sweep periods in the hopes of garnering a particular show just that extra wedge of attention. And it's an easy way for voters to pack their nomination lists with screen icons.

This past TV season saw the usual abundance of famous face one-shot appearances, with NBC's three "Law & Order" shows leading the pack in terms of sheer volume. Also in the running were high-profile types mocking themselves on HBO's "Extras," including David Bowie, Ian McKellen and Daniel Radcliffe.

But are actors really acting when portraying themselves? Other big names among this year's contenders are Nathan Lane, Will Arnett, Sean Hayes, Paul Reubens and Rip Torn (NBC's "30 Rock"); Marlee Matlin (CBS' "CSI: New York" and NBC's "My Name Is Earl"); Mick Jagger (ABC's "The Knights of Prosperity"); Cybill Shepherd (Showtime's "The L Word"); Edward Asner, John Goodman, Christine Lahti, Eli Wallach and Judd Hirsch (NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"); Martin Landau (HBO's "Entourage"); Sally Struthers (the CW's "Gilmore Girls"); Stanley Tucci (USA Network's "Monk"); and Steven Tyler (CBS' "Two and a Half Men").

Following are a few predictions about how the nominee lists in this year's guest categories might shake out.

Comedy Guest Actor
Martin Landau ("Entourage"), Ian McKellen ("Extras"), Will Arnett and Paul Reubens ("30 Rock"), Stanley Tucci ("Monk")

Comedy Guest Actress
Laurie Metcalf (ABC's "Desperate Housewives"), Isabella Rossellini and Elaine Stritch ("30 Rock"), Allison Janney ("Two and a Half Men"), Judith Light (ABC's "Ugly Betty")

Drama Guest Actor
Christian Clemenson (last year's winner in the category, for ABC's "Boston Legal"), John Mahoney (NBC's "ER"), Forest Whitaker (FX's "The Shield"), John Larroquette (Fox's "House"), Edward Asner ("Studio 60")

Drama Guest Actress
Leslie Caron ("Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"), Frances Sternhagen (TNT's "The Closer"), Kate Burton and Diahann Carroll (ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"), Jean Smart (Fox's "24")

Note: Both Smart and Whitaker were eligible a year ago in the supporting acting categories for "24" and "Shield," respectively, with Smart earning a nomination. But this past season, their roles were reduced to single appearances by their characters.