Usual Suspects

Reality and nonfiction series nominees will likely sound familiar

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It's starting to feel like the blue-ribbon panel that decides the reality series nominees is simply gathering for a quick coffee and rubber-stamping last year's list.

That might sound harsh, but the consistency of the nominees since the categories were introduced (in 2001 for reality series and 2003 for reality competition series) is almost embarrassing at this point.

In the reality category, it has been a steel cage match between ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and Bravo's "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" for the past four years. "Makeover" took the Emmy in '05 and '06, "D-List" has won the past two years. Given the economy, a swing toward do-gooding reality shows could boost "Makeover."

As for the other three slots, expect PBS' "Antiques Roadshow" to pop up again (as it has for the past four years), and potentially A&E's "Intervention," also benefiting from the trend toward shows that help people. Wildcards could include Discovery's "Dirty Jobs," VH1's "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" or even a diary show like Oxygen's "Tori & Dean" or TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8."

On the competition side, the consistency is downright boring. CBS' "Amazing Race" is the only show to ever win in this category (six times and counting), so a nomination is certain. Fox's "American Idol" is another lock (a bridesmaid for the past six seasons), as is ABC's ratings winner "Dancing With the Stars."

Bravo's "Top Chef" could slip in for the third year in the row, and, since the academy tends to honor hit shows in this category, the final slot might go to NBC's "Biggest Loser" or "Celebrity Apprentice"; CBS' "Survivor"; Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" or "So You Think You Can Dance" or perhaps even ABC's "Wipeout."

Over in the outstanding nonfiction series category, the nominees are often a familiar roll call. PBS' five-time series winner "American Masters" won last year (tying with Showtime's "This American Life"). Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio," BIO's "Biography" and Discovery's "Deadliest Catch" all have garnered attention in the past.

But shiny newcomers tend to squeak into the field and often win. Yes, 2006 winner "Ten Days that Unexpectedly Changed America" and 2007 winner "Planet Earth" both qualified as series because they had multiple episodes, but they weren't recurring "series" in the same sense as "Catch" or "Studio." Since 2005, when "Broadway: The Musical" earned the prize, so-called "event series" have entranced Emmy voters. Last year was a surprise only in that five-time series winner "American Masters" once again nabbed the award.

This year, expect much of the same (though "Life" is not eligible): The lineup likely will include "Catch," "Studio," "Masters" and "Biography." But the upstart outsiders include History's "Expedition Africa," BIO's "I Survived ..." and a real dark horse, PBS' "Make 'Em Laugh" show about the history of comedy.