As new TV rolls out, Sunday’s Emmy Awards will honour last season’s greats.
And while everybody nominated wants to be a sure thing, nobody watching wants to see a clean sweep of favourites.
Luckily for awards-show junkies, this year’s categories are stacked with possible upsets.
'Top Chef' will probably take this, mostly because unlike almost all reality shows it's got the sophistication one might associate with a fancy award.
But 'American Idol,' like it or not, staged a major reinvention last season -- and, in terms of ratings, it worked. Sure, the Emmys are all about art, but the larger the scale, the bigger the risks -- and 'Idol' made it work.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: 'So You Think You Can Dance' delivers ratings, but its judges have failed to connect with consumers. It's nobody's favourite anything. Except for, maybe, their favourite emcee...
The stunning Brit charmed as a guest host on 'LIVE! With Regis and Kelly' this year, and she could unseat Tom Bergeron of 'DWTS' and King Seacrest of 'Idol.'
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Well, there are only four nominees here, so Deeley is kind of both. But we think people are starting to get weary of Jeff Probst.
Lynch's acerbic tongue kept 'Glee' rolling as much of it went off the rails -- and virtually everyone adores her.
But if Kristen Wiig gets a 'Bridesmaids'-inspired win, it will still be well-earned -- she is the reigning queen of 'Saturday Night Live' and has a workload that seems to double any other castmember's. It's also her fourth nomination in a row.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Jane Krakowski of '30 Rock' may be the lowest-profile lady on this list -- but we never tire of her delusions-of-grandeur character, one that could have easily become shrill in another actress's hands.
'Modern Family' has flooded the zone here: O'Neill, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson are all nominated (and Stonestreet won last year). Burrell's looking like the frontrunner, thanks to his goofy, klutzy dad character.
But out of these guys, O'Neill is the one who gets the most organic laughs -- he doesn't need a stunt or even a joke, really. In a show that delivers a laugh every minute and makes it look easy, O'Neill's managed to sneak in some poignant emotional growth.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Jon Cryer's been an awfully good sport, popping up on 'Conan' and 'Ellen' to make light of Sheenmania, but nobody's getting anything for 'Two and a Half Men' on our watch.
Margo Martindale of 'Justified' has enjoyed the lion's share of critical fawning of late -- even Patton Oswalt wrote a love letter to her in last weekend's New York Times Magazine.
But 'Boardwalk Empire,' a show that's gotten raves across the board, is starting to look, well, too across the board. It features several luminous women, but MacDonald is the best and most likable -- and it's time the show firmly identified its strongest actress. Plus, Emmy voters like MacDonald -- she took home a statue in 2006 for a miniseries performance.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Christine Baranski takes a backseat to Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi on 'The Good Wife,' but it doesn't mean she's not just as good.
This category's frontrunner is tough to call -- the oft-nominated, never-winning John Slattery of 'Mad Men' could pull it out this year. So could the 'Good Wife' powerhouse Eli Cumming.
But we like Dinklage, who's become the twinkling face and folk hero of HBO's instant hit 'Game of Thrones.' It's too early for the series to win it all, but Dinklage is having a moment, Emmy or no.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Andre Braugher's turn on TNT's 'Men of a Certain Age' was applauded, but he'd only get the Emmy if voters were truly outraged at the network for cancelling that show and wanted to use up their choice to tell them so.
People just don't get sick of Tina Fey -- and over the past year, she's been feted by the Kennedy centre, released a bestseller and stood up for working mums in The New Yorker. '30 Rock' is well into its run, but with new comedies and actresses on their way up, voters could feel like this is their last chance to honour Fey.
Still, it's unequivocally Poehler who should win this award. She's not just standalone hilarious; the cast of 'Parks and Rec' looks so talented because she's the sublime foil to all of them.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Martha Plimpton is perfect in 'Raising Hope,' but the show itself is still lost in the shuffle.
This year will be, and should be, Steve Carell's year -- he has, staggeringly, never won for 'The Office.' And now that his desk is cleaned out, it's time.
But OK -- we'll go with Louis C.K., who has a .01 per cent chance of grabbing a win. His darkly funny show broke more ground in the season that just wrapped than it did the one he's nominated for, but don't count out Emmy voters in love with comedy cred.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Matt LeBlanc hasn't gotten the full praise he deserves for 'Episodes' -- if there was an Emmy for 'Best In A Role Different From Old 'Friends' Character,' he'd get our vote for playing himself.
It might not seem like such a risk, going with a 'Mad Men' star -- but Julianna Margulies is the heavyweight here.
Still, when the Emmys function perfectly, they reward amazing actors just coming off a season role that made their old amazing look bad. Moss is teed up for this recognition, and it should be her podium moment.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Kathy Bates. We love this woman, and we don't want to be mean but -- really? 'Harry's Law'?
Much like the series he fronts, Jon Hamm is just incredibly hard to beat in this category -- especially after a season in which he more than rose to the new life Matthew Weiner created for him.
But if 'Friday Night Lights' is going to pull off a surprise win, this is where it will be: Kyle Chandler stands for the show's long record of excellence. We'd vote for him just to see the inevitably inspirational acceptance speech.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: Timothy Olyphant has seen his profile creep up this year -- his arc on 'The Office' didn't hurt, and he's got 'Damages' loyals pulling for him too.
Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher are all heavyweights in this category -- but what's most interesting about it is its two newcomers.
'Conan,' still a medium-longshot, will aim to put the golden ending on a story of late-night backstabbing and fan-fuelled comebacks.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: If we're being truthful, though, Jimmy Fallon's 'Late Night' is the comedically better show -- and, with its hashtag challenges and beer pong segments, the one better positioned to keep young audiences captivated.
The favourite here is 'Modern Family' -- the formidably casted winner in this category last year.
But 'Big Bang Theory' has been racking up accolades for the past year -- Jim Parsons won the Emmy for best comedy actor last year, and his co-star, Johnny Galecki, was nominated for the first time this year. Plus, show creator Chuck Lorre enjoyed some sympathetic goodwill all summer as the newly-reformed Charlie Sheen decimated him in the press.
UNDER-UNDERDOG: 'Parks and Recreation.' It won't happen, but by our estimation, it's taking way too long for people to catch onto the genius that is Amy Poehler's small-town comedy.
'Mad Men' is so persistently good, it's never wise to bet against them.
But 'The Good Wife' isn't just CBS's darling -- it's the saviour of network TV at large, which has had its collective butt handed to it by cable channels over the past few years. And the industry loves 'The Good Wife' for turning the tide. Besides, it's just damn good -- riveting, timely and occasionally noirish.
THE UNDER-UNDERDOG: 'Friday Night Lights.' The iconic show bounced around and went out relatively quietly, so it's generally off voters' radar. But what a sports-story-perfect upset it would be.
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