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After a tough season, TV industry ready to celebrate

Awards ceremony will look back at some of best moments of past 60 years

09/21/2008 12:00 AM

09/21/2008 6:53 AM

It's hard to pick the bigger TV disaster last year: the long writers' strike or ABC's “Cavemen.”

Either way, it was a miserable year for the industry, but the show must go on. And tonight, the Emmys will, for the 60th time.

First, it has five hosts – everyone nominated for outstanding reality/competition host. That means Tom Bergeron of “Dancing with the Stars,” Heidi Klum of “Project Runway,” Howie Mandel of “Deal or No Deal,” Jeff Probst of “Survivor” and Ryan Seacrest of “American Idol” will share the duties.

The show will look back at some of the great lines from decades of TV. Expect to hear echoes of “Good night, John Boy,” “Live long and prosper,” “Luuuuucy, I'm home,” and “Cheeburger! Cheeburger!”

Classic sets will be shown when the telecast returns from commercials, including “Desperate Housewives,” “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons,” “The West Wing” and “M*A*S*H.”

But the show is really about who the members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, founded a month after network television started in 1946, chooses for its favorites.

Let's handicap the big categories.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy: Alec Baldwin in “30 Rock,” Tony Shalhoub in “Monk,” Steve Carell in “The Office,” Lee Pace in “Pushing Daisies,” Charlie Sheen in “Two and a Half Men.” Baldwin is probably the strongest contender, though Carell's star continues to rise.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy: Tina Fey in “30 Rock,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Christina Applegate in “Samantha Who?” America Ferrera in “Ugly Betty,” Mary-Louise Parker in “Weeds.” Ferrera won last year for her portrayal of the awkward Betty and is a good bet again this year. But Fey's “30 Rock” is one of the best – and most underappreciated – comedies on the tube. She probably should get one just for her imitation of Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama: James Spader in “Boston Legal,” Bryan Cranston in “Breaking Bad,” Michael C. Hall in “Dexter,” Hugh Laurie in “House,” Gabriel Byrne in “In Treatment,” Jon Hamm in “Mad Men.” Spader won last year and hasn't gotten any worse but Hamm is likely to carry the night in his '60s-era portrayal of a brooding Madison Avenue ad executive.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama: Sally Field in “Brothers & Sisters,” Kyra Sedgwick in “The Closer,” Glenn Close in “Damages,” Mariska Hargitay in “Law & Order” and Holly Hunter in “Saving Grace.” Field won last year, but Close turned in a stunning performance as the unhinged attorney in “Damages” and is my odds-on favorite.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Ralph Fiennes in “Bernard And Doris,” Ricky Gervais in “Extras,” Paul Giamatti in “John Adams,” Kevin Spacey in “Recount,” Tom Wilkinson in “Recount.” Gervais won last year and his entry this year is based on a single episode, the last of the HBO series. Look for Giamatti to take home the statue.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Catherine Keener in “An American Crime,” Susan Sarandon in “Bernard And Doris,” Dame Judi Dench in “Masterpiece Theatre,” Laura Linney in “John Adams,” Phylicia Rashad in “A Raisin in the Sun.” It's between Dench and Rashad. Probably Dench.

Outstanding Reality Competition Program: “The Amazing Race,” “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef.” “Amazing Race” won last year and is cued up for a repeat.

Outstanding Comedy Series: “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “The Office,” “Two and a Half Men.” Last year's favorite was “30 Rock,” and it's a strong contender. “Entourage” may be a Hollywood favorite, though.

Outstanding Drama Series: “Boston Legal,” “Damages,” “Dexter,” “House,” “Lost,” “Mad Men.” Smart bet is on “Mad Men,” but put a couple bucks on “Damages” to show.

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