Friday, September 30, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - Part I

Ever since my Emmy Award predictions (11 out of 20 correct, which is tied with some of Emmy's top pundits, Thank You very much!), I have been asked to talk about my favorite shows.  I do watch a lot of TV (more than I should, but I digress!), so anytime I'm asked to talk about my Favorite shows, I can't help but start making lists.  But as I was making a list of my current Favorite shows, I couldn't help but think of the shows I have loved over my many years of watching TV.  Then, I realized that my list was dominated by Sitcoms.

The Situation Comedy is that weekly half-hour of zany antics, oddball characters and funny moments.  So I decided that I will devote the next five weeks of IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS to the 60 Best Sitcoms of All-Time.  Why 60?  I feel that Top 50 has been done to death. And doing a Top 100 just felt a little too "Everybody is a Winner!" and while that is fun in Kindergarten, this is the real world and tough choices have to be made.  You may be surprised by some of my choices and shocked at what might be left off.

Also, I felt I had to draw the line when it came to Sitcoms.  Too many shows these days (particularly on Showtime!) have drifted into the world of quirky comedy mixed with heavy dramatic overtones.  So you will see no "Dramedies," both of the hour-long variety (i.e. Ally McBeal, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and Glee) or the half-hour kind (i.e. The Wonder Years, Sex and the City and Nurse Jackie).

Then what exactly was my criteria for this list?  With the help of my Father and my Brother (two others who have watched a lot of TV!), I compiled a list based on several factors: audience popularity (or ratings), critical acclaim, awards presence, cultural momentum, historical significance and our own personal tastes.  The latter, of course, is probably the one most would want to argue with but it's my blog and I'll do what I want!  That all being said, let's begin the Countdown with the bottom 12.

60. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC (1990-1996)
The show that rally launched Will Smith's acting career.  It was a family Sitcom mixed with the "fish-out-of-water" element and was a ratings grabber on Monday nights.  And if you grew up in the 1990s, you know you memorized this show's theme song.

59. Community, NBC (2009-present)
Though it has only been on for 2 full seasons and has not been a tremendous ratings grabber for the Peacock Network, the show has managed to garner hefty critical support and many fans.  It weekly defies the standards of typical Sitcoms by doing "out-of-the-box" episodes (like their "animated" Christmas episode or their western/war-like Paintball episodes) and often poking fun at themselves (and other TV shows!) in the process.

58. Coach, ABC (1989-1997)
Craig T. Nelson won an Emmy for his work as a beleaguered Football coach of a Minnesota University.  For 9 years, audiences watched him handle a quirky staff (that included Jerry Van Dyke and Spongebob's Bill Fagerbakke), deal with his daughter's independence and date (and eventually marry) a professional newswoman (played by Shelley Fabares).

57. South Park, Comedy Central (1997-present)
Radical and (oftentimes) in-your-face crude, the kids from the tiny Colorado mountain town of South Park have reveled in their rebelliousness.  Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have used the cache they have gained from the series and used it in their other ventures (Broadway's The Book of Mormon and the South Park Movie!).

56. Scrubs, NBC/ABC (2001-2010)
Yet another show that defied typical Sitcom conventions with cutaways and daring episodes (like a Musical one!), Scrubs was a sleeper hit with critics and audiences began to appreciate it.  As their creative drive (as well as their ratings) began to dwindle on NBC, they made a change and moved to ABC for its final two seasons.

55. Head of the Class, ABC (1986-1991)
This charming series from ABC was always a delight during my childhood.  The series centered on High School Honors teacher Howard Hesseman and his quirky class of Honors students that included a wide range from typical nerds to preppy over-achievers to artistic types.  Plus, this was the show that brought the lovely Ms. Robin Givens to my attention!

54. Parks and Recreation, NBC (2009-present)
Critics are growing more and more fond of Amy Poehler and company as they make us laugh at the town of Pawnee, Indiana.  The show has garnered more love from fans and from the Emmys as this year both Poehler and the series garnered nominations for Best Actress and Best Comedy Series, respectively.

53. Diff'rent Strokes, NBC/ABC (1978-1986)
This family Sitcom that was daring in its premise and was pioneering in its use of the "very Special Episode" style of storytelling.  We all have favorite episodes that dealt with everyday family problems ranging from violence to drug abuse to child molestation.  Though we've since tragically lost actress Dana Plato and actor Gary "Wha'choo Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?" Coleman, we still have the show to remind us of their talents.

52. Welcome Back, Kotter, ABC (1975-1979)
The 1970s was filled with shows that turned the Leave It To Beaver standard on its ear.  And Welcome Back, Kotter was another example that showed the inner-city culture with a To Sir, With Love attitude.  Comedian Gabe Kaplan played the titular teacher returning to his alma mater to teach the tough (but sometimes lovable) Sweathogs that included John Travolta (who shot to film stardom!) as Vinny "Up Your Nose with a Rubber Hose!" Barbarino, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington (with his smooth catchphrase "Hi There!") and Ron Palillo as Arnold "Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!" Horshack.

51. The Drew Carey Show, ABC (1995-2004)
Though the show changed styles (and theme songs!) over its nine year run, Drew Carey's self-titled sitcom did have a mix of the Workplace Sitcom (with the dreaded Tammy Faye-style Mimi!) and the Buddy Sitcom (with Drew's moronic-yet-loyal friends).  All the while, Carey's hard-working schlub became lovable with critics and audiences.

50. The Office, NBC (2005-present)
Now that the show has started its first Steve Carell-less year, we shall see if the once critically acclaimed and award-winning (several Golden Globes and an Emmy win back in 2006) can be what it once was.  The "mockumentary" styled import (it was based on Ricky Gervais' British hit) has gained several fans and has made comedy all-stars of most of its cast members (like Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Mindy Kalling, etc.).

49. 3rd Rock From the Sun, NBC (1996-2001)
The premise of space aliens coming to study Earth culture was ripe with comedy in the hands of an extremely talented cast.  Led by John Lithgow (who won 3 Emmys for his efforts), the group of aliens (which included a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Kristen Johnston, who won 2 Emmys for her work) planted itself among the town of Rutherford, Ohio trying to blend in and pretty much fit in perfectly with the crazy people they met.

Next week, I will continue with the next 12 (#'s 48-37!).  So commence with your venting (nicely!) and maybe share some of your favorites!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GOLDEN PLACES: Scream for It!

You know you love it.  You know you want some.  So why try resisting it?  It's Ice Cream!  And it's there to be enjoyed and savored and consumed.  The people at the legendary and historic Fenton's Creamery in Oakland, California know this and have made a thriving business out of it for almost 90 years.

Located on Piedmont Avenue (a few blocks from the Kaiser Medical Center on MacArthur), the Fenton's story began back in 1894 when Elbridge Seth Fenton used to deliver dairy products to the Piedmont Avenue section of Oakland.  The family opened the Creamery and Soda Shop in 1922 and since then it has grown to a full restaurant with two other locations (at the Oakland Airport and in Vacaville, CA).  The Piedmont Avenue location has become practically an honorary historical landmark.  It has become a hub for families, tourists, Oakland natives, Cal Berkeley students and more.  It was even featured in the Disney/PIXAR hit Up in 2009 and gained a whole new generation of fans.  A visit to Oakland would not be complete without a visit to Fenton's.

I remember the first time my Grandparents (who lived in Oakland their entire 61 year marriage!) took my brother and me to Fenton's.  First of all, we were going to get Ice Cream, which is enough to get any child into a frenzy of delight.  Second, the joy we felt as we were served our (rather large!) portions of ice cream and we began tasting each other's choices was something you cannot buy nor duplicate.  All of my visits to Fenton's since (which, I will admit, have not been as many as I would like!) have not been the same, yet have still been quite as enjoyable because just being in that neighborhood and in that building brings back a kind of nostalgic high we all strive to hold on to.  Fenton's is truly one of California's GOLDEN PLACES and will always hold a special place in my heart and the hearts of my family.

Friday, September 23, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: 31 Years of Pop Culture

Tomorrow is a very special day, Blog readers.  In fact, I like to call it: The Holiest of Holy Days! Yes, tomorrow is my 31st Birthday.  I'm not ashamed to admit it (kind of!).  Today, for IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS, I want to go through the last 31 years of Pop Culture.  I won't go year by year (cause that would take to long, and quite honestly, depress the hell out of me!), but I will go through some of the most important News and Entertainment items from 1980 and this year (and the 30 years in between!).  So, let us go through this timeline with nostalgia, humor and respect (and if you want some alcohol, bring your own!):

NEWS: California Governor Ronald Reagan defeats President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Presidential Election.
MOVIES: George Lucas returns to the far away galaxy in the summer blockbuster sequel The Empire Strikes Back (above), and the villainous Darth Vader reveals an all-important [SPOILER!].
TELEVISION: Dallas villain J. R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman) is shot by an unknown assailant in TV's first major cliffhanger.
MUSIC: Beatles legend John Lennon is assassinated outside his Manhattan apartment building by crazed fan Mark David Chapman.
THEATRE: Director-Choreographer Gower Champion dies on the opening night of his masterpiece production of 42nd Street.
SPORTS: The "Miracle On Ice" occurs in Lake Placid, NY as the U.S. Men's Hockey Team defeats the Soviet Union and goes on to win the Gold Medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
CELEBRITY: Comedian Richard Pryor accidentally sets himself on fire trying to freebase cocaine.

Prince Charles marries (and divorces!) Princess Diana; the spaceship Challenger explodes; the Berlin Wall falls (as does European Communism!); Nelson Mandela is released; Disney revives itself musically; James Cameron shows his box-office strength (more than once!); landmark TV shows like The Cosby Show, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Friends, Survivor, American Idol, The West Wing and Mad Men all began; MTV ushers in Music Videos and superstars are made of Madonna, Prince, Sting, Nirvana, U2, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and many many more; Musicals dominate Broadway and New York tourism with shows like Cats, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King and Wicked; Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey all suffered Player lockouts at one point or another; The Internet age transforms the culture through Microsoft Windows, America Online, MacOS, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone; and we lose people like Irving Berlin, Jim Henson, Kurt Cobain, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Michael Jackson and the victims of 9/11.

NEWS: President Barack Obama announces that special forces have tracked down and killed terrorist leader Osama Bin-Laden.
MOVIES: The film adaptations of J. K. Rowling's best-selling Harry Potter books come to a close with the eighth and final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II, breaking several box office records.
TELEVISION: Talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey ends her long-running Talk show after 25 years of stories, laughs, tears, Favorite Things and A-Ha Moments.
MUSIC: Legendary pop-alternative band R.E.M. decides to break-up after 31 years together.
THEATRE: The much-anticipated, controversial and (oftentimes!) dangerous musical production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally opens after months of previews, creative changes and bad press.
SPORTS: The Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 45th Super Bowl (held at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX).
CELEBRITY: Prince William, eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, weds longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton in a well-publicized and regal ceremony at Westminster Abbey (below).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

10 FAVORITES (44) - Musical Mouse

As a follow-up to last week's Best Movie Songs, this week I want to focus on the one studio that has perfectly combined the art of movies and the beauty of music for over 80 years: The Walt Disney Company.  Ever since 1928's Steamboat Willie (with Mickey Mouse whistling a merry tune), Disney and music have been combined in an artistic marriage that has been extremely fruitful.  So, in traditional 10 FAVORITES fashion, I would like to discuss:


HONORABLE MENTION"A Spoonful of Sugar" from Mary Poppins (1964)
The only song from a live-action Disney film on this list (hence, it being Honorable Mention!), with the lovely voice of Oscar-winner Julie Andrews, every kid truly believed that "a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down."  What made this song more memorable were the scene's visuals that the magic-makers in Disney's effects department were able to design (which were truly groundbreaking at the time!).  I know I always wanted my room to suddenly clean itself with the snap of my fingers (and so did my mom!).

SONG #10
"Bella Notte" from Lady and the Tramp (1956)
When you think of iconic Disney scenes, one cannot forget one of the most romantic scenes in film history (you know, when Tramp nuzzles the meatball towards Lady and they accidentally kiss after sharing a noodle!).  And when you think of this clever scene, you cannot forget the song accompanying it, "Bella Notte" (you know, where the two stereotypical Italian waiters are singing to the canine couple!).  Just watch the scene below (and ignore Disney's inherent ethnic insensitivity!).

"Heigh-Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938)
Kids love it when songs have repeating choruses and verses, so of course I loved this cute Dwarf number from Disney's inaugural feature film.  Plus, Dopey makes anything hilarious!

"Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty (1959)
When Disney music maestro George Bruns was adapting Piotr Ilyich Tchaicovsky's haunting themes from the Sleeping Beauty ballet for Disney's adaptation of the fairy tale, he recruited top songwriters Jack Lawrence and Sammy Fain to churn out lyrics that would make the central waltz a chart-topping hit.  What resulted was the gorgeous "Once Upon a Dream," which was beautifully sung by the voices of the leading lovebirds, Mary Costa and Bill Shirley.  (NOTE ON THE VIDEO: The video is of the entire scene in which the song appears, the song does not officially begin until about 4 1/2 minutes into the video!)

"You've Got a Friend In Me" from Toy Story (1995)
Randy Newman has done quite well for PIXAR (winning two Oscars in the process!).  But it is with PIXAR's first feature film that Newman gave us a song that has stuck with us.  In a way, it has become the computer animation giant's unofficial theme song.

"The Bare Necessities" from The Jungle Book (1967)
Since I mentioned my appreciation for Phil Harris' work in this film previously, you cannot be surprised that this song makes it onto this list.  The cleverness of the song involves mixing delightful wordplay with a jazzy tune.  Also, it's about relaxing, which every kid loves to do!

"Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid (1989)
The first of four songs on this list to come from that era in Disney's history known as "The Musical Renaissance," this song is the perfect "I Want" Song (see a previous 10 FAVORITES for info!).  I know everybody loves the Oscar-winning showstopper "Under the Sea" or the deliciously villainous "Poor Unfortunate Souls" that Ursula sings to our heroine, but my personal favorite from this film has to be Ariel's yearning for a life above the ocean (and the gorgeous Reprise when she meets the prince of her dreams!).

"A Whole New World" from Aladdin (1992)
When it comes to love duets, Aladdin followed the true musical form and let the hero give the princess what she wanted: To see the world (No dirty jokes people!).  The "soaring" duet won an Academy Award for songwriters Alan Menken and Tim Rice and was the first song the pair wrote together after Menken's previous songwriting partner, Howard Ashman, passed away in the middle of production on Aladdin.  The song is perfectly sung by the characters' singing voices, Broadway stars Brad Kane and Tony-winner Lea Salonga.

"Circle of Life" from The Lion King (1994)
In the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition of musical songwriting, the opening number of a musical has to set up the world.  What Elton John and Tim Rice did with this song (with the help of Hans Zimmer and South African songwriter Lebo M), was nothing short of amazing.  In the first four minutes of the movie, you get the different types of animals that live in Pride Rock, the way in which these animals live and feel about each other and the momentous occasion that sets the events of the film in motion.  In the stage production, this is one of those opening numbers that is so phenomenally done that once over, you can read the phone book and the show would still be worth the ticket price! (It's also the reason Julie Taymor's ego blew up to the size of the Spider-Man musical's budget!)

"Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I've mentioned how I love this film and how I love Angela Lansbury's work as Mrs. Potts in this film.  So, once again, this song and its placement on this list cannot be that much of a surprise.  The Oscar-winning song says it all: "Tale as old as time, True as it can be..."

"When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio (1940)
Only one song could rise above "Beauty and the Beast" and that is the iconic song that opens up Disney's classic Pinocchio.  The song, with its beautiful melody and its hopeful lyrics, have become such a part of Disney that the tune is practically the unofficial-yet-official theme song of the studio.

Next week, a brand new GOLDEN PLACES and tomorrow, a very special IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: Taking an Emmy Break!

With the Emmy Awards coming up tomorrow and having spent most of last week on my Emmy Predictions (Parts I, II & III), I have decided that IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS needed to take a little Emmy break this weekend!  Don't worry, I'll be back next week with more opinions to share on the topics we all love.  In the meantime, enjoy tomorrow night's Emmy Awards on FOX hosted by Glee star Jane Lynch!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 FAVORITES (43) - The Movies In My Songs

It has been over a year since I first started this blog with my 100 Favorite Movies, so I thought that one of my 10 FAVORITES should be dedicated to another aspect of Movies I just love: the Music (especially the Songs!).  If you remember from my list, a lot of the films that were featured on it were musicals.  And just like any typical "Broadway Baby," I do believe songs help move the story along or enhance a feeling the movie's story has given the audience.  There are so many songs that appeared in some of my favorite movies and I want to go over some of them.  This week's 10 FAVORITES is about the Best Songs from Movies.  Two quick notes: None of the films featured in this list are Disney Movies, because Disney has used Music and Songs so well that they are deserving of their own (soon-to-be-published) list!  And Eight of the films featured on this list appeared in my Top 100 Movies of all-time, you'll just have to see which of those 100 films received this "extra special" honor.  With that out of the way, on with the list!  Here are:


"Fame" from Fame (1980)
This song has been a constant presence in my life as I have spent a lot of time around artists and actors who are all in the pursuit of the song's title.  Every time I hear those opening chords and Irene Cara's velvet-y voice I want to get up and start dancing...just not as well as the dancers in Fame.

SONG #10
"Springtime For Hitler" from The Producers (1968)
With quite possibly the funniest song I have ever heard, Mel Brooks had storm troopers and ladies with pretzels on their heads dancing in my brain ever since I first saw this hilarious movie.

"My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic (1997)
I know, I know, you're probably extremely annoyed now, but I just cannot deny the power this song had.  I mean, it was everywhere in 1997-1998.  And when you get past all of the hoopla and radio play this song received, you realize that there was something about it that people just couldn't resist. 

"Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
When you end your movie with your title character getting crucified, how do you want to fade to black?  Only Eric Idle could deliver a sprightly tune that could lift up our hero's spirits.

"Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail (1986)
Just because I said Non-Disney, doesn't mean I meant Non-Animation!  Don Bluth (who left the Disney Company in 1982) teamed with Steven Spielberg for his 1986 hit An American Tail, and the song "Somewhere Out There" (which was featured both in the film and at the End Credits) was one of those songs every kid wanted to hear.  I went even further, I had the soundtrack, the single, the music video and the sheet music! 

"The Way We Were" from The Way We Were (1973)
When it comes to popularity both in films and on the music charts, we cannot forget Ms. Barbra Streisand.  Her #1 hit made weepy audiences everywhere want to remember lost loves and happy memories.

"The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie (1979)
For the first scene in the Muppets' first motion picture, they could not have done better.  When you have Kermit the Frog (sweetly performed by the late Jim Henson) singing a song about his hopes and dreams, the child that is in all of us is awakened.

"Mrs. Robinson" from The Graduate (1967)
I almost chose "The Sound of Silence" to be a part of this list, but the movie and this song almost go hand-in-hand that I simply had to give it precedence on the list.  People think the song pre-dated the movie, but actually Simon & Garfunkel sang the song first for the movie and then expanded it for their album the next year.

"Singin' In the Rain" from Singin' In the Rain (1952)
When you think of iconic songs in movies, you cannot hesitate to mention Gene Kelly singing the 1929 radio hit in his fantastic 1952 MGM song-and-dance extravaganza.  The jaunty melody and his (seemingly) improvised choreography are such a part of our culture that we will never forget them.

"As Time Goes By" from Casablanca (1942)
The command is in the song: "You must remember this."  Though the song was originally written over a decade before the film was ever made, now we cannot think of this song without a flood of images from this movie (trenchcoats, French police, Nazis, seedy Moroccan bars, etc.) and "on that you can rely."

"Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz (1939)
It has been named the "Song of the 20th Century" by both the Recording Industry and the National Endowment for the Arts.  It's one of the few songs to be honored on a U.S. Postage Stamp (when lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg was honored in 2005, pictured right). And it was the #1 song on the American Film Institute's list of Greatest Movie Songs, so who am I to argue with such distinguished organizations?  Whenever I hear this song (especially Judy Garland's wistful original version), I am immediately brought back to my childhood (just like I believe everyone else is when they hear it!).

In a few weeks, I will cover the Disney songs (and, believe me, there are plenty to choose from!!).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: 2011 Emmy Award Predictions - Part III: Miniseries & Variety

Once again, it is time for some more 2011 Emmy Predictions.  Today, we have six categories left: 5 in the combined Miniseries/TV Movie categories and the one Variety Series category (I'm not going to cover Variety Special because The Kennedy Center Honors has dominated the category in recent years and there's nothing saying it won't take it this year.  Sorry, Lady Gaga!).  So, on with the predicting!

Cinema Verite (HBO), Downton Abbey (PBS), The Kennedys (Reelz Channel), Mildred Pierce (HBO), The Pillars of the Earth (Starz), Too Big To Fail (HBO)
Quick Overview: With 21 Emmy nominations, HBO's 5-part remake of Mildred Pierce has more nods than ANY other program (Mad Men only got 19!); Downton Abbey was one of the most watched programs on PBS' long-running Masterpiece series; The Kennedys had enough controversy behind it to get it noticed; Starz has been trying to get into the Emmy game with more original shows and a miniseries like Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth; And HBO's two original movies Cinema Verite and Too Big To Fail each got enough critical acclaim (and star power!) to share the spotlight with Mildred Pierce.
Will Win: 21 nominations + Oscar-winning star + HBO = Emmy win for Mildred Pierce.
Dark Horse: PBS' Downton Abbey is not to be outdone with a stellar British cast and an Oscar-winning writer (Julian Fellowes) in its corner.
No Real Should Win: Either one (Mildred Pierce or Downton Abbey) are worthy of the prize.

Taraji P. Henson, Taken From Me: The Tiffamy Rubin Story (Lifetime); Diane Lane, Cinema Verite (HBO); Jean Marsh, Upstairs, Downstairs (PBS); Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey (PBS); Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce (HBO)
Quick Overview: The women in this category took on roles that typically garner awards love: Mildred Pierce won Joan Crawford an Oscar back in 1946, so it takes an Oscar-winner like Kate Winslet to play a woman like the title character; Diane Lane took on the role of Pat Loud, the woman whose life was displayed before us on the legendary documentary An American Family; Taraji P. Henson played a mother searching frantically for her son in a typical Lifetime movie; Elizabeth McGovern was the lone American in the British setting of Downton Abbey; And nostalgia plays a factor for Jean Marsh, who returns to the role that made her famous: stern housemaid Rose Buck on Upstairs, Downstairs.
Will AND Should Win: Do I really need to discuss this? Kate Winslet will add an Emmy to her Oscar.
Dark Horse: There is the extremely small likelihood that Emmy voters will not mark Winslet's name on their ballots (thinking she will get enough votes from other voters!) and the most likely beneficiary would be Diane Lane, who in any other year might have had a stronger chance.

Idris Elba, Luther (BBC America); Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood (HBO); William Hurt, Too Big To Fail (HBO); Greg Kinnear, The Kennedys (Reelz Channel); Barry Pepper, The Kennedys (Reelz Channel); Edgar Ramirez, Carlos (Sundance Channel)
Quick Overview: 5 of the men in this category took on real-life roles and the sixth won many fans as a determined detective: Oscar-winner William Hurt shined for many critics as former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in HBO's Too Big To Fail; Laurence Fishburne had his Tony-nominated performance as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall filmed for HBO; Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper took on the roles of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, respectively; Virtual unknown Edgar Ramirez wowed critics with his multi-language and multi-layered performance as the notorious Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal; And Idris Elba (who also scored a nomination for his work on The Big C) was key to the BBC drama about a detective willing to push the limits.
Will Win: Edgar Ramirez has enough industry support behind him that his win would pretty much be a kind of "Cinderella Story."
Should Win: Though it's been renewed for a second season, Idris Elba gave a dynamic (and extremely favored) performance in the BBC drama Luther (just the type of performance that usually gets Emmy's attention!).
Dark Horse: Playing the former Treasury Secretary, William Hurt was at the center of a movie that was ripe for our time of economic uncertainty.  And we know that Hollywood loves to make a statement about changing times.

Dame Eileen Atkins, Upstairs, Downstairs (PBS); Melissa Leo, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Dame Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PBS); Mare Winningham, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce (HBO)
Quick Overview: Let's just face it! This category consists of two Dames and the ladies behind Mildred Pierce! Melissa Leo, who had a small role in the HBO miniseries, is enjoying the success a recent Oscar win brings an actress; Evan Rachel Wood locked horns with Kate Winslet and held her own; Mare Winningham, who also enjoyed a small role, has become the go-to character actress for many Made For TV Movies/Miniseries; Dame Eileen Atkins, who co-created the British drama with Jean Marsh, played her eccentric wealthy woman with her usual aplomb; And Dame Maggie Smith lent Julian Fellowes' Miniseries that same kind of dignity she puts in every movie she's been in from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (her Oscar-winning role!) to the Harry Potter series.
Will Win: Maggie Smith is always an awards favorite (though she rarely shows up to accept!) and her role on Downton Abbey is exactly the type to win her yet another statue.
Should Win: Eileen Atkins gave the finest performance in the somewhat slow-moving Upstairs, Downstairs, but her recent win for the PBS Miniseries Cranford (back in 2008) puts her at the bottom of most voters' list.
Dark Horse: Evan Rachel Wood had the most prominent supporting female role in Mildred Pierce and if you can hold your own opposite the likes of Kate Winslet, awards voters tend to take notice.

Paul Giamatti, Too Big To Fail (HBO); Brian F. O'Byrne, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Tom Wilkinson, The Kennedys (Reelz Channel); James Woods, Too Big To Fail (HBO)
Quick Overview: 3 previous Emmy-winners, A Tony-winner and well-respected Australian actor make this category very intriguing: Guy Pearce played the dastardly man who seduces and abuses Kate Winslet; Tom Wilkinson took on the task of playing the Kennedys staunch patriarch; James Woods flamboyantly played the part of Lehman Brothers drowning CEO; Paul Giamatti added his awards pedigree to the role of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke; And Tony-winner Brian F. O'Byrne garnered much sympathy as Kate Winslet's philandering and unemployed husband.
Will Win: Guy Pearce has had roles in several notable movies (L.A. Confidential, The Hurt Locker, The King's Speech) and his highlighted role in the HBO Miniseries gave conniving playboy a new meaning.
Should Win: James Woods gave his usual over-the-top style to the powerful HBO Movie and was certainly the film's highlight.
Dark Horse: As it sometimes happens when two actors from the same movie are nominated, they tend to cancel each other out. Therefore, Tom Wilkinson could benefit from the fact he is the sole nominee from his Miniseries in the category.

The Colbert Report (Comedy Central); Conan (TBS); The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central); Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC); Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO); Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Quick Overview: Saturday Night Live enjoyed its 36th season and it also was one of its most-watched in recent years; Jimmy Fallon hosted last year's Emmy ceremony to much acclaim and his show has grown in its industry support; When it comes to industry support, former Late Night host Conan O'Brien's move to TBS was very publicized and very well-received; And the last three shows (The Daily Show, Real Time and The Colbert Report) take on the current news and discuss it to hilarious effect.
Will AND Should Win: The Daily Show has won this award for the past nine years and most pundits agree that the streak isn't likely to stop anytime soon.
Dark Horse: The Colbert Report has gained as many (if not more!) fans as The Daily Show, so Colbert is the most likely candidate to dethrone Jon Stewart's reign. Though there is something to be said for the recent surge in the number of Emmy nominations Saturday Night Live has been receiving!

There you have it: My predictions for 20 categories of the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards! Thanks for taking the time to read and enjoy the Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 18 on FOX (hosted by Glee's Emmy-winner Jane Lynch).

I dedicate these posts to the victims of 9/11 and their families.
Just know that you are always in our thoughts and prayers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: 2011 Emmy Award Predictions - Part II: Drama

And now, it is time for more 2011 Emmy Predictions.  Today, let's comb through the Drama categories!

Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Dexter (Showtime), Friday Night Lights (NBC/DirecTV), Game of Thrones (HBO), The Good Wife (CBS), Mad Men (AMC)
Quick Overview: Three-time winner Mad Men is trying for a fourth consecutive win (only Hill Street Blues and The West Wing have had four consecutive* Best Drama Series wins!); Showtime's Dexter had a less-than-stellar fourth season, but is still loved by audiences; Critical favorite Friday Night Lights ended it's rocky five-year run (on cable's DirecTV before being rerun on NBC!) and finally garnered one of the top nods; HBO's newcomers Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones hit it off with both critics and fans, so Emmy voters took notice; And CBS' legal drama The Good Wife wowed people with an emotionally charged second season and represents the broadcast networks among the wealth of cable favorites.
Will Win: Mad Men had a very well-received fourth season (and is pulling out all the stops in its ad campaigns!), so it is very likely to join Hill Street BluesThe West Wing and L.A. Law in the pantheon of Emmy's Best Dramas.
Should Win: I have said this before I believe, so I'll say it again: The Good Wife is the best show on Television currently and deserves every award in can receive.
Dark Horse: HBO wooed Martin Scorsese into directing (and producing!) the buzzworthy pilot of Boardwalk Empire, so they will do all they can to stop Mad Men's winning streak. They already won the Golden Globe earlier this year!
*=L.A. Law also had four Best Drama Series wins, but not consecutively.  Interestingly enough, all three shows (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and The West Wing) were broadcast on NBC!

Kathy Bates, Harry's Law (NBC); Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights (NBC/DirecTV); Mireille Enos, The Killing (AMC); Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS); Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (AMC)
Quick Overview: Last year's winner Kyra Sedgwick beat out presumed front-runner Julianna Margulies, and Margulies again is near the top of every pundits' list to take the award this year; Elisabeth Moss was bumped up to Lead Actress from last year with stirring episodes and storylines; Connie Britton enjoyed her first nod last year and the critics would love to see her rewarded for the show's emotional last season; Oscar-winner Kathy Bates was a shoo-in to get nominated, despite her show garnering mixed reviews from critics and audiences; Character actress Mireille Enos gives a quiet yet resonant performance as a detective investigating a murder on AMC's The Killing; And Mariska Hargitay (who won this award back in 2006!) has become the category's perennial nominee (quite possibly over more deserving candidates, but I digress!).
Will AND Should Win: I've already stated my love for The Good Wife and Julianna Margulies has picked an emotionally packed episode to submit to Emmy voters. Victory shall be hers!
Dark Horse: Elisabeth Moss also is submitting a critically acclaimed (and emotionally powerful!) episode of Mad Men, and she could very well keep Margulies from the winner's podium (just like Kyra Sedgwick did last year!).

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire (HBO); Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights (NBC/DirecTV); Michael C. Hall, Dexter (Showtime); John Hamm, Mad Men (AMC); Hugh Laurie, House M.D. (FOX); Timothy Olyphant, Justified (F/X)
Quick Overview: With three-time previous winner Bryan Cranston ineligible this year, four of last years nominees are vying for this prize along with two category newcomers: John Hamm has picked a stellar episode (the same episode Elisabeth Moss picked!) to submit to Emmy voters; Kyle Chandler is banking on his show's emotional series finale to win it for him; Both Hugh Laurie and Michael C. Hall may play unlikable or morally polarizing characters, but they picked jaw-dropping episodes that could gain (or lose!) them support; Timothy Olyphant picked his show's second season finale on his first nomination for his complex role of a Southern lawman; And Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi has name recognition and the full support of HBO behind him for this extremely tough category.
Will AND Should Win: It is said John Hamm has waited three long years to be rewarded for playing the snake-like ad man Don Draper and with Cranston ineligible, this may be Hamm's time to finally reap some praise.
Dark Horse: Steve Buscemi won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for his work as tough gangster Nucky Johnston, and Emmy voters may use those award precursors as signs from above.

Christine Baranski, The Good Wife (CBS); Michelle Forbes, The Killing (AMC); Christina Hendricks, Mad Men (AMC); Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire (HBO); Margo Martindale, Justified (F/X); Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife (CBS)
Quick Overview: Pundits have stated that this is the category that stumps them every year! Last year's winner Archie Panjabi was a pleasant surprise and The Good Wife's writers stepped up her game for the show's second season; Her co-star Christine Baranski is always an Emmy favorite no matter what she does; Christina Hendricks is still extremely well-liked among Mad Men's Sterling-Cooper Ad Agency; Character actress Margo Martindale played the villain perfectly on F/X's Justified; Longtime TV actress Michelle Forbes (Star Trek: The Next Generation, True Blood) has finally received an Emmy nod for her work as the murder victim's distraught mother on The Killing; And previous Emmy-winner Kelly MacDonald (for the TV Movie The Girl In the Cafe) is the best reviewed actor/actress on HBO's new hit.
Will Win: Emmys love to reward character actors in truly over-the-top performances (see Jane Lynch or Doris Roberts), so Margo Martindale may ride her character's villainy all the way to an Emmy win.
Should Win: Archie Panjabi may have surprised people last year with her win, but her emotionally understated performance as the law firm's in-house investigator went to new levels this year.
Dark Horse: If Mad Men is indeed going to take the top prize (and quite possibly, Best Actor!), Emmy voters may want to reward Boardwalk Empire with something (besides director!) and so Kelly MacDonald (who was also part of the last Harry Potter movie this summer!) may receive the show's consolation prize.

Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age (TNT); Josh Charles, The Good Wife (CBS); Alan Cumming, The Good Wife (CBS); Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO); Walton Goggins, Justified (F/X); John Slattery, Mad Men (AMC)
Quick Overview: Two of the men from The Good Wife (Josh Charles and Alan Cumming) submitted great episodes and their characters are indeed central to the show's biggest storylines; John Slattery now has his fourth nomination and has picked an episode that could get him the elusive prize; Andre Braugher was, as far as the critics were concerned, the best part of TNT's now-defunct Men of a Certain Age; And category newcomers (and well-respected character actors!) Peter Dinklage and Walton Goggins are riding their respective shows' critical acclaim to possible Emmy glory.
Will Win: Like his co-star John Hamm, this may very well finally be John Slattery's chance to call himself an Emmy winner.
Should Win: Peter Dinklage gave one of the finest performances on HBO's fantasy hit and his particular episode features one of his most touching and stirring monologues.
Dark Horse: The love for F/X's Justified may just stretch beyond Margo Martindale and onto Walton Goggins' reserved and understated performance (the same style he used on another F/X Emmy favorite: The Shield).

Cara Buono, Mad Men (AMC); Joan Cusack, Shameless (Showtime); Loretta Devine, Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Randee Heller, Mad Men (AMC); Mary McDonnell, The Closer (TNT); Julia Stiles, Dexter (Showtime); Alfre Woodard, True Blood (HBO)
Quick Overview: Yes, there are 7 nominees in this category AND all 7 actresses not only guested on one episode of their respective Dramas, they were all recurring roles on each show! But because of Emmy rules, they each picked one episode that best shows their roles during the season: Julia Stiles had a much-hyped and critically dynamic role as serial killer Dexter's assistant (who also was a former victim of the killer he was facing!); Joan Cusack played the agoraphobic love interest to William H. Macy's drunken single father; Mad Men's Cara Buono and Randee Heller were two of the Sterling-Cooper many secretaries that kept the office running; Mary McDonnell played an Internal Affairs Captain investigating the possible misconduct of star Kyra Sedgwick's character; Loretta Devine returned to Seattle Grace as the wife of the Chief of Surgery, this time struggling with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease; And awards favorite Alfre Woodard played the mother of the gay-psychic cook on the fan favorite True Blood.
Will Win: Though this category has usually gone to older actresses in the past (Ann-Margaret, Leslie Caron and Ellen Burstyn are among the more recent winners!), Julia Stiles has the buzz surrounding her (and a Golden Globe nod!) that puts her in the front-runner position in this category.
Should Win: True Blood is a "true" fan favorite and has never received any kind of Emmy love (beyond technical awards!), so Alfre Woodard has the kind of Emmy cache that would give Emmy voters an excuse to give the vampire series a major Emmy.
Dark Horse: Joan Cusack is also an awards favorite (two Oscar nods under her belt!) and her submitted episode is very critically acclaimed, so she could be the name called at the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday, September 10 (where the Guest Actor/Actress awards are given out!).

Beau Bridges, Brothers & Sisters (ABC); Jeremy Davies, Justified (F/X); Bruce Dern, Big Love (HBO); Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife (CBS); Paul McCrane, Harry's Law (NBC); Robert Morse, Mad Men (AMC)
Quick Overview: Four awards veterans face-off with two well-liked character actors in this interesting category: Michael J. Fox gave a dynamic performance in the recurring role of a lawyer who keeps Julianna Margulies' character guessing; Veteran actors Bruce Dern, Beau Bridges and Robert Morse each played small recurring roles on their respective shows well enough to put them in this Emmy race; Paul McCrane plays the recurring role of prosecutor to Kathy Bates' outspoken defense attorney; And Jeremy Davies played the unlikable criminal lawman Timothy Olyphant dragged out into the woods in the F/X show's second season finale.
Will AND Should Win: Though I liked him better on the first episode he was on, Michael J. Fox chose the second episode on which he appeared and we found out more about his character's backstory and home life. Emmy voters may very well pick him because Michael J. Fox has proven he can play vulnerable extremely well (just watch an episode of Family Ties!).
Dark Horse: There are actually two potential spoilers! Paul McCrane chose an episode in which his character had a virtual meltdown in court followed by an emotional scene he shared with Oscar-winner Kathy Bates. Sometimes proximity to an awards pro rubs off (that, and the show was created by David E. Kelley who as written more Emmy-winning characters than any other writer!). Also, Jeremy Davies had an staggeringly powerful scene in which his slightly villainous character is getting tortured by star Timothy Olyphant. Emmy voters may want to reward an unlikable character who shows his terrified vulnerability.

Part III: The Miniseries & Variety Categories!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: 2011 Emmy Award Predictions - Part I: Comedy

The 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards are right around the corner (Sunday, September 18 on FOX).  So with the upcoming Awards, it is time that I give you my Emmy predictions.  I will be doing this over the next three days in three parts.  Why three parts?  Because I am covering 20 Primetime categories and I didn't want people's eyes to get tired in one day (unless you choose to wait until Saturday to read them and, if so, that's your problem!).  I have split the predictions into Comedy categories, Drama categories and Miniseries/Variety categories (I have stated before that I don't do Reality categories!).  Up first, are the hilarious, irreverent and (in recent years) emotionally touching Comedy categories.  One more thing: I've already gone over which actors and actresses got snubbed so these posts are not the place to lament that!  The Nominees are what they are!  Now, onto the predicting!

The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Glee (FOX), Modern Family (ABC), The Office (NBC), Parks and Recreation (NBC), 30 Rock (NBC)
Quick Overview: Last year's winner Modern Family had a strong enough second season to garner praise all-around from the same critics from before; Audience darling Glee suffered a slumpy sophomore season (and a summer filled with backstage drama unfolding in the media!); Previous winners 30 Rock and The Office are the categories "Old Hands" and may be passed their prime despite creatively improved seasons; And both The Big Bang Theory and Parks and Recreation returned in their fourth and third season (respectively) to more acclaim and more fans than they had before.
Will Win: Modern Family most likely will pull off their second consecutive win.
Should Win: The Big Bang Theory proved in its fourth season it is the best sitcom on Television.
Dark Horse: Parks and Recreation's die-hard fanbase might just seep into the Academy enough to pull off a surprise victory.

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie (Showtime); Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC); Laura Linney, The Big C (Showtime); Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly (CBS); Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope (FOX); Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Quick Overview: Golden Globe winner Laura Linney has never lost in any of her three previous Emmy races (in other categories, mind you!); Amy Poehler has submitted the hilarious "Flu Season" episode of her popular sitcom where critics compared her performance to the likes of Lucille Ball; Category newcomers Melissa McCarthy and Martha Plimpton have had well-respected careers (especially McCarthy with her breakout role in the summer film Bridesmaids); Previous winners Edie Falco and Tina Fey, while both extremely loved on their respective shows, were considerably not as strong this season as competitors Linney or Poehler.
Will Win: Laura Linney has the talented career that Emmy voters just love.
Should Win: My personal favorite in this category is the delightful work of Martha Plimpton, yet her show is not high enough on Emmy's radar.
Dark Horse: Amy Poehler may be considered the funniest woman in the category and since last year's winner Edie Falco pointed out her own lack of hilarity, Emmy voters may want to reward a true sitcom performer.

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (NBC); Steve Carell, The Office (NBC); Louis C. K., Louie (F/X); Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory (CBS); Matt LeBlanc, Episodes (Showtime); Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Quick Overview: With Steve Carell ending his 7-year run on The Office this year, it may be high time for Emmy voters to finally reward his emotional last episode; Last year's winner Jim Parsons might benefit from his character's strong showing on both his submitted episode and co-star (and fellow nominee) Johnny Galecki's episode, while Galecki primarily plays "Straight Man" to Parsons' eccentric Sheldon Cooper; Past winner (and constant SAG Award winner) Alec Baldwin may suffer from a poor episode submission as he chose 30 Rock's lackluster Season Finale over the well-received 100th Episode; And cable favorites Louis C.K. and Matt LeBlanc suffer from the dangerous "Larry David-syndrome" where they basically play versions of themselves on their respective shows (though Louis C.K.'s is more favored by the critics than Larry David ever was!).
Will Win: Steve Carell was everything he needed to be in his final episode and Emmys are suckers for that.
Should Win: Jim Parsons proved once again this year how good he is at being the irritating and anal Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Dark Horse: Louis C.K. may be able to pull off what Ricky Gervais did a couple years ago (when Gervais won for HBO's Extras over Carell!) thanks to both fan and critical support.

Julie Bowen, Modern Family (ABC); Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock (NBC); Jane Lynch, Glee (FOX); Sofia Vergara, Modern Family (ABC); Betty White, Hot In Cleveland (TV Land); Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Quick Overview: Jane Lynch, this year's Emmy hostess, may benefit from showing versatility on both Glee and Saturday Night Live (the SNL episode she hosted and featured in is being submitted by fellow nominee Kristen Wiig); Wiig herself is outshone by Lynch on the previously mentioned SNL episode; Both Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara cancelled each other out last year and may do so again, though Bowen had a stronger showing in the show's second season; Jane Krakowski has generally become the category's also-ran despite her well-received work this past year; And then there is the juggernaut resurgence of the amazing Betty White!
Will Win: Jane Lynch will probably pull off another win (thanks to Ms. Wiig!).
Should Win: Sofia Vergara deserves recognition for her delightful role as Gloria but her episode submission choices don't always reflect that quite well.
Dark Horse: Julie Bowen may have edged out Vergara's hilarity this past seasons and both her own episode submission (as well as Vergara's!) display that.
The Betty White Factor: Betty White is just beloved, and Emmys love to reward the beloved.
* = Interesting SIDE NOTE: This is the one Emmy category where most pundits had predicted all 6 nominees from Day One! Yet, it is now one of the few Emmy categories that seems to be the most "Up In the Air" as far as the winning result goes! Just thought I'd mention that!

Ty Burell, Modern Family (ABC); Chris Colfer, Glee (FOX); Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men (CBS); Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family (ABC); Ed O'Neill, Modern Family (ABC); Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family (ABC)
Quick Overview: Golden Globe winner Chris Colfer had a strong storyline this past year on the FOX mega-hit; Previous winner Jon Cryer garnered the sympathy vote thanks to the bad press his show received this year (because of it's "Winning!" former star!); Yet, there is no denying the strength of Modern Family in this category with ALL FOUR of its male adult leads garnering nominations: Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet are usually the critical (and fan) favorites, thanks very much to their over-the-top characters; Jesse Tyler Ferguson gets rare moments to shine (like the show's "Halloween" episode, which he cleverly submitted!); and veteran Ed O'Neill has now garnered his FIRST Emmy nomination for his strong and funny (yet, at times, touching) role of the family's patriarch.
Will Win: Ty Burrell has the best episode submission (plus a strong showing in his co-stars' episodes!), so therefore will most likely win.
Should Win: Ed O'Neill is the character actor who never got recognized for previous work (in particularly Married...With Children) and Emmy voters should take the time to reward that.
Dark Horse: Chris Colfer is on one of the most popular shows and is the most popular performer/character on that show, as his Golden Globe win this year fully reflects.

Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock (NBC); Kristin Chenoweth, Glee (FOX); Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live (NBC); Dot Marie Jones, Glee (FOX); Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope (FOX); Gwyneth Paltrow, Glee (FOX)
Quick Overview: Cloris Leachman has won more Emmys (in multiple categories) than any other female performer (I believe her grand total is 9 or 10!) and her recurring role as Maw-Maw on new hit Raising Hope most predictably garnered her yet another nod; Tina Fey pulled out her famed Sarah Palin impersonation and received her third nod in this category; Elizabeth Banks' recurring role on 30 Rock was good enough to nominate her over the show's more illustrious female guests (like Elaine Stritch, Queen Latifah and Sherri Shepard); And then there is Glee: Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth (and Emmy-winner for the long-gone Pushing Daisies!) has her second nod in this category for her eccentric recurring role of April Rhodes; Dot Jones' tough yet emotional role of football coach Shannon Beiste pushed her into the category spotlight (over usual Emmy favorite Carol Burnett!); And Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow began a three-episode stint on the FOX hit with one of the few critically acclaimed episodes of the show's second season.
Will AND Should Win: Last November, when I saw the Glee episode titled "The Substitute," I turned to my father and said: "We just saw next year's Emmy winner for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series." He pretty much agreed with me that Gwyneth Paltrow is the clear winner in this category.
Dark Horse: With so many previous Emmy wins, Cloris Leachman could pull off an upset if indeed Emmy voters are bored with Glee's inconsistent storylines and backstage behavior.

Will Arnett, 30 Rock (NBC); Matt Damon, 30 Rock (NBC); Idris Elba, The Big C (Showtime); Zach Galifianakis, Saturday Night Live (NBC); Nathan Lane, Modern Family (ABC); Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Quick Overview: Idris Elba's recurring role on the Showtime dramedy was very well-received, but his surprise nomination in this category is more thanks to his work on BBC America's Luther (more on that in the Miniseries categories!); Nathan Lane is very well-respected by the showbiz community and Modern Family is obviously beloved by Emmy voters; Both Will Arnett and Matt Damon gave well-received performances on their respective episodes of 30 Rock; And, in recent years, Saturday Night Live has surprised many by taking the Guest Actor/Actress categories which is good news for both Justin Timberlake and Zach Galifianakis.
Will Win: Justin Timberlake won this category two years ago and his episode this year was SNL's most-watched of the season. Emmy voters like a little popularity.
Should Win: Nathan Lane gave a hilarious performance on the Modern Family episode "Boys' Night," and his long career (in TV, Film and Theatre!) have earned him the love of his fellow actors.
Dark Horse: Zach Galifianakis' SNL monologue was one of the funniest monologues of the season and Emmy voters could check their ballots based on those first 5-10 minutes.

Part II: The Drama Categories