Awards Season

The Emmys: Five Stories To Watch

Jimmy Fallon

hide captionJimmy Fallon will host Sunday night's Emmy Awards on NBC.

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

It's the oldest complaint in the book that the Emmy Awards, which will air this Sunday night, have a tendency to reward the same shows and actors over and over — not that this keeps the complaint from being made anew every year.

Nevertheless, when the show starts, there will be a few possible developing stories that could make the whole thing worth watching (even if it's not scintillating, we'll be right here, starting at 7:30 p.m., live-blogging the whole thing).

Which new comedy will win the Glee/Modern Family showdown?

Glee and Modern Family will both be up for Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a comedy. I tend to suspect Modern Family will take the prize for Comedy Series — I'd be shocked if Glee did — simply because it's a much more traditional half-hour sitcom and the Emmys are not (Ally McBeal's victory aside) traditionally daring.

I also suspect Glee's Jane Lynch will grab Supporting Actress In A Comedy, which is an award not uncommonly given to women on shows that are well-liked but not quite fully embraced (the last three winners have been Kristin Chenoweth for Pushing Daisies, Jean Smart for Samantha Who?, and Jaime Pressly for My Name Is Earl). On the Modern Family side, Julie Bowen feels like a longshot, while Sofia Vergara seems like the most plausible upset.

But overall, it feels like one or the other of these new comedies will come out looking like it nudged the other one out of the spotlight. The smart money seems to be on some spreading of the wealth, but you could wind up with one group of fans or the other feeling really sore on Monday morning.

Of course, 30 Rock might just win again, because the Emmys are very, very prone to repetition — in case you haven't heard.

Is this NPH's year? It's surprising how many people are pretty sure that Neil Patrick Harris has won Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy at least once for How I Met Your Mother. He hasn't. He's lost to Jeremy Piven twice (for Entourage) and Jon Cryer (for Two And A Half Men) once.

This year, it's a very strong category, with Harris taking on Cryer, Chris Colfer (Glee), and three Modern Family actors: Eric Stonestreet (Cam), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell), and Ty Burrell (Phil). Frankly, if Cryer wins over this crop, it's going to make the grumbling last year when he won look like the soft purring of a kitten.

Colfer and the Modern men are part of the general Glee/Modern Family narrative, but Colfer is so green that he'd make a surprising winner, while three guys from the same show could find themselves having a vote-splitting problem. It could come down to NPH versus Jon Cryer — a setup for the same heartbreak as last year, except that this has been The Year Of NPH in many ways, and it does seem like it's well past time for him to finally win.

In the world of the Emmys, though, that doesn't mean he will.

Do Coach and Mrs. Coach have a chance?

The absolutely stunning work being done by just about everybody on Friday Night Lights was mysteriously and totally ignored until this year, when suddenly, both Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton found themselves nominated in the lead actor and actress categories for their work as Eric and Tami Taylor.

In one sense, the nominations already feel like victories — wildly overdue victories at that. But then the question becomes ... does either have a shot?

It certainly doesn't seem like it. Julianna Margulies would appear to be a lock for The Good Wife (a new, well-respected commercial success — precisely the kind of show the Emmys like to reward), and if she's upset, Britton probably has her work cut out for her taking on the likes of Glenn Close in Damages. (Even if she won, Britton's victory would be spoiled by endless asides and caveats about the fact that Katey Sagal's widely praised performance in Sons Of Anarchy wasn't nominated.)

Meanwhile, Kyle Chandler faces not only the usual suspects (Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall, and Hugh Laurie of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and House respectively), but Matthew Fox of Lost, who's my pick for the darkest horse of the night with an actual shot at winning.

Neither of them seems likely to win, but you never know when love for a show that's winding up its run (FNL will shut down after next season) will bubble up in an unexpected way. Meanwhile, watch for the magnitude of the applause when their names are announced: my guess is that you'll be able to hear the fact that everyone in the room knows these nominations are embarrassingly overdue.

Can Conan win?

NBC may have considered The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien unimpressive enough to cancel after significantly less than a year on the air, but it garnered a nomination for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series, where it will face The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Real Time With Bill Maher, and Saturday Night Live — in other words, it's the only traditional late-night chat show to be nominated.

Yes, yes, Conan's been nominated before, and he wasn't necessarily nominated because of the dust-up with NBC, and he wasn't necessarily nominated to stick a finger in anybody's eye. And you can argue all day about whether this show was actually better than The Colbert Report, better than The Daily Show, whatever. But the last few weeks of Conan's show were mesmerizing television, and my guess is that he's going to grab this one. Colbert and Jon Stewart are both well-decorated guys after their many years of work on Comedy Central's two late shows (remember, Colbert shared in several writing awards while with The Daily Show), and if you were voting for this award, wouldn't Conan winning just seem like by far the most interesting possibility?

Are we done with The Amazing Race now?

The Amazing Race has won, no fooling, seven straight Emmys for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. Now, look. I have been as big a fan of this show as anyone, but should be the only show ever, ever rewarded? Probably not. Survivor wasn't nominated (for the fourth year in a row, which is very weird, but that's another issue), so Race is battling Top Chef, Project Runway, Dancing With The Stars, and American Idol. I'd pick Top Chef as the one that should probably bump global travel off the podium for once. Will it happen? I keep thinking it has to, and then it keeps ... not happening.

But whatever happens, come join us on Sunday night, and we'll take you through the repeat winners (Alec Baldwin, perhaps? Mad Men, perhaps?) and the upsets — which we sort of hope will include at least one of the upsets we're tentatively predicting, because otherwise, won't we feel silly.

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