by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
American television is at its zenith; never before have we had such a stellar collection of programs, both comedic and dramatic, to choose from. Simply put, if you aren't watching TV, there's something wrong with you. From Bayou vampires (True Blood) to schoolkids singing their hearts out (Glee), from polygamists in hiding (Big Love) to animated potty-mouths (Family Guy), this is the best time to be a couch potato. Sunday night's Primetime Emmy Awards (September 20, 8 p.m., CBS), hosted by openly Gay actor and nominee Neil Patrick Harris, will have its usual share of surprises and utter disappointments, yet the most important thing to note is that many of the nominees - thanks to the television academy's expansion to six instead of five in each category - deserve to be there. Here are my picks for the most worthy in the outstanding series and acting fields.
Comedy Series: Entourage, 30 Rock, Weeds, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy
Should win: How I Met Your Mother
All of these nominees are standouts, though none have had an impeccable season, including my beloved Weeds - yes, cutie pie Hunter Parrish finally displayed his bare assets in season four, but overall the show has had better seasons. Ditto for Entourage, another personal favorite, that grew tired midway through the year. So, I'm going with a complete underdog: the reliably witty, sometimes risqué How I Met Your Mother. The episode where Barney and Marshall squabble over whom Ted is having Gay dreams about is a hoot!
Drama Series: Big Love, Mad Men, Dexter, Breaking Bad, House, Lost
Should win: Mad Men
The television academy finally recognized the controversial yet brilliant Big Love, and kudos to the ensemble of Lost, who gave us an intense - if bizarre - fifth season. But for its polished scenery, superb acting, retro-chic wardrobes, and surprisingly interesting storylines - remember Sal dreamy-eyed over Cosgrove at dinner, as his clueless wife kept trying to inject herself in their conversations? - Mad Men is just too good to ignore for a repeat win.
Lead Actor/Comedy: Steve Carrell (The Office), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
Should win: Jim Parsons
As far-fetched as some of the episodes are, Parsons is consistently hysterical as the pathetically nerdy, Star Trek-worshiping Sheldon. How he manages to squeeze so much dialogue, some it lifted directly from the pages of Webster's Dictionary or a physics textbook, is worthy of the award over perennial nominees Carrell and Baldwin. The holiday episode with the armload of gift baskets, and in which Sheldon reacts to being given an autographed napkin by Leonard Nimoy, is a flat-out riot.
Lead Actress/Comedy: Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program), Toni Collette (The United States of Tara), Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds), Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (The New Adventures of Old Christine)
Should win: Mary-Louise Parker
Of course, Fey is the frontrunner for her second Emmy win in this category. Yet, season after season, Parker shines as the pot-selling mom who always lands in hot water with the local drug cartel. The most hilarious scene of last season was Nancy Botwin dragging a toothless Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins) in circles with the window halfway rolled up in her car. Give Parker a very long overdue award!
Lead Actor/Drama: Hugh Laurie (House), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Should win: Hall or Hamm
Hall deserves recognition from as far back as Six Feet Under, and I'll explode if he never gets rewarded for playing blood-spattered doctor/serial killer Dexter Morgan. But should Hamm get called to the stage for his work as the asshole-in-disguise Don Draper, you won't see me shed a tear. Last season's episode of Mad Men, where he pleaded his wife Betsy (January Jones) for a second chance, showed a sensitive side of Draper, and yet another layer of Hamm's work.
Lead Actress/Drama: Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU), Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men), Holly Hunter (Saving Grace), Glenn Close (Damages)
Should win: Elizabeth Moss
It's difficult to see Moss up for Best Actress without the company of January Jones, who took her character in directions we didn't think possible - how about that guy at the bar she banged after a day of shopping? That said, Moss' character, the prudishly quirky Peggy Olson, muscled up to the big boys at Sterling Cooper as the lone female account executive, and the final episode in which she finally reveals the secret to Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is a golden moment, indeed.
Supporting Actor/Comedy: Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Tracy Morgan (30 Rock), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock)
Should win: Tracy Morgan or Neil Patrick Harris
Morgan practically begged for a nomination last year, which he deserves, in accepting the award for Best Comedy Series - even with a lauded cast, 30 Rock wouldn't be the same without him. Then there's Harris, a three-time nominee and equally worthy for his laugh-a-minute role as the selfish, womanizing Barney Stinson. Tie, please!
Supporting Actress/Comedy: Kristen Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live), Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
Should win: Elizabeth Perkins
A very close race with Krakowski as the one to beat, and though I give her props for the episode where she channels Janis Joplin (or at least tries to), it's the bitchy, pitiful and desperate antics of Celia Hodes on Weeds that produced the most memorable laughs this past season.
Supporting Actor/Drama: William Shatner (Boston Legal), Christian Clemenson (Boston Legal), Michael Emerson (Lost), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), William Hurt (Damages), John Slattery (Mad Men)
Should win: Michael Emerson
It's too bad Boston Legal is represented twice here, as cast members from either Lost or Mad Men would have been better choices - Vincent Kartheiser is shamefully omitted from this race. While I loves me some John Slattery, it's time Emerson was called to the podium for his maniacal work as the creepy Ben Linus.
Supporting Actress/Drama: Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy), Dianne Weist (In Treatment), Rose Byrne (Damages), Hope Davis (In Treatment), Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy), Cherry Jones (24)
Should win: Hope Davis
Maybe I'm still bitter that Davis lost a Tony Award a few months ago, or that she was clearly overlooked for her work in the film American Splendor - or could it be that she peaks slightly above this undeniably strong field? The toughest race of the night, and it could literally go to any of these six veteran actresses.
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