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Do Academy members even watch TV?

Why do we even bother? Seriously, why should we even care?It’s obvious at this point that the TV Academy not only doesn’t watch TV, its members don’t read either.Fine, maybe they don’t watch “Friday Night Lights,” but did they not read the rave reviews, the gushing by critics — yes, the people who do watch a lot of TV and know the best things out there — and the fans who were so en
/ Source: contributor

Why do we even bother? Seriously, why should we even care?

It’s obvious at this point that the TV Academy not only doesn’t watch TV, its members don’t read either.

Fine, maybe they don’t watch “Friday Night Lights,” but did they not read the rave reviews, the gushing by critics — yes, the people who do watch a lot of TV and know the best things out there — and the fans who were so enraptured by the show that they played a major part in earning “Lights” a season 2 renewal.

Let’s break down the nominations:

Drama series: “Boston Legal,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Heroes,” “House,” “The Sopranos”

Hey, I’ve got nothing personal against “Boston Legal.” I’m sure David Kelley and his crew are all hard-working folk who do their best to put out a fine show every week, but they simply don’t belong in this category that, supposedly (and I use that word loosely here) ranks the top five dramas on TV.

A once stellar “Grey’s Anatomy” took a creative nosedive last season — even hardcore fans are concerned, having sent a chain letter to TV writers asking them to alert show creator Shonda Rhimes that the train is falling off the tracks — and seems among the list here on reputation only.

“Heroes” may not be my cup of tea but it was a breakout hit and invigorated the sci-fi genre, so good for them.

“House” often plays it a bit too procedural for my taste but, to its credit, has such a charismatic star in Hugh Laurie, that everyone around is forced to raise their game, which, ultimately, makes the show highly watchable.

And as for “The Sopranos,” the series has only won once before, making a win on Emmy night completely appropriate for a show that, many could argue, completely changed television from both a business and creative standpoint. David Chase’s controversial ending — moving from onion rings to complete darkness — drew hisses and boos immediately after (along with, “Did my cable just go out?”) but, upon further inspection, most agree it was a brilliant way to bow out.

Drama actor: James Gandolfini, “The Sopranos,” Hugh Laurie, “House,” Denis Leary, “Rescue Me,” James Spader, “Boston Legal,” Kiefer Sutherland, “24”

Shockingly, Laurie was left off this list last year and his appearance here is the Academy’s return to its senses.

Leary had an interesting season on “Rescue Me.” His raped his wife in one episode and he’s unlikable in most, yet his work as an actor — Leary’s also a writer and exec producer — is valued, as it should be.

Spader may be the nicest man on the planet but today I blame him for taking Kyle Chandler’s spot in this list. At some point I’ll get over it. Probably not.

Sutherland does a great job on “24,” but even he would admit the show slipped more than a few notches last season. Producers are talking about revamping the clock-watching format for when the series returns in January.

Drama actress: Minnie Driver, “The Riches,” Edie Falco, “The Sopranos,” Sally Field, “Brothers and Sisters,” Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: SVU,” Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”

Give Driver credit. Known mostly for film roles in comedies and lighter fare, she brought her A-game opposite fellow Brit Eddie Izzard in the freshman FX series. Granted, the category isn’t as deep as the men’s, but her work is deserving among this company.

Falco is a favorite of voters, and she should be. Granted, Carm wasn’t in all that many scenes this past season but when she is, she’s as riveting and electric as Gandolfini.

Field’s longevity in TV is astonishing. She starred in “Gidget” in 1965 and continues to make an impact today on ABC’s Sunday night hit. The series isn’t my thing, but props to her for still making a difference more than 40 years later.

Hargitay is the defending champ and, despite working within the confines of a strict “Law & Order” procedural, is able to give some flesh and blood to her complex character. Sure beats chasing bad guys all day.

Using that Southern-fried charm has worked wonders for Sedgwick, who should win here unless voters make it an all-“Sopranos” night and send off Falco with another Emmy.

Comedy series: “30 Rock,” “Entourage,” “The Office,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Ugly Betty.”

I’ve always liked Tina Fey on “Saturday Night Live” but who knew she could be such a comedic force on a sitcom? Her Liz Lemon is a reminder of what made Mary Tyler Moore so great — trying to act rational when those around you are losing their heads.

Buzz only goes so far. “Entourage” still has moments of greatness but like any show that goes on for a while, the characters are beginning to feel more like caricatures. Not sure if the “Medellin” plotline has gone too far but a few Ari scenes go a long way to make up for it.

Last year’s winner “The Office” continues to find ways to make us laugh, poking fun at our smallest idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. The actors here play everything small, which inevitably creates big laughs.

The only one of these shows that still adheres to the three-camera, studio audience format, “Men” is classic comedy, in the same vein as “The Honeymooners” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Guys just wanting to have fun with the ladies always getting in the way.

“Ugly Betty” hits on some important social issues, but has a good time in getting its point across. Like “Desperate Housewives,” the comedy is broad rather than pinpoint and, this way, achieves in reaching a wide audience. Its place here is anything but a surprise.

Comedy actor: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock,” Steve Carell, “The Office,” Ricky Gervais, “Extras,” Tony Shalhoub, “Monk,” Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men”

What’s not to love about Baldwin’s snarky corporate exec who can run the microwave division like no one else? Glad to see his personal parenting issues didn’t hurt him professionally.

Carell might’ve taken a big hit for the box office bomb that was “Evan Almighty,” but it seems running a paper company suits him a better than building an ark.

Shalhoub was so embarrassed to win again last year, he practically had to be forced to get out of his chair and make a speech. If he wins again this time, they might have to get a crowbar.

Sheen makes “Men” look easy, and that’s a credit to the actor who’s received more headlines in the tabloids than for his work, which isn’t fair.

Comedy actress: America Ferrera, “Ugly Betty,” Tina Fey, “30 Rock,” Felicity Huffman, “Desperate Housewives,” Julia-Louis Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”

God bless America, or, at the least, ABC needs to send a fruit basket to Ferrera. The show works because she’s so strong as an actress who makes a point about our sometimes warped culture in a warm and friendly way, without getting in our face about it.

As previously mentioned, Fey acts as both a catalyst for the craziness that surrounds her and as an oasis of reason. Scenes with her and Baldwin have turned into instant gems.

While the “Housewives” phenomenon has faded, Huffman deserves a place on this list and it’s nice to see her still be recognized after all the hoopla. No slight to her castmates, but if I’m watching I’m always hoping she’ll be in most of the scenes.

Louis-Dreyfus will forever be known as Elaine on “Seinfeld,” but her Christine is giving Ms. Benes a good run for her money. Certainly not as likeable as Elaine, Christine does have her charm, though, and we’re hoping she and Blair Underwood can finally hook up.

Parker’s a pro in either drama or comedy and her place here marks one of the few entries for Showtime, which has really ramped up its original series.

Stuart Levine is an assistant managing editor at Variety. He can be reached at