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Will ‘Friday Night’ light up the Emmys?

Ever have a boyfriend or girlfriend that broke your heart, betrayed your trust and then comes crawling back asking for forgiveness?That’s how I feel about the Emmys year after year. How does one give credence to a voting group that doesn’t have Hugh Laurie among the top five actors yet does have “House” as best drama? I could go on and on with other mind-numbing examples, but then I’d st
/ Source: contributor

Ever have a boyfriend or girlfriend that broke your heart, betrayed your trust and then comes crawling back asking for forgiveness?

That’s how I feel about the Emmys year after year. How does one give credence to a voting group that doesn’t have Hugh Laurie among the top five actors yet does have “House” as best drama? I could go on and on with other mind-numbing examples, but then I’d start shaking my head so much in angst I’d get dizzy.

Here’s how one dedicated TV viewer thinks the Emmy nominations should come down when announced on July 19:

Drama series

“Deadwood,” HBO

“Friday Night Lights,” NBC

“Lost,” ABC

“The Sopranos,” HBO

“The Wire,” HBO

And there’s always: “The Shield,” FX

While the dark-ending discussion continues, there’s little argument that “Sopranos” went out on a high note, its last season as polished as ever. The brilliant “Deadwood” never received its deserved awards recognition, and I don’t expect it to happen now, but here’s hoping for a pleasant surprise. “The Wire” did nothing except receive possibly the best reviews in the history of television. Really. What, even that didn’t convince you to watch? Too busy checking out the latest episode of “Deal or No Deal”? And as for “Friday Night Lights” and “Lost,” the two best shows on broadcast TV, here’s a tip of the cap to each for producing 22 episodes that were all wonderfully written, acted and had us laughing one minute and on the verge of tears the very next. A barometer of their brilliance: that weeklong waiting for the next episode was excruciating.

Lead actor, drama

Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”

Michael Chiklis, “The Shield”

James Gandolfini, “The Sopranos”

Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”

Hugh Laurie, “House”

And there’s always: Matthew Perry, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”

While there’s many reasons why “Friday Night Lights” might be the most beloved show on the air today, the credit falls squarely with Chandler. Whether he’s calling plays on the sideline, worrying about his teenage daughter or trying to do good by his loving wife, Chandler’s Eric Taylor is exceptionally fallible or, better phrased, perfectly human. Just as we like him. The consistently amazing Gandolfini has won three Emmys already, not that that should be a reason voters exclude him here. At this point, Chiklis is so familiar with Vic Mackey, he bleeds the anti-hero’s DNA. Sadly, however ,the TV Academy haven’t noticed “The Shield” in years and probably won’t start now. Michael C. Hall has made a beautiful transition from “Six Feet Under” to a serial killer with a heart in “Dexter” and, like Gandolfini, Hugh Laurie is in nearly every scene of his show. It’s a huge burden, but one he pulls off with alarming excellence.

Lead actress, drama

Connie Britton, “Friday Night Lights”

Edie Falco, “The Sopranos”

Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: SVU”

Ellen Pompeo, “Grey’s Anatomy”

Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”

And there’s always: Polly Walker, “Rome”

Britton makes this category stronger than it has in years past, but it’s still a tad weaker compared to the guys. Once the “Friday Night Lights” writers decided to make Britton a guidance counselor at Dillon High School, we got a chance to see her character — and the actress — flourish. Falco appeared in less scenes than in many season’s past, but she’s always so good the quality of her performances override the quantity. Sedgwick transforms “The Closer” from ordinary cop procedural to a textured, rich character study and Pompeo does her best to overcome the strum and drang that was “Grey’s Anatomy,” both on camera and off. Hargitay is the defending champ here, and continues to does an excellent job on “SVU,” but expect to see the trophy handed to either Britton or Sedgwick, probably the latter.

Supporting actor, drama

Michael K. Williams, “The Wire”

Gerald McRaney, “Deadwood”

T.R. Knight, “Grey’s Anatomy”

Walton Goggins, “The Shield”

Michael Emerson, “Lost”

And there’s always: Jack Coleman, “Heroes”

Supporting actress, drama

Elizabeth Mitchell, “Lost”

Adrianne Palicki, “Friday Night Lights”

Sarah Paulson, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”

CCH Pounder, “The Shield”

Maura Tierney, “ER”

And there’s always: Rachel Griffiths, “Brothers and Sisters”

Comedy series

"30 Rock," NBC

"Entourage," HBO

"Extras," HBO

"How I Met Your Mother," CBS

"The Office," NBC

And there’s always: “My Boys,” TBS

Yes, I’m very aware “Ugly Betty” and "Desperate Housewives" aren't among the five here but comedy that goes so broad isn’t my thing. I much rather prefer sharp-edge, pinpointed barbs, and nothing made me laugh harder this season than “30 Rock” or “Extras,” the latter lasting only six episodes, but each one a bonafide gem. There were at least a half-dozen scenes that made my eyes water, and what better criteria is that? Tina Fey sharpened her writing skills for almost a decade on “SNL“ and that fruition, and our joy, is “30 Rock.” “Entourage” takes itself a bit too seriously at times but even at only 80% of its former self is better than most comedies. “The Office” sometimes misfires but when it connects, the zingers can ruminate in our head for days. “Mother” is a pure guilty pleasure with underrated five actors doing a yeoman-like job week after week.

Lead actor, comedy

Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”

Steve Carell, “The Office”

Ricky Gervais, “Extras”

Josh Radnor, “How I Met Your Mother”

Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men”

And there’s always: Andy Richter, “Andy Barker, P.I.”

I used to only think of Gervais as the knuckleheaded and completely inappropriate boss in “The Office” but now that seems a distant memory. The image of him that sticks with me now is Gervais, with his outstretched arm, holding off an aggravated midget by the top of his head in “Extras.” Every scene is so brilliantly executed it’s scary. Hosting “SNL” a zillion or so times meant Baldwin had comedy chops, but did anybody know he was this deadpan funny? Carell knows just when to raise an eyebrow and give a certain look that turns a scene from funny to hysterical. And while Radnor and Sheen might not have natural comedic instincts, they’re both on the receiving end of smart scripts and use their everyman personas to make us feel good about both them and ourselves.

Lead actress, comedy

America Ferrara, “Ugly Betty”

Tina Fey, “30 Rock”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”

Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”

Jordana Spiro, “My Boys”

And there’s always: Felicity Huffman, “Desperate Housewives”

Ferrara could’ve been one-dimensional but she brings a complexity to her overworked and underappreciated Miss Suarez that’s not as easy as one may think. Fey made her mark in TV as a writer but continues to gain confidence as an actress, and she can now stand toe-to-toe with the veteran Baldwin in knocking scenes out of the park. Parker’s cynicism engages us in that we like to watch the good girl do bad things. Louis-Dreyfus is always on her game but sometimes her character becomes more annoying than funny. Though “My Boys” took awhile to find its footing, Spiro offers just the right amount of charm and smarts to make us smile, and, even occasionally, chuckle.

Supporting actor, comedy

Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men”

Justin Kirk, “Weeds”

Jack McBrayer, “30 Rock”

Steven Merchant, “Extras”

Jeremy Piven, “Entourage”

And there’s always: John Krasinski, “The Office”

Supporting actress, comedy

Jenna Fischer, “The Office”

Ashley Jensen, “Extras”

Jaime Pressley, “My Name Is Earl”

Cobie Smulders, “How I Met Your Mother”

Sofia Vergara, “The Knights of Prosperity”

And there’s always: Emily Rutherfurd, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”

Stuart Levine is a senior editor at Daily Variety. He can be reached at