Sure Things and Question Marks for Emmy Nominations

On the eve of the Emmy nominations, a guide to who's favored, and who may be left out

There will be snubs.

Make no mistake, when the Emmy nominations are announced at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning, some deserving series will be left out.

Just as baseball fans looked at the All-Star Game rosters and wondered why they didn’t see Joey Votto or Heath Bell or Stephen Strasberg, TV fans will look at the lineup and see some glaring omissions.  

LostMaybe it’ll be “Lost” (right) on the heels of its final season, proving to be just too weird for Emmy voters despite its formidable pop-culture clout.  

Or “Law & Order,” which recently ended a 20-year run that tied it with “Gunsmoke” as TV’s longest-running primetime drama series, but did so without much Emmy love during its final decade. 

Or “Friday Night Lights,” its massive critics love falling on deaf ears at the TV Academy.  Or four-time Best Drama Series nominee “House,” or 2009 nominee “Big Love.”

In the acting field, will there be room for Kiefer Sutherland, who served as the lean, mean center of “24” for all of its nine seasons?  Or Bill Paxton, patriarch of the family that puts the bigin “Big Love?”  Or Anna Paquin, the vampire fancier around whom “True Blood” revolves? 

And what about Conan O’Brien, whose new home, TBS, for whom he has yet to make a show, ran an Emmy campaign while NBC, the network that pushed him aside after his short run at the helm of “The Tonight Show” tried to ignore his candidacy?

Michael C. HallIn some ways, Emmy voters are creatures of habit, and many of the names that show up on the slate of nominees will be familiar from past rosters.  But the TV landscape is so vast that there simply isn’t room for the past favorites, the hot newcomers and the sentimental picks whose shows ended this past season.

Perusing Emmy predictions at sites like Gold Derby, the Envelope’s Buzzmeter and Entertainment Weekly, and you’ll find an uneasy consensus emerge on most of the nominees in the top categories.  And yes, there should be some sure things: Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and “30 Rock”; “Mad Men”; Michael C. Hall (right) and John Lithgow for “Dexter”; “Glee” and “Modern Family”; “The Pacific.” 

But beyond that are question marks, possibilities, and a plethora of snubs-in-the-making.  So here’s a quick guide to how things might look in six of the top categories:

Drama Series

The inside track: “Breaking Bad,” Dexter,” “Mad Men,” “Lost”

The second tier: “The Good Wife”

Somebody’s going to be left out: “”Damages,” “House,” “True Blood,” “Big Love,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Treme,” “24”

Comedy Series

The inside track: “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “30 Rock”

The second tier: “The Big Bang Theory,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Somebody’s going to be left out: “The Office,” “Family Guy,” “Nurse Jackie,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Community,” “Entourage,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Weeds”

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

The inside track: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”; Hugh Laurie, “House”; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

The second tier: Simon Baker, “The Mentalist”

Somebody’s going to be left out: Timothy Olyphant, “Justified”; Peter Krause, “Parenthood”; Bill Paxton, “Big Love”; Wendell Pierce, “Treme”; Kiefer Sutherland, “24”; Matt Bomer, “White Collar”; Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”; Denis Leary, “Rescue Me”; Matthew Fox, “Lost”

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The inside track: Glenn Close, “Damages”; Julianna Marguiles, “The Good Wife”

The second tier: January Jones, “Mad Men,” Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: SVU”; Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”

Somebody’s going to be left out: Sally Field, “Brothers & Sisters”; Lauren Graham, “Parenthood”; Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”; Anna Paquin, “True Blood”; Katey Sagal, “Sons of Anarchy”; Melissa Leo, “Treme”

Lea MicheleLead Actor in a Comedy Series

The inside track: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Tony Shalhoub, “Monk”

The second tier: Matthew Morrison, “Glee”; Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”

Somebody’s going to be left out: Steve Carrell, “The Office”; Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; Thomas Jane, “Hung”; Johnny Galecki, “The Big Bang Theory”; Zachary Levi, “Chuck”; Joel McHale, “Community”; Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men”; David Duchovny, “Californication”

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The inside track: Toni Collette, “United States of Tara”; Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”

The second tier: Lea Michele, “Glee” (left); Courtney Cox, “Cougar Town”; Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”

Somebody’s going to be left out:  Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “New Adventures of Old Christine”; Patricia Heaton, “The Middle”