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The Emmy Preview - THE COMMENTARY

By Joseph Planta

After last yearís marathon, 4 hour Emmy telecast, that went hostless, this year producer Don Mischer has tapped 2-time Emmy winner David Hyde Pierce and 2-time nominee Jenna Elfman, to host this yearís telecast which will air live on Fox on Sunday, September 12, 1999. (Tape delay on the West Coast.) This year has been a rather refreshing year for nominees. Last year Frasier won itís 5th consecutive Best Comedy award, while Helen Hunt won her 3rd consecutive in Best Actress, Comedy. This year Frasier and Helen Hunt have been nominated again, but they also include a lot of supporting nods to The Practice. 4 of the Best Supporting Actress, Drama, are from the David E. Kelley drama. The Sopranos, an HBO drama took the most nominations, 16. Thatís more than any other program this season. Sadly, we in Western Canada canít see this show. Also, the media and critics alike, all breathed a sigh of relief when Everybody Loves Raymond, was finally nominated. I was also surprised and pleased that Sex and The City, was nominated. The HBO sitcom is one of the finest comedyís on television today.

So I shall rattle off my picks, my predictions on who will take televisionís Golden Girl, Sunday night. A note of caution, the Emmyís are known for their unpredictability and I have not been too successful predicting the Emmyís. Also, unlike the Oscars where we get 5-6 thousand members of an Academy voting in a first-past-the-post system, The Emmyís are chosen by a small number of industry individuals, who form peer panels that screen every nomination. Some panels have less than 20 people, so the standards for excellence are high. It also means a nominee must submit only two tapes; two episodes, so the actors are known to submit their best work.

For Best Drama Series, we see 5 of the best Dramas nominated: ER, Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The Practice and The Sopranos. The first four shows have won this award before, but never in their first season, so we can cancel out The Sopranos. ER has turned into a soap, and a bad one at best, NYPD Blue slipped a bit and The Practice won last year. The real quality show this season is Law & Order. Big ratings have also put this show at the top of our collective conciseness. I pick Law & Order.

For Best Comedy Series, Frasier has won this statuette five times now and itís trying to go for its 6th. Itís pitted against: Ally McBeal, Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends and Sex and the City. Iím tempted to say Sex and The City, because itís just that good, but The Larry Sanders Show never won in this category, so I predict with trepidation. Frasier could win it again, but it has slipped considerable, and underperformed. There were some good episodes, and if the ones I saw are submitted it could go 6 for 6. But, I think the choice for me is Friends. I saw one full episode of Ally McBeal, and I thought it was brilliant. Everybody Loves Raymond is a good sitcom, one of the best, but it is Friends that should win this statuette, for the first time.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series has Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits from NYPD Blue, even though Smits left after 6 episodes in the season. James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, Dylan McDermott, The Practice, and Sam Waterston for Law & Order. Waterston is a good actor, but his calm and toned down performance, will lose out to big and brash drama, thatís why Dennis Franz always wins. Jimmy Smits could win for his death episode, but I think it was too little for recognition. James Gandolfini is great, heís won critics prizes and Dylan McDermott may win, for his anchoring of The Practice. But, I think Dennis Franz will win. His passionate scenes, after his wifeís death on the show will bring him his fourth Emmy.

In Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Gillian Anderson of The X-Files, Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco of The Sopranos, Christine Lahti of Chicago Hope and Juliana Margulies of ER, are nominated. Anderson is drab, Lahti was a little hokey this season on Hope, and Margulies is just kitsch. Edie Falco is a little too young, so the Emmy will go to Lorraine Bracco.

For Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Michael J. Fox could win for having Parkinsonís disease, John Lithgow could win, because heís won 2 already, but I think these guys are not deserving. Paul Reiser deserved it years ago, but the last season of Mad About You was excruciating. Kelsey Grammer could get his fourth, but Iím a little hesitant. Ray Romano, could too, but I think the fad of stand-ups in television has faded. I think it will go to Fox, just because.

For Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Helen Hunt could win her 3rd or host Jenna Elfman of Dharma and Greg, Calista Flockhart of Ally McBeal, Patricia Heaton of Everybody Loves Raymond, or Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and The City could win their first. I think itís Calisaís year, she should have won last year, and this year the Emmy will go to her. But I can also see Sarah Jessica Parker win. Sheís funny, young, got great comic timing and a good actress. Her performances in Sex and The City are typical of some of the women whoíve won this award in the past.

Well, if you havenít seen these shows, tune in on Sunday night and see what all the fuss is about.

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An archive of Joseph Planta's previous columns can be found by clicking HERE .