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Fresh blood invigorates this year's Emmy Awards

Saturday, September 21, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Thank goodness for fresh blood. This year's Emmy nominations virtually ensure a better awards ceremony tonight than in recent years, when the Emmy Awards became a night of reruns: The same old winners, the same old speeches.


TV Preview

What: "The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

When: 8 tonight on NBC

Host: Conan O'Brien

This year, Emmy has moved away from honoring sameness, instead spicing up its nomination ranks with deserving series and casting out mainstays that haven't warranted inclusion in years ("ER," I'm talking about you).

That's not to say some deserving shows weren't overlooked. "Gilmore Girls" deserves acting honors at least. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" had a lousy season, but its musical episode should have gotten writing and/or directing nominations for series creator Joss Whedon. And FX's "The Shield" merited a best drama series nod.

Those are just quibbles compared to the monotony of the past.

Another potential plus for tonight's Emmy show: Conan O'Brien of NBC's "Late Night" will host the broadcast, which will try to get back to business as usual after last year's postponements and concern over tone because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A "Countdown to the Emmys" with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer will air at 7 p.m., and a post show will air at 11:30 p.m.

Here's my take on the most deserving winners in the major categories:

Drama

"CSI" and "Law & Order" are the populist choices, "Six Feet Under" is the intellectual choice among those who otherwise dismiss TV as frivolous, and "The West Wing" has moved into the ranks of elder Emmy statesman.

But my vote goes to "24" for reinvigorating the format and delivering an engrossing serial for 24 hours straight.

Comedy

There's nothing as groundbreaking as "24" in this category. Old favorites "Friends," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Will & Grace" compete with HBO upstarts "Sex and the City" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

"Curb" is the most unusual series, but in its own way it got stuck in its "Seinfeld"-esque rhythms pretty early in its run. I'd vote for "Friends," which had a strong season and offered the most to look forward to each week.

Actor, drama

Though "Six Feet Under" doesn't delight me the way it does many viewers, Michael C. Hall is one of the show's most talented performers and deserves the award over one-note, sullen Peter Krause. "The West Wing" didn't have a great season, which probably knocks Martin Sheen out of the fray.

Much as I love "24," I'm not convinced Kiefer Sutherland's role provided much of a challenge, although Sutherland deserves credit for grounding the show with his portrayal and not allowing it to spin out of control.

If I got to mark a ballot, I'd be inclined to give the trophy to Michael Chiklis, who completely transformed his physique and image by playing corrupt cop Vic Mackey on FX's "The Shield."

Actress, drama

Newcomer Jennifer Garner made a splash in ABC's "Alias," joining the ranks of Amy Brenneman ("Judging Amy") and Allison Janney ("The West Wing").

The true fight is between "Six Feet Under" stars Frances Conroy and Rachel Griffiths. After this past season, I'm so sick of Griffiths' moody nut Brenda that I don't want to encourage the character's return. So my vote goes to Conroy. Her portrayal of Fisher family matriarch Ruth is both darkly funny and terribly heartbreaking.

Actor, comedy

As far as I'm concerned, give it to anyone but Kelsey Grammer. "Frasier" is tired and undeserving of any honors at this point in its seemingly endless run.

Ray Romano essentially plays Ray Romano on "Everybody Loves Raymond," so he probably doesn't deserve it, either. Among the "Friends" stars -- Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry -- it was LeBlanc's year. It's a tough call between him and Bernie Mac, whose "Bernie Mac Show" was a standout in its first season. Give it to LeBlanc this year, but keep an eye on Mac.

Actress, comedy

Nothing about "Sex and the City" impresses me, least of all Sarah Jessica Parker, so she won't get my vote. Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") has two wins already and her character is becoming increasingly one note.

The other three nominees - Jennifer Aniston ("Friends"), Debra Messing ("Will & Grace") and Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm in the Middle") -- have never won. I'd vote for Kaczmarek for her role as fierce mama bear Lois.

Miscellaneous

People I do not want to see win: Supporting comedy actor nominee David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier"), because he's won three times already, and supporting drama actress nominee Mary-Louise Parker ("The West Wing"), because her character is an annoying caricature and she reads her dialogue in a monotone voice that's unbearable.


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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