DRAMA SERIES

"Boston Legal": A winning verdict is unlikely, but never count out a legal show by David E. Kelley, who's won the most Emmys as producer of series voted best drama or comedy. Six of his eight wins were for shows about lawyers: "Ally McBeal," "The Practice" and "L.A. Law."

"Damages": Just the kind of stylish, critically hailed thriller that voters adore, but it has two problems. First, it aired last fall. Second, serialized dramas with complex plots usually don't win their first Emmy outing. "The Sopranos" and "24" didn't prevail until Season 5.

"Dexter": "The Sopranos" proved that shows about sympathetic killers can win as long as they're cool. Even better, "Dexter" is sexy and elegant and it's impossible to overstate how snobbish Emmy voters can be. However, most judges probably aren't regular "Dexter" viewers and may be squeamish about embracing a stranger who's spattered with blood and smirking.

"House": Deserves to win, so this medical show's prognosis is OK, not great. It may be too focused on one (crotchety) character.

"Lost": After winning here in 2005, then mysteriously vanishing, "Lost" has finally found its way back into this category but without crucial backup. Over the last few decades, only once did a show win best drama without being nominated for writing or directing ("The Practice").

"Mad Men": With the most nominations (16) and buzz, "Mad Men" is considered the front-runner, but things could get crazy. With six nominees in this category, a show can win, theoretically, with only 17% of the vote. "Mad Men" is vulnerable because Emmy judges unfamiliar with the show may find its pace slow.

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