Emmy alert: what to watch on TV

To follow the drama of the Primetime Emmy race, don't wait till nominations are announced on July 15. By then many Emmy-specific episodes of top series will have aired.

Voting on the TV awards involves episodes submitted by contenders as exemplary of their best work. Which ones are in the running won't be disclosed until July, but most tend to be aired in April and May -- the tail end of the eligibility period -- so they're freshest in voters' minds.

Here are some TV highlights this week of interest to award-trackers:

For the last seven hours of "24" (winner of best drama series last year), the focus shifts from professional to personal as Jack (best actor Kiefer Sutherland) learns that Audrey (Kim Raver) is alive and in need of his help. (One wonders what the writers would have come up with had Raver's other show this season, "The Nine," been a success.) The episode also features another appearance by Kari Matchett, the second "Invasion" star to surface on FOX, following William Fichtner, whose obsessive G-man was the best thing about the second season of the just concluded "Prison Break."

"Inside the Actors Studio" (Bravo) reruns a two-hour interview with Al Pacino, a Triple Crown winner with a Tony ("Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie?"), Oscar ("Scent of a Woman") and Emmy ("Angels in America"). Now, he needs to record a spoken-word album to get that elusive Grammy.

"America at a Crossroads" (PBS) is an ambitious weeklong series of independently produced documentaries that explore various challenges in the post 9/11 world.

"My Name is Earl" (NBC) reruns two episodes from February that could be part of the package of six submitted to TV academy voters in the race for best comedy series. As part of the process, producers also need to include a summary of their show, which should make for some interesting reading.

"House" (FOX), a nominee last year for drama series, has a strong new episode, "Act Your Age," in which the title doctor, prone to childish tantrums, must grow up and help a real child in trouble.

"Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC) reruns "The War at Home," which showcases Rita Moreno as the overly protective mother of Vincent D'Onofrio. Moreno, the first Grand Slam [unclear reference--same as Triple Crown, per above? Need to list what's referenced. If TC/GS are the same, choose one for all references]award winner, who picked up a guest actress Emmy in 1978 for "The Rockford Files," could be this show's lucky charm and break a five-season Emmy drought.

On a new episode of "Boston Legal" (ABC), Christian Clemenson reprises his 2006 Emmy-winning guest role of Jerry "Hands" Espenson, and faces off against former mentor James Spader in court.

"Lost" (ABC) is on a roll with a repeat of last week's exceptional "One of Us" episode, followed by a new one, "Catch-22," which spotlights new regular Henry Ian Cusick, guest nomm'd last year, as clairvoyant Desmond who has to deal with flashes and flashbacks.

On "Medium" (NBC), 2005 Emmy winner Patricia Arquette plays dual roles, always an academy favorite, in a rerun of "The One Behind the Wheel."

A new "My Name is Earl" (NBC) features guest Norm MacDonald as a poor little rich boy.

While last year's comedy winner "The Office" (NBC) is a repeat, newcomer "30 Rock" (NBC) is new with the "Lovely and Amazing" Emily Mortimer guesting as Alec Baldwin's would-be wife.

"Scrubs" (NBC) mines the comedy gold to be found in funerals. But can it match the brilliant gallows humor of that classic, Emmy-winning "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"?

"Ugly Betty" (ABC) is new this week with Betty (sure-to-be-nominated America Ferrera) once again getting her boss out of a jam.

On "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), Elizabeth Reaser, a 2005 Independent Spirit Award nominee for "Sweet Land," continues her strong guest arc as Jane Doe while two-time Emmy and Indie Spirit winner Mare Winningham reprises her role as the title character's stepmother.

On "Shark" (CBS), Natasha Henstridge, so good in last season's derailed "Commander in Chief," goes up against her former mentor (James Wood) in court. This freshman legal series has carved out a nice niche for itself against long running "ER" (NBC) which tonight features Stacy Keach's return as the wayward father of John Stamos. Keach can play good cop, too, as with his recent return guest shot as the warden on "Prison Break."

The only new episode of a series tonight is "Raines" (CBS), with Jeff Goldblum, Emmy nomm'd in 2005 for guest comedy actor on "Will & Grace," turning serious as a psychic who sees into the life of an abused child. Repeats range in age from one day, with a rerun of last night's Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), to the fall's "Ghost Whisperer" (CBS).

Scarlett Johansson hosts "Saturday Night Live" (NBC), which is showing renewed signs of life in this, its fourth decade on the air. The show won its last nontechnical Emmy five years ago for writing when the scribes were headed by Tina Fey of "30 Rock."

On "The Amazing Race" (CBS), four will be winnowed down to the final three pairs who will sprint to the finish line in a two-hour special next week. The series has never lost the Emmy race for best reality TV show.

On "Nick News" (Nickelodeon), a three-time Emmy winner as best children's program, Linda Ellerbee examines the effects of autism.

On "Desperate Housewives" (ABC), the spotlight is on 2005 Emmy winner Kathryn Joosten, who guests again as mean Mrs. McCluskey.

Another old-timer is featured on "The Sopranos" (HBO), with two-time Emmy nominee Dominic Chianese outstanding as Uncle Junior.

"The Tudors" (Showtime) is focused on the youthful indiscretions of Henry VIII, who is redeemed by the pope as "Defender of the Faith."

Redemption is also the theme of tonight's "Hallmark Hall of Fame" (CBS) presentation, "Crossroads," in which a man (Dean Cain) comes to terms with the death of his wife and child with the help of Peri Gilpin, shockingly never nominated as Roz on "Frasier" (the only principal cast member so snubbed).

Another husky-voiced actress is showcased on "Entourage" (HBO) with the welcome return of Beverly D'Angelo as the boss from hell.

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