Pay special attention to many series episodes debuting this week because they're scheduled to be submitted to Emmy judges determining nominees to be announced on July 19.
Watch these series to see what will be entered by their stars as a sample of their best work: "Everbody Hates Chris" (Tichina Arnold), "The Tudors" (Natalie Dormer) and "My Name Is Earl" (Jason Lee).
Not all Emmy contenders have declared their entries yet, so it's possible that other new episodes airing this week may play starring roles at the TV awards, too.
After last week's television academy salute to the once-overlooked "Everybody Hates Chris" (CW), Monday's episode, "Everybody Hates Math," features the Emmy submission of lead actress Tichina Arnold. As the beleaguered mother of kid Rock, she rules the roost bringing about order with just one arch of an eyebrow.
"How I Met Your Mother" (CBS) celebrates the wedding of Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel). Being a sitcom, naturally the ceremony is played for laughs, with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) riding to the rescue with "Something Borrowed."
After wallowing in that wedded bliss, watch a divorcee in despair on "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS) as Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus mines comic gold from her character's woeful single status. She once again fails as she tests her dating skills with her son's teacher (guest Blair Underwood, surprisingly never nominated in his seven seasons on Emmy champ "L.A. Law"). Last week's episode was entitled "Friends," this week's is called "Frasier" could these be subtle attempts by the producers for an Emmy by association?
Last year's winner of best drama series and lead actor "24" (Fox) winds down its sixth season with a storyline involving Jack (Emmy winner Kiefer Sutherland), Audrey (Kim Raver), the Chinese, and even further intrigue in the White House. A bright spot is Kari Matchett, who brings a cool elegance to the thankless role of a mole.
One of that show's toughest Emmy competitors is probably its time-slot rival, "Heroes" (NBC). On Monday night, a guilt-ridden Sylar (Zachary Quinto) seeks refuge with his mother (guest Ellen Greene, a Broadway vet best known for originating the role of Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors"). Aptly titled "The Hard Part," this standout episode could convince Emmy voters that this sci-fi fantasy series is a serious contender for best drama.
On "The Riches" (FX), Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver have to make like "Cinderella" and transform themselves into the perfect host and hostess while dealing with the arrival of an evil stepmother of sorts -- her former cellmate.
The sixth-season finale of "The George Lopez Show" (ABC) features a change-of-pace comedy guest turn from Emmy-winner Edward James Olmos, whose regular role on critically acclaimed "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi) has failed to find favor with Emmy voters.
The competition is winnowed down to the final four on both "American Idol" (Fox) and "Dancing With the Stars" (ABC). These programming juggernauts have propelled their lead-outs to new ratings heights.
"House" (Fox) has Piper Perabo guesting as the latest in a long line of love interests for the misanthropic doctor, while on "Boston Legal" (ABC) Bernadette Peters (Emmy nomm'd for guesting on David E. Kelley's "Ally McBeal" in 2001) dons judge's robes in a dramatic departure for this Tony Award-winning Broadway diva.
In a last-ditch effort to avoid cancellation, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC) jumps on the Anna Nicole bandwagon, with Kristy Swanson as an ill-fated femme fatale and Emmy-winning writer and "Arrested Development" star David Cross as her lawyer lover. The more nuanced storylines of "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC) won an Emmy for Mariska Hargitay last year. Tuesday night, co-star Christopher Meloni (nominee last year for best actor) makes a bid for a new bid with "Annihilated," which showcases him as distinctly "un-Stabler" after being spooked by guest Dylan Walsh ("Nip/Tuck") as a CIA spy.
Losing a series regular is nothing new on "Lost" (ABC). Wednesday night's episode focuses on the flashback of Others ringleader Ben, so creepily played by Emmy-winner Michael Emerson. Since the show's return in February, the momentum has been building, and these last three episodes, beginning with "The Man Behind the Curtain," promise a return to the glory that won the series the 2005 Emmy for best drama.
Former teen scream queen Neve Campbell's guest arc on "Medium" (NBC) could soon be over if Alison's (2005 Emmy-winner Patricia Arquette) latest dream comes true. And if Campbell ("Party of Five") and fellow 1990s TV star Jason Priestley ("Beverly Hills 90210") don't make you nostalgic, try "Shear Genius" (Bravo), the haircutting competition hosted by the seemingly ageless Jaclyn Smith, one of the original "Charlie's Angels."
NBC supersizes three of its sitcoms, beginning with the second-season finale of "My Name is Earl," which will be Jason Lee's episode submission for best lead actor. It shows a slightly softer side to the diamond in the rough that is the title character as he deals with Oscar-winner and four-time guest actor Emmy nominee Marlee Matlin, who plays that rarity -- a lawyer with a heart.
Last year's best comedy "The Office" pays homage to time slot competitor "Survivor" (CBS) when Michael (Steve Carell) decides to choose his successor by staging a survival of the fittest contest in "Beach Games." "Scrubs" starts to wrap up storylines as its sixth and possibly final season winds down with J.D. (Zach Braff) finally realizing he is in love with best friend Eliot (Sarah Chalke) just before she marries another man.
"Ugly Betty" (ABC) manages to wring laughs from the possible deportation of patriarch Ignacio (Tony Plana) who, in a tip to the telenovelas the show spoofs, is hiding all sorts of secrets back home where "A Tree Grows in Guadalajara."
After last week's detour to sunny Santa Monica, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC) returns to Seattle, where storm clouds gather as Callie (Sara Ramirez) becomes suspicious of Izzie (Katherine Heigl) and her relationship with George (T.R. Knight) just as the interns face their final exams.
"Without a Trace" (CBS) returns to its original Thursday time slot for the fifth season finale. Lead Anthony LaPaglia, Emmy-winner for his comic turn on "Frasier" as Daphne's drunk of a brother, has one nom for this procedural, which is delving more into the mysteries of the series regulars this season. Thursday night's episode, "The Beginning," focuses on his character's efforts to help a colleague in her child custody battle.
There is nothing soft about Stanley Tucci's character, Dr. Steve Moretti, who debuts on "ER" (NBC) tonight in an episode entitled, appropriately enough, "Sea Change." After last week's match and dispatch of key characters, this Emmy-award winning drama continues to surprise as it finishes up its 13th season.
With Fred Thompson inching closer to announcing his run for the presidency, tune in to Friday night's "Law & Order" (NBC) for one of his final appearances as the no-nonsense D.A. Should he run, equal-time rules will preclude rerunning his 100-plus episodes of this Emmy-winning drama.
After last Sunday's salute to the best of the 1990s, tonight's "Saturday Night Live" (NBC) is hosted by one of those now ready for prime time players: Emmy nominee Molly Shannon. In the 32-year history of the show, she is only the second female cast member (Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the first) to return as host.
"Survivor" (CBS), a perennial also-ran in the reality series Emmy race, takes over the time slot of the always-victorious "The Amazing Race" for the finale of its 14th competition, this one set in Fiji.
Both of ABC's Sunday night soaps, "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters," air their penultimate episodes, which lay the groundwork for next week's season-finale cliffhangers. While Bree (the much missed Marcia Cross) is still away on the world's longest honeymoon, two of her neighbors, Gaby (Eva Longoria) and Susan (Teri Hatcher), begin planning their own weddings while two others, Lynette (Felicity Huffman) and Edie (Nicollette Sheridan), face unexpected health issues.
And the Walker clan rallies round "Favorite Son" Tommy (Balthazar Getty) when he and Julia (Sarah Jane Morris) must make a difficult decision about the fate of their newborn twins.
The fate of Henry's romance with Anne Boelyn hangs in the balance on "The Tudors" (Showtime). As the object of the king's affection, Natalie Dormer is front and center in this episode and that, ironically, is what she is submitting it to Emmy voters as a sample of her supporting work in the series.
And Paulie's (the never nominated Tony Sirico) fate is in Tony's hands on Sunday night's episode of "The Sopranos" which is only four episodes from signing off forever. If you missed last Sunday's episode, catch a replay: "Walk Like a Man" will be Michael Imperioli's submission in the supporting-actor race.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times