EMMY balloting runs from Monday to June 20, during which time all 12,000 TV academy members vote for programs and individual branches decide contenders according to their peer group (actors vote on actors, for example). Then the Top 10 finalists submit a sample episode that will be weighed by judges, who will rank the episodes from 1 to 10. Accountants combine the popular vote and the judges' scores to determine five nominees per category that will be announced on July 17. Here's a look at what some of those nominations might include.
"Brothers & Sisters"
"Friday Night Lights"
SPOTLIGHT: No cable series airing anywhere but HBO has ever been nominated for top drama or comedy. This year's best shots are on the drama side. Five could end up among the Top 10 finalists: AMC's "Mad Men," FX's "Damages," TNT's "The Closer" and Showtime's "Dexter" and "The Tudors." Last year only "Dexter" made it that far.
"Dirty Sexy Money"
"Law & Order: SVU"
"Tell Me You Love Me"
SPOTLIGHT: Final chance for two critically hailed, departing shows to be recognized. There's hope for "Battlestar Galactica" -- it scored four nominations last year, including impressive, first-time bids for writing and directing. "The Wire" reaped a writing bid back in 2005 but has been ignored ever since despite the universal cries of TV critics who say it deserves to win best drama.
"Law & Order"
"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"
"Without a Trace"
SPOTLIGHT: Rarely have Emmy voters given trashy pop-cult hits like "Gossip Girl" their due. Perhaps "Dynasty" got nominated for best drama series of 1982 because it skewed older and had snob appeal (Alexis' bubbly, those shoulder pads). The camp teen classics of yore got skunked in the top awards by Emmy, but earned bids from other awards: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (Television Critics Assn.), "Beverly Hills 90210" (Golden Globes) and "Dawson's Creek" (Teen Choice).
"Back to You"
"Curb Your Enthusiasm"
"How I Met Your Mother"
"My Name Is Earl"
"Two and a Half Men"
SPOTLIGHT: The year's breakout new comedy series almost always gets nominated ("Ugly Betty," "Desperate Housewives"), so that bodes well for "Pushing Daisies," which was already nommed for best comedy by the Golden Globes and Writers Guild of America.
"Big Bang Theory"
"Flight of the Conchords"
" 'Til Death"
"New Adventures of Old Christine"
SPOTLIGHT: Leading off the Monday night comedy block for CBS, "Big Bang Theory," from "Two and a Half Men" creator Chuck Lorre, also captures the spirit of "The Odd Couple" with its pair of mismatched roommates. This traditionally shot sitcom could break the recent Emmy bias toward single-camera shows.
"Everybody Hates Chris"
"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
"Rules of Engagement"
"The Sarah Silverman Program"
SPOTLIGHT: "Family Guy" is pulling a "Simpsons"! After three losses and then last year's snub in the animation category, it's trying its luck (likely to be bad) in the comedy-series race. Before doing so, "Guy" should've checked with its sister show down the hall at Fox. "Simpsons" won nine Emmys for animated program before trying -- unsuccessfully -- to break into this race, only to return quickly to the animation category.
"An American Crime"
"As You Like It"
"Bernard and Doris"
"Pictures of Hollis Woods"
"For One More Day"
"A Raisin in the Sun"
SPOTLIGHT: HBO has won this category 13 of the last 15 years, including the last four in a row. It's aired 44 of the 75 TV movies nominated since 1993. "Bernard and Doris" and "Recount" continue its tradition of glossy docudramas starring Oscar winners. Last year it was Anna Paquin in "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"; this year, it's Susan Sarandon and Kevin Spacey.
"My Boy Jack"
SPOTLIGHT: As part of the revamped "Masterpiece Theater," "My Boy Jack" cast five-time Emmy nominee Kim Cattrall in a real-life role far removed from "Sex and the City" -- the wife of writer Rudyard Kipling, whose only son enlists during WWI over her objections. And with Daniel Radcliffe taking a break from "Harry Potter" to play this would-be hero, the film brought a new audience to this long-running anthology series.
"A Grandpa for Christmas"
"The Memory Keeper's Daughter"
"The Russell Girl"
"Sweet Nothing in My Ear"
SPOTLIGHT: After landing a nod for "I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy" last year, Lifetime shipped DVDs of the tearjerker "Memory Keeper" to voters early this year. This ratings success was also based upon a bestseller, and double Oscar nominee Emily Watson stands out as the caretaker of a girl with Down syndrome.
"The Bronx Is Burning"
"Sense and Sensibility"
SPOTLIGHT: While HBO has not dominated this category the way it has with telefilms, the last time Tom Hanks produced a big-budget historical mini for the cable network -- "Band of Brothers" -- it won seven of the 16 categories it was nominated for in 2002. While that show didn't earn any acting nods, "John Adams" is loaded with respected American and English thespians headed up by Oscar nominees Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney.
"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard"
"The Andromeda Strain"
"Capture of the Green River Killer"
SPOTLIGHT: "Green River Killer" had tiny viewership on Lifetime's new, spinoff movie channel but its DVD had huge visibility. It was among the first of six complete programs ever permitted to be inserted into the pages of the TV academy's membership magazine. The problem: That issue may arrive too late for voting that commences Monday.
"Masters of Science Fiction"
SPOTLIGHT: Because of the rule requiring an American co-producer, very little of BBC America's programming is Emmy-eligible. But "Jekyll," a modern-day take on the classic tale, qualifies and has already gotten a Golden Globe nod for star James Nesbitt. Playing the dual role earned Fredric March an Oscar in 1932 and Michael Caine an Emmy nomination in 1990.
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"
"Late Night With Conan O'Brien"
"Late Show With David Letterman"
"Real Time With Bill Maher"
"Saturday Night Live"
"Tracey Ullman's State of the Union"
SPOTLIGHT: "The Colbert Report" just won the Peabody while "The Daily Show" could be running out of steam after five consecutive wins. After all, "Late Show With David Letterman" managed only that many wins in a row before being supplanted by Stewart and company. Could Colbert get the last laugh?
"Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
"Lewis Black's Root of All Evil"
SPOTLIGHT: Can Jay Leno get back in Emmy's good book for his second-to-last season hosting "The Tonight Show"? Since Leno took over the franchise from Johnny Carson in 1992, the show has won this category only once, in 1995, and was last nominated in 2003. Spurned Carson protege David Letterman's CBS show has won six times.
"Big Gay Sketch Show"
"Criss Angel Mindfreak"
"Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"
"Mind of Mencia"
SPOTLIGHT: The old daily "Talk Soup" scored a historic first Emmy win for E! in 1995 when Greg Kinnear hosted. Now the slightly different soup is served up once a week but the recipe is still hot with lesser-known host Joel McHale delivering a spicy satire of current tabloid events.
"Ellen's Really Big Show"
"Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale"
"Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveShow"
"Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project"
"Vivere: Andrea Bocelli Live in Tuscany"
"We Love Ella! A Tribute to the First Lady of Song"
"Night of Too Many Stars"
SPOTLIGHT: Is Ellen DeGeneres an automatic winner in primetime like she is daytime? Turner held up release of its Emmy campaign box to include her recent attempt to re-create the classic variety show format of TV's golden age a la Ed Sullivan with musical performances by Barry Manilow, Wayne Newton and Sheryl Crow.
"AFI Life Achievement Award: Tribute to Al Pacino"
"Barry Manilow: Songs From the Seventies"
"Bill Maher: The Decider"
"James Taylor: One Man Band"
"Kathy Griffin: Straight to Hell"
SPOTLIGHT: Straight to hell is where some folks expected Kathy Griffin to go last year after she slammed Jesus with a sexual slur and declared Emmy her new god when she won outstanding reality program. E! censored her. Ah, well, it was just the creative arts awards.
"Blue Collar Comedy: The Next Generation"
"David Broza at Masada: The Sunrise"
"Evening of Stars: Tribute to Smokey Robinson"
"Frank Caliendo: All Over the Place"
SPOTLIGHT: Last year the celebration of a music legend -- Tony Bennett -- won this category. This year's all-star tribute to Motown singer-songwriter Robinson could contend. The show feted his 50-year legacy while raising funds for the United Negro College Fund.
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Ongoing: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences offers Web viewing of "for your consideration" screeners at www.emmys.tv.
Week of June 2: Nominating ballots are posted on the academy's website.
June 20: 5 p.m. deadline for returning the ballots.
July 17: Nominations are announced at 5:35 a.m.
Week of Aug. 4: At-home judging DVDs for creative arts awards categories are mailed.
Week of Aug. 11: At-home judging DVDs for telecast awards categories are mailed.
Aug. 22: Deadline for returning at-home judging ballots for creative arts awards.
Aug. 29: Deadline for returning at-home judging ballots for telecast awards categories.
Sept. 13: Creative arts awards and ball held.
Sept. 21: 60th Prime-Time Emmy Awards telecast on ABC.
Gold Derby blogger Tom O'Neil predicts the Emmy season for The Envelope. For ongoing discussion of the Emmy race and other campaigns for gold -- Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys and more -- visit The Envelope.com.