THE RACE IS ON

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.

DRAMA SERIES

FAVORITES

"Big Love"

"Boston Legal"

"Brothers & Sisters"

"The Closer"

"Damages"

"Dexter"

"Friday Night Lights"

"Grey's Anatomy"

"House M.D."

"In Treatment"

"Lost"

"Mad Men"

"Rescue Me"

"The Riches"

"Saving Grace"

"The Tudors"

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.

POSSIBLE

"Battlestar Galactica"

"Breaking Bad"

"Dirty Sexy Money"

"Heroes"

"Law & Order: SVU"

"Tell Me You Love Me"

"The Wire"

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.

LONG SHOTS

"Army Wives"

"Brotherhood"

"CSI"

"ER"

"Eureka"

"Gossip Girl"

"Law & Order"

"Medium"

"Nip/Tuck"

"Prison Break"

"Private Practice"

"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).

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COMEDY SERIES

FAVORITES

"30 Rock"

"Back to You"

"Californication"

"Curb Your Enthusiasm"

"Desperate Housewives"

"Entourage"

"How I Met Your Mother"

"My Name Is Earl"

"The Office"

"Pushing Daisies"

"Scrubs"

"Two and a Half Men"

"Ugly Betty"

"Weeds"

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.

POSSIBLE

"Big Bang Theory"

"Chuck"

"Flight of the Conchords"

" 'Til Death"

"Monk"

"New Adventures of Old Christine"

"Samantha Who?"

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.

LONG SHOTS

"Eureka"

"Everybody Hates Chris"

"Hannah Montana"

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"

"Family Guy"

"My Boys"

"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.

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MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE

FAVORITES

"An American Crime"

"As You Like It"

"Bernard and Doris"

"Pictures of Hollis Woods"

"For One More Day"

"A Raisin in the Sun"

"Recount"

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.

POSSIBLE

"The Fever"

"My Boy Jack"

"Ruffian"

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.

LONG SHOTS

"A Grandpa for Christmas"

"The Memory Keeper's Daughter"

"PU-239"

"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.

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MINISERIES

FAVORITES

"The Company"

"The Bronx Is Burning"

"Cranford"

"Five Days"

"John Adams"

"Sense and Sensibility"

"Tin Man"

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.

POSSIBLE

"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard"

"The Andromeda Strain"

"Black Magic"

"Capture of the Green River Killer"

"Comanche Moon"

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.

LONG SHOTS

"Jekyll"

"The Gathering"

"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.

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VARIETY SERIES

FAVORITES

"The Colbert Report"

"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?

POSSIBLE

"Frank TV"

"Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

"Lewis Black's Root of All Evil"

"The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"

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.

LONG SHOTS

"Big Gay Sketch Show"

"Chelsea Lately"

"Criss Angel Mindfreak"

"Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"

"MADtv"

"Mind of Mencia"

"WWE Raw"

"The Soup"

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.

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VARIETY SPECIAL

FAVORITES

"Ellen's Really Big Show"

"Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale"

"Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveShow"

"Kennedy Center Honors"

"Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project"

"Movies Rock"

"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.

POSSIBLE

"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.

LONG SHOTS

"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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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Emmys timeline

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.

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THE PICKS

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.

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