And (We Think) the Emmy Goes To...

Our TV guru Joshua Alston divines who'll take home a primetime, statuette-shaped doorstop in '09. The 61st Emmy Awards airs Sunday Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET.

For the writers and cast of every comedy that is not 30 Rock, I have good news and bad news about this year's Emmy Awards. The bad news is that Tina Fey has already taken home an Emmy this year, at the Creative Arts portion, which are handed out early. Granted, it wasn't for 30 Rock, her insatiable Emmy beast (this year it garnered a record 22 nominations), it was for her now-iconic performance as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. Still, it could mean that there remains a Fey frenzy among Emmy voters, which could mean another 30 Rock sweep. The good news is that Fey's show came up short in the categories it usually excels in: guest actors. All five of the actors nominated for guest spots on 30 Rock went home empty-handed. Though, in the case of the actresses. they lost to none other than…Tina Fey.

The point is that predicting Emmy winners is hardly scientific. There isn't the same cresting wave that forms leading up to the Oscars, such that by the time they're awarded, they are fairly easy to call. Emmys don't have the precursory awards, nor do they have a straightforward nomination process—the added layer of episode selection makes predicting the winners a bit of a dart throw. But I'm going to give it a shot all the same, though this year's nominees make it tough, simply because it represents so much quality.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Simon Baker, The Mentalist

Is this a long shot? Yes and no. True, this would be a second consecutive win for Cranston, who was a dark horse when he was nominated last year. But he's superb in the episode he submitted ("Phoenix"), and has lots of meaty emotional scenes. There's always the chance that Jon Hamm could ride Mad Men mania to a victory here, but he's just a little too cool as Don Draper, and understated doesn't get voters excited.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

I'll be the first to say that Damages suffered from a sophomore slump. But Close's performance is still one of the most ferocious on television and will easily mow down her competition here. Though, if there is an upset win, it'll go to Moss, whose character gave up a child in the show's second season. The episode in which she confesses this to the child's married, clueless father is the one she wisely submitted.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal
William Shatner, Boston Legal
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
William Hurt, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
John Slattery, Mad Men

This one, I'm torn on. I have a feeling the Boston Legal duo will split some votes from those who want to honor the departed show in some way. I'd love to see Emerson win at some point, but I think next year could be his year. That leaves Hurt, who was criminally underutilized in Damages, Paul, and Slattery. I loved Paul's performance and am pulling for him to win, but Slattery is on the buzzier show, which should help him clinch it.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Cherry Jones, 24
Rose Byrne, Damages
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy
Hope Davis, In Treatment
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment

The women of Grey's Anatomy have practically set up camp in this category, and while the show had a creative resurgence this year, I don't think it'll be enough. It's between Davis and Wiest, last year's winner. But Davis's performance as an emotionally reckless career woman was spectacular.

Drama Series
Big Love
Breaking Bad
Damages
Dexter
House
Lost
Mad Men

If for no other reason than its stranglehold on the Best Writing for a Drama category (four of the five nominees are Mad Men episodes), I think the winner is clear. But I wouldn't totally count out Breaking Bad, which had one of the most efficient, masterfully constructed seasons of television I've seen in some time.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
Steve Carell, The Office
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Man, this one is tough. As usual it's a two-man race that just happens to have six men in it. It's basically between Baldwin and Carell. I'm leaning slightly toward Carell only because his character was given such a phenomenal arc, and his performance was flawless in it. I adore Baldwin and think he's just as deserving, but they should alternate years.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

No Fey? No way. Collette has a few key advantages over Fey and the other nominees. Her episode submission is the show's pilot, and pilots tend to show off the range of the character in a way that a regular episode would not. Speaking of range, Collette plays a woman with multiple personalities, so she has plenty of that. (Cynthia Nixon won the Guest Actress in a Drama award last year for a multiple-personality role.)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Rainn Wilson, The Office
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

If you are not interested in watching a Tracy Morgan Emmy acceptance speech, then we have nothing in common. I would absolutely love to see him win, but he could easily split votes with McBrayer. Speaking strictly in terms of episode selection, Wilson has the best chance here. Although it would make great television to have the host of the show also be a winner, and aren't the Emmys all about the best in television?

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds

Weirdest category of the night, by far. Two nominees whose shows are on the creative downslope (Perkins and Williams), two who work on a show that almost never gets nominated for these categories (Poehler and Wiig), one from a show that got canceled (Chenoweth) and…Jane Krakowski. I love Krakowski as Jenna and have never been sure why her performance seems to polarize fans of the show. But I have a sneaking feeling it'll go to Poehler, who held things down at SNL while she was pregnant. I wouldn't at all mind seeing Wiig win, either.

Comedy Series
Entourage
Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
How I Met Your Mother
The Office
30 Rock
Weeds

30 Rock's major competition here is The Office, but considering how many nominations 30 Rock got, I think an upset is unlikely. Like their lead actors, the shows should just alternate who wins.