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Hey, how the heck did I get in this Emmy race?

August 22, 2006 | 10:00 am


In the contest for best comedy actress, the star of HBO's canceled "The Comeback" may make a dramatic Emmy comeback (Lisa Kudrow won in the supporting race for "Friends" in 1998) thanks to the wow-pow of her performance in the "Classic Leno" episode. That is, if she doesn't get clobbered by Emmy-overdue Jane Kaczmarek, who finally has a serious chance to win after six previous losses for "Malcolm in the Middle." Whatever happens, I'm in big trouble. If I'm right about how this race shapes up, one of these gals will have me to blame for her loss. But, hey: the other one will have me to thank!

Somehow, inadvertently, I ended up determining what episodes these stars submitted to Emmy judges.

In the next day or two I'll post a video of a recent chat I had with Lisa at the Golden Globes' installation-of-officers lunch and you can see her tell the story of how she chose her episode this year. Initially, she had planned to submit "Valerie Gets Her Own Special Episode," but she heard through the industry that I thought "Classic Leno" would make a much better choice, so she switched. Meantime, in the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that Jane Kaczmarek recently told me that she had her writers pen a special episode ("Lois Strikes Back") based specifically upon my formula for Emmy victory: range, impact, sympathy.

Oh, no! The Emmy heat is on! I've been in this spot — kind of — in the past and everything worked out fine, but I got ensnared in the candidacy of only one rival for best comedy actress.

Back in the last year of "Sex and the City," Sarah Jessica Parker — who still hadn't won an Emmy despite having four Golden Globe TV awards on her and Matthew's mantle — planned to submit "The Post-It Always Sticks Twice" as her Emmy episode. Tisk, tisk, tisk, I wrote online. Dumb mistake. Her character, Carrie Bradshaw, is too whiny and bitchy in it. Sarah won't win again, I claimed. She'd be far, far better off submitting part 2 of the series finale. I was just mouthing off pompously in our forums, didn't think anybody was paying attention, but Sarah got wind of it and disagreed. Soon afterward she did a live chat session with us and she and I got into a bit of a tussle. While we were on the phone (I did her typing for her during the chat session), we dished the plusses and minuses of various episode possibilities. She conceded that I might have a point about "Post-It," but she thought I was wrong about submitting part 2 of the finale because some judges may not have seen part 1. Therefore, she said, part 1 would make a much better entry, especially because it opens with a marvelous meltdown scene outside Carrie's Manhattan brownstone during which she tells Mr. Big to buzz off once and for all.

Yeah, that meltdown scene is a doozy, sure, but Carrie's a wee bit bitchy again and that was always Sarah's problem at Emmys past. Voters want to feel sympathy — or, even more important, empathy — for the characters portrayed. Not fair, but that's human nature. There are occasional exceptions to this rule. James Gandolfini won one year for beating the bejesus out of his mistress, but otherwise he triumphed in other years for episodes that included humble crying scenes and confessions of what a rotten thug Tony Soprano is.

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Photo: Just because I wrote the definitive book on the Emmys doesn't mean I know for sure who'll be listed in future editions as the winners. This year it could be Lisa Kudrow? Jane Kaczmarek? My official prediction is Kudrow, but I confess to being leery of a potential upset.

It's possible that Sarah could've won for part 1. I don't deny that. But I knew that she'd definitely win for part 2, however disjoined it may seem to some judges unfamiliar with the show. In it, Carrie displays the full range of every emotion: we see her porcelain heart shatter when she breaks up with Mischa Barishnikov, we see her giggling like a schoolgirl while tumbling through the hallways of her Paris hotel and, best of all, we see her finally back in the arms of Mr. Big — her heart bursting with eternal love and happy-ever-after joy — as they stroll over the foot bridges of the City of Lights at night. Frankly, as Emmy submissions go, it was an atom bomb that would wipe out all other episodes in the comedy-actress race, if only Sarah would go for it. But Sarah is a stubborn gal, who had other ideas.

Alas, in the end, however, she caved and submitted part 2 (or "Part Duex," as it's called en francais). And, of course, she won. Afterward, she was quite the lady about it, too — thanking me profusely on camera when we ran into each other on the red carpet outside the HBO party. (I was there grabbing sound bytes from celebs for a TV Land special.) Ditto for Cynthia Nixon, who gave full credit for her victory to this website, too, even holding up her Emmy to my TV cameras, saying, "Thank you. If only I had listened to you earlier, I might have won more of these!" But I can't take personal credit for helping Cynthia. Those thanks go to the brilliant posters in our message boards like "Boomer" (Chris Beachum), who led insightful debates about what her best episode entries should be. Cynthia happened to catch it, withdrew the episodes she had planned to submit, and substituted the exact episode titles she saw recommended here! Yikes! Of course, none of us knew that this was occurring behind the scenes at that time. That would've freaked everybody out.

For years I've warned our message-board posters to be careful about how bossily they assert their opinions around here because many award participants hang out among us, hiding behind cyber nicknames. Ray Romano used to monitor our forums often (maybe he still does? — hi, Ray!) and gripe to me whenever I'd see him, "Why is it that nobody at your website realizes that the title of my show is 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' eh? Not Debra, not Marie, Frank or Robert. Raymond! Every week or so I look through your message boards and I never see anybody ever say anything nice about me! Just all of the other characters. What's up with that? "

Not just Emmy contenders, but Oscar and Globe rivals, too. One of this year's likely nominees (in one of the top races, no less), for example, spends more than an hour per day at this site. But it's the Emmy contenders who make me nervous because the Emmy is the only showbiz award that demands that participants actually participate. That is, choose a great sample episode. And, frankly, whether we like it or not, this website is the only place in the universe, including the whole cyberuniverse, where you can find intelligent discussion about that, so we become reluctant stars ourselves at Emmy time. We could become stage-struck and keep our opinions hush, but that would ruin all of the fun. Let's not do that.

But here's a fierce warning to all Emmy contenders: beware. We're not always right! Please do not automatically follow our advice. Earlier this year one of the most likely Emmy nominees switched his/her episode submission at the last minute after reading something here in my blog and didn't get nominated. Frankly, I don't think he/she would've made the cut if he/she went with the episode originally planned, but we'll never know.