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Emmy slugfest: Jon Hamm, Hugh Laurie and James Spader battle over best drama actor

July 8, 2008 | 10:17 pm

Can poor Hugh Laurie ("House") finally win the Emmy, please? He reaped two Golden Globes (2006, 2007), but both times he was nommed for TV's top prize, he got skunked by James Spader ("Boston Legal"). Well, doesn't everybody? Spader's never lost — he's three for three in this category.

Part of the reason that Spader never loses is because producer/writer David E. Kelley usually gives him one of those great, grandstanding courtroom speeches near the end of the episode. They're hard to beat. This year James Spader may have his greatest ever. He stands before the U.S. Supreme Court justices, roaring, "Who are you people? You've transformed this court from being a governmental branch devoted to civil rights and liberties into protector of discrimination, guardian of government, a slave to monied interests and big business and today, hallelujah, you seek to slay a mentally disabled man!" Noticing that Justice Clarence Thomas isn't paying attention, Spader shouts, "Put down that magazine!"

Hugh_laurie_jon_hamm_james_spader

Now how can Hollywood lefties not vote for that, eh?

Well, it looks like Hugh Laurie might tempt voters with what some "House" fanatics say is his greatest perf yet. In the episode he gave to Emmy judges, "House's Head," he battles temporary amnesia while struggling to recall which fellow passenger he diagnosed with a life-threatening medical problem just prior to a bus crash. The season finale is poignant, hilarious, mysterious, packed with drama and full of flashy acting scenes like when House goes all Rambo.

James Spader's and Hugh Laurie's nearest rival may be Jon Hamm. Everybody's gone crazy over "Mad Men" this year and Emmy voters adore hailing new stars. Hamm submitted a perfect episode to voters too. In "The Wheel," hotsy-totsy advertising exec Don Draper (Hamm) suddenly redeems himself for being a sly alley cat when we see him give a slide show to Kodak. The new, round slide projector is tentatively called "The Wheel, " but he wants the manufacturer to give it a new name that "takes us to a place where we ache to go," he says, tearing up, voice cracking as he shows off old, happy photos of him and his wife. "It's not called 'the wheel.' It's called 'the carousel.' It lets us travel the way a child travels, around and around and back home again — to a place where we know we are loved."

Yikes! There are lots of great perfs in this category this year. You and I have only looked at three so far and haven't even considered the other seven yet. What to think? I asked our forum moderators and special Emmy seers Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria (AwardsHeaven.net — read Hollywood Reporter's profile of Rob HERE).

While making their forecasts, Rob and Boomer track the voting process exactly. First, they predict the Top 10 semifinalists after members of the TV academy's actors' branch were polled in a popular vote. Then they predict how judges will rank the sample episode entries. Then they combine both scores on a 50-50 basis, just like the accountants do, to determine nominees.

For example, Rob gave Hugh a No. 1 on the popular vote and No. 2 on the list of judges' scores. Combining the numbers, total score is three. Remember: Lowest score equals best score.

How Rob ranks the popular vote outcome — 1.) Hugh Laurie 2.) Jon Hamm 3.) James Spader 4.) Denis Leary 5.) Patrick Dempsey 6.) Michael C. Hall 7.) Gabriel Byrne 8.) Bryan Cranston 9.) Eddie Izzard 10.) Kyle Chandler

Here's how Boomer thinks the pop vote went down — 1.) Hugh Laurie 2.) Jon Hamm 3.) Michael C. Hall 4.) James Spader 5.) Patrick Dempsey 6.) Gabriel Byrne 7.) Kyle Chandler 8.) Denis Leary 9.) Bryan Cranston 10.) Eddie Izzard

How Rob thinks the judges ranked episode entries — 1.) James Spader 2.) Hugh Laurie 3.) Bryan Cranston 4.) Michael C. Hall 5.) Gabriel Byrne 6.) Jon Hamm 7.) Kyle Chandler 8.) Eddie Izzard 9.) Denis Leary 10.) Dempsey

Here's how Boomer ranks the judges' views of the episodes — 1.) James Spader 2.) Hugh Laurie 3.) Jon Hamm 4.) Gabriel Byrne 5.) Bryan Cranston 6.) Michael C. Hall 7.) Kyle Chandler 8.) Denis Leary 9.) Eddie Izzard 10.) Patrick Dempsey

BEST DRAMA ACTOR: ROB'S PREDIX
(Top five = nominees)
1.) Hugh Laurie, "House" ("House's Head") — 3 points
2.) James Spader, "Boston Legal" ("The Court Supreme") — 3 points
2.) Jon Hamm, "Mad Men" ("The Wheel") — 8 points
4.) Michael C. Hall, "Dexter" ("There's Something About Harry") — 10 points
5.) Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad" ("Pilot") — 11 points
6.) Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment" ("Paul and Gina: Week 4") — 12 points
7.) Denis Leary, "Rescue Me" ("Babyface") — 13 points
8.) Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy" ("Freedom") — 15 points
9.) Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights" ("Last Day of Summer") — 17 points
9.) Eddie Izzard, "The Riches" ("Last Temptation of Wayne") — 17 points

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BEST DRAMA ACTOR: BOOMER'S PREDIX
(Top five = nominees)
1.) Hugh Laurie, "House" ("House's Head") — 3 points
2.) Jon Hamm, "Mad Men" ("The Wheel") — 5 points
3.) James Spader, "Boston Legal" ("The Court Supreme") — 5 points
4.) Michael C. Hall, "Dexter" ("There's Something About Harry") — 9 points
5.) Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment" ("Paul and Gina: Week 4") — 10 points
6.) Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad" ("Pilot") — 14 points
6.) Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights" ("Last Day of Summer") — 14 points
8.) Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy" ("Freedom") — 15 points
9.) Denis Leary, "Rescue Me" ("Babyface") — 16 points
10.) Eddie Izzard, "The Riches" ("Last Temptation of Wayne") — 19 points

Rob's commentary : Again, I am pretty confident that the top four are in, with Hall capitalizing on a very strong popular vote to get him through this time. I have a feeling the final slot somes down to Cranston versus Byrne, and so hopefully, if the voters paid attention during the "Breaking Bad" pilot, then Cranston has the edge, with Leary an outside shot at a third repeat nod.

(Photo: HFPA, AMC, ATAS)


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