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Who will win Emmys and why: All award mysteries finally explained (including why crazy Hollywooders keep voting for schizo roles)

September 18, 2009 |  9:22 pm

Basically, I think Emmys are going to make like a TV repeat this year and bring back last year's winners in all top series races: best drama ("Mad Men"), lead drama actor (Bryan Cranston, "Breaking  Bad"), lead drama actress (Glenn Close, "Damages"), best comedy ("30 Rock"), lead actor (Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"), lead actress (Tina Fey, "30 Rock"). Here is my full list of predictions, which you should compare with those of other experts pooled by Gold Derby.

Believe it or not, such mass repetition has never happened — all of the top champs returning, that is. It may seem like Emmy winners get rubber-stamped all the time and they often do, but not en masse like that.

Alec Baldwin, Toni Collette Emmys news

What could the upsets be? Bryan Cranston faces a serious challenge from Gabriel Byrne, who gave Emmy judges a powerful episode of "In Treatment" — ("Gina, Week 4") — in which his character has a gripping scene at his father's death bed. "In Treatment" has two drawbacks, though: It's only half the length, time-wise, as rival nominees (size matters in Hollywood) and its characters are excruciatingly whiny, preachy and self-absorbed. However, Dianne Wiest pulled off an upset victory for supporting actress in the series last year.

Cranston also has gripping dramatics in his episode, too — "Phoenix" — read a full description here. Specifically touching is a scene in which he shows his infant daughter the illicit fortune he's stashed away for the well-being of his family's future. Click here to watch a video of Chris "Boomer" Beachum, Robert "Rob L" Licuria and I discuss the nuances of this cliffhanger category race.

Locked up are wins for best series ("Mad Men," "30 Rock") and Glenn Close as actress. There are chances of upsets on the comedy side, all because of a fluke factor of multiple personalities as a voting plus.

For some crazy reason, those notoriously nutty Hollywooders love to reward actors who portray split personalities — as if they're getting multiple performances for the price of one vote. Perhaps the biggest upset in Emmy history was pulled off by Lindsay Wagner as best drama actress — yes, drama actress — in 1977 for the laughably featherweight "Bionic Woman." She did so by giving Emmy judges an episode in which she portrayed good and evil twin takes on her character. Just last year Cynthia Nixon won an Emmy in the guest categories for portraying dual roles on "Law & Order: SVU." At the Daytime Emmys, Erika Slezak of "One Life to Live" won her fourth and fifth awards in 1994-95 and 1995-96, respectively, for acting out six personalities, one of them a 10-year-old boy. At the Oscars, think Joanne Woodward ("Three Faces of Eve") and Fredric March ("Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde").

In the race for best comedy actress, there are two contenders who challenge incumbent champ Tina Fey with multiple roles: Christina Applegate (good and evil turns of the same role in "Samantha Who?") and Toni Collette (four personalities in "United States of Tara"). However, Tina Fey gives a strong, sensitive performance in her episode submission, "Reunion," which reveals she once had a very different side to her adult personality. While attending her high-school reunion, she's shocked to discover that she was once considered to be a mean girl in her peers. (Fey, in real life, is the author and star of the hit film "Mean Girls" — get the inside joke? Will Emmy voters? They're members of the acting branch, which means they can be pretty dim.)

Last year's best comedy actor, Alec Baldwin, now has the split-personalities factor in his favor as he portrays, in "Generalissimo," both his usual role as sinister corporate suit plus an actor who portrays an army general on a Spanish TV soap opera. Baldwin does face some tough competition, though. He's up against Steve Carell ("The Office"), who's overdue to win and gave Emmy judges a sympathetic episode (for a change), titled "Broke." Usually, his character is too creepy or unlikable for voters to want to hug.

Newcomer Jim Parsons is seriously in the running, too, for a well-performed episode of "The Big Bang Theory" titled "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis." All of these contenders must be leery of  Tony Shalhoub, who's pulled off three upsets in this category in the past because he portrays a flamboyantly quirky role in a one-hour show ("Monk") competing against half-hour rivals. He made a good episode entry this year, too ("Mr. Monk and the Miracle"). See a full list of all episode title entries here.

One big upset of Emmy night might be in the category of best variety series where we might see the triumphant return of "Saturday Night Live" thanks to its prominence in the U.S. presidential election last year. "The Daily Show" has reaped the variety award in years past. "Saturday Night Live" hasn't won since 1993, but it scored some significant victories last week at Emmy's Creative Arts ceremony. Tina Fey won best guest comedy actress for her portrayal of Sarah Palin, and Justin Timberlake won the first Emmy (best guest comedy actor) ever bestowed for hosting "Saturday Night Live."

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Photos: NBC, Showtime

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