Good news, Hugh Laurie fans! After four past defeats at the Emmys, the "House M.D." star might finally win best drama actor when trophies are doled out on Aug. 29. Things are also looking great for three-time past champ Tony Shalhoub, who may get a parting Emmy gift now that "Monk" bowed off the TV airwaves.
Both stars are making exceptional episode submissions to Emmy judges.
To be brutally frank, nominees for series acting win or lose Emmys based upon how smart or stupid they are when making episode choices. Each nominee must pick a sample of their best work from the past TV season. DVDs of the episodes are viewed by fellow actors who serve as judges. When voters file their ballots to decide who wins, they must also submit a signed affidavit attesting that they viewed all DVDs entered in the category.
That's why upsets happen so often at the Emmys. "Breaking Bad" may be a low-rated series on AMC, but Bryan Cranston has won best drama actor for the last two years based on the raw power of his shocking performance as a terminally ill cancer patient who's given up on being a good citizen and, desperate for cash, cooks up crystal meth for sale to addicted kids.
But Hugh Laurie may finally beat him this year for his dynamic performance as a Vicodin-addicted doctor who gets locked up in rehab in his episode submission "Broken." It's a special two-hour segment — therefore twice as long as most rival episode submissions in this category. That's key because size matters in Hollywood, of course, especially at the Emmys where the longest episodes often (but not always) win. Substance abuse is a powerful theme in rehab-happy Hollywood. It may have helped Cranston to win for "Breaking Bad" over the last two years. Now it may help Laurie, who grandstands emotionally throughout "Broken" as he goes through detox and resorts to blackmail while battling his doctor.
If size really matters, then Tony Shalhoub has an even bigger advantage in the battle over best comedy actor. He's submitted the two-part series finale of his hourlong "Monk." That means his entry is four times longer than other nominees' submissions. And it's a big heart-tugger too, in which his tick-wacky character finally solves the mystery of his wife's murder. It may help that "Monk and the End" is the series finale. Many stars win for the final installments of their long-running shows like Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex and the City").
But Shalhoub rival Jim Parsons has chosen a strong competing episode of "The Big Bang Theory" — "The Pants Alternative." It may only be 30 minutes long, but it has two strong plusses:
1.) Parsons gets a big drunk scene. Hollywood voters are suckers for those — probably because they relate to their secret fondness for themes of substance abuse. Remember: Jeff Bridges just won an Oscar for stumbling around drunk for two hours of the unwatchably bad "Crazy Heart."
2.) Jim Parsons' character is blotto when he accepts an award at a podium. (Hint, hint, Emmy voters: That proves he's a winner.)
It'll be interesting to see what the reactions of crazed "Glee" fans will be to the episodes chosen by the stars of that hit series. No doubt there will be a chorus of huzzahs over Jane Lynch picking her character's homage to Madonna, but did Lea Michele hit a sour note picking "Sectionals"? She does have a big, show-stopping musical number — "Don't Rain on My Parade," which she also belted out on the recent Tony Awards telecast. However, many fans believed she might choose the "Glee" pilot instead of "Sectionals."
Michele faces tough challenges from two Showtime stars. No doubt Toni Collette pulled off an upset last year for playing out multiple personalities in "United States of Tara." Voters are suckers for that — just like themes involving alcohol and drugs. This year Collette not only acts out all of her personalities while being stuck in a basement during a tornado, but she adds a flamboyant new one: a bossy Jewish New Yorker.
However, veteran Emmy champ Edie Falco just joined this contest. She won three times on the drama side for "The Sopranos" and now has the addiction factor as a strong plus in "Nurse Jackie." Falco's character is hooked on a whole pharmacy of pills, which is dramatized effectively in her episode choice — the series pilot.
Below is the list of titles. You can search for episode descriptions at TV.com. In our forums, we list more titles, including the six episodes chosen by programs nominated for best drama and comedy series. Check out that thread for those lists plus the reactions of our posters to all of this episode news.
BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights" ("East of Dillon")
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad" ("Full Measure")
Matthew Fox, "Lost" ("The End")
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter" ("The Getaway")
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men" ("The Gypsy and the Hobo")
Hugh Laurie, "House" ("Broken")
BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
January Jones, "Mad Men" ("The Gypsy and the Hobo")
Connie Britton, "Friday Night Lights" ("After the Fall")
Glenn Close, "Damages" ("Your Secrets Are Safe")
Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU" ("Perverted")
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife" ("Threesome")
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer" ("Maternal Instincts")
BEST COMEDY ACTOR
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" ("Don Geiss, America, and Hope")
Steve Carell, "The Office" (""The Cover Up")
Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Seinfeld")
Matthew Morrison, "Glee" ("Mash Up")
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory" ("The Pants Alternative")
Tony Shalhoub, "Monk" ("Mr. Monk and the End, Parts I and II")
BEST COMEDY ACTRESS
Toni Collette, "United States of Tara" ("Tornado!")
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie" ("Pilot")
Tina Fey, "30 Rock" ("Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001")
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine" ("I Love What You Do for Me")
Lea Michele, "Glee" ("Sectionals")
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation" ("Telethon")
BEST SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR
Andre Braugher, "Men of a Certain Age" ("Powerless")
Michael Emerson, "Lost" ("Dr. Linus")
Terry O'Quinn, "Lost" ("The Substitute")
Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad" ("Half Measures")
Martin Short, "Damages" ("You Haven't Replaced Me Yet")
John Slattery, "Mad Men" ("The Gypsy and the Hobo")
BEST SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife" ("Bang")
Rose Byrne, "Damages" ("Your Secrets Are Safe")
Sharon Gless, "Burn Notice" ("Devil You Know")
Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men" ("Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency")
Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men" ("Love Among the Ruins")
Archie Panjabi, "The Good Wife" ("Hi")
BEST SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family" ("Game Changer")
Chris Colfer, "Glee" ("Laryngitis")
Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men" ("Captain Terry's Spray-On Hair")
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family" ("Family Portrait")
Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother" ("Girls vs. Suits")
Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family" ("Fizbo")
BEST SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS
Julie Bowen, "Modern Family" ("My Funky Valentine")
Jane Krakowski, "30 Rock" (" Black Light Attack")
Jane Lynch, "Glee" ("Power of Madonna")
Holland Taylor, "Two and a Half Men" ("Give Me Your Thumb")
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family" ("Not in My House")
Kristen Wiig, "Saturday Night Live" (host James Franco)
Photo: Lea Michele sings "Don't Rain on My Parade" in "Glee" (Fox)
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