(NOTE: This entry was originally part of the first Emmys post, but I decided to break it up. No particular reason.)
As in the show category, Jon Hamm's portrayal of Mad Men's central character Don Draper was a wonder to watch and he's probably going to be the favorite, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Michael C. Hall's Dexter Morgan managed a dark-horse win. Hugh Laurie could get the nod for House, and if it happened I wouldn't say he didn't deserve it, but I'd feel Hamm was robbed. The surprising but deserved nomination of Bryan Cranston for his intense and fearless turn as a science teacher turned meth-maker on Breaking Bad made me happy, and I've also heard good things about Gabriel Byrne's shrink on In Treatment, though I haven't seen the show.
As for the ladies, I feel about Glenn Close's Patty Hewes the same way I feel about Damages, but my gut tells me she's going to win. (My choice among this year's nominees would be Kyra Sedgwick for The Closer.) I don't watch Brothers and Sisters, so I don't have an opinion about Sally Field (though I'll point out that she won last year), and I can't even watch the commercials for Saving Grace, so I don't have anything nice to say about Holly Hunter in this role.
Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order: SVU finally got her statue a couple of years ago, but I think the show peaked right around that time, and has gone downhill since then in general. She usually gets one or two really good episodes each season, which is why she keeps getting nominated (presumably those are the ones that get submitted to the nominating committee), but it would be nice to see the academy loosen up a little. I think part of the problem is how "lead actress" is defined; I think Mad Men's January Jones deserved a nomination as Don Draper's wife Betty, but I suspect her role was not considered a leading one because Don's domestic life took a back seat to his work (and his indiscretions with a client and a bohemian Greenwich Village artist).
In the supporting-actress category, I don't have much to say about the women, only because I don't watch any of the shows in contention. I used to watch Grey's Anatomy, but halfway through this season, around the time new episodes dried up due to the writers' strike, I gave up. I couldn't stand the whining anymore, and I didn't feel that the storylines were going anywhere interesting. The two performers from the show who did get nominated, Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh, probably annoyed me the least and deserve their nominations. When I was watching, Dr. Bailey was easily my favorite character, so I'd like to see Wilson win, but I think some of the women on Lost should have been nominated here, especially Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet) and Yunjin Kim (Sun).
For the supporting actors, the only real disappointment is knowing that it's impossible to acknowledge the great work of all the excellent actors in the Lost ensemble, but at least they got it right with Michael Emerson's riveting, enigmatic Ben. [Okay, I lied before about not mentioning Boston Legal: how the hell does scenery-chewing William Shatner get nominated over Naveen Andrews (Sayid), or Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), or Jorge Garcia (Hurley), or Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), or Josh Holloway (Sawyer)? How? It's inexcusable.] If any show deserved to have more than one actor nominated in this category, it's Lost. I so hope Emerson wins, for all of them.
Elsewhere in the category, I've never cared much for Ted Danson's work, even on Cheers, but the way he played the numerous facets and shades of gray of Arthur Frobisher, the target of the litigation on Damages, was fantastic, and for me it was the best part of the show. Zeljko Ivanek, who played his attorney, was also nominated. He's been around TV for a couple of decades, and it's nice to see his work get acknowledged as well, but this slot probably should have gone to one of the Lost guys mentioned above.
Phew, that was tiring. And that's just the drama categories. We'll tackle comedy a bit later, or perhaps tomorrow.