Exec producers: Brian Grazer, Joel Surnow, Bob Cochran, Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, Kiefer Sutherland
Viewers: 13.7 million
Episodes submitted: “7:00-8:00 a.m.,” “8:00-9:00 a.m.,” “9:00-10:00 a.m.,” “10:00-11:00 a.m.,” “11:00-12:00 p.m.,” “12:00-1:00 p.m.”
Season Highlight: Nixonian President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) orchestrated the nerve gas heist that escalated into an international crisis.
Why it may win: By many accounts, it was the skein’s best season so far, with great supporting perfs by Itzin and Jean Smart. The action was racheted up, events seemed more believable than in the past, and stakes were raised.
Maybe not: While it relishes edge-of-your-seat thrills and chills, series might not have enough gravitas to compete against formidable, multilayered competish.
Quote: “Regardless of what anyone may say, we are not in any way, shape or form trying to put out political messages, left or right. But if there is a philosophical underpinning to the show, it’s how far can you go in fighting evil before you become the thing you’re fighting? Every time Bauer has to decide whether to torture somebody, or how far to go with something, that’s the line he’s walking. I think in real life, that’s the line our country is walking,” Cochran told TVGuide.com.
Exec producers: Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, Mark Gordon, Peter Horton, Krista Vernoff
Viewers: 19.8 million
Episodes submitted: “Bring the Pain,” “Into You Like a Train,” “Thanks for the Memories,” “Break on Through,” “It’s the End of the World (As We Know It)”
Season Highlight: For both high intensity and popularity, it has to be the post-Super Bowl episode. Christina Ricci has her hand on a bomb inside a patient and then Meredith takes over. All turns out OK … except, of course, for the bomb squad guy who went kaboom.
Why it may win: Arguably the most buzzworthy drama of any series. All the magazine covers don’t hurt, and the stories, for the most part, were a nice balance of soap and surgery, relationships and medicine.
Maybe not: Is Denny dead yet? The overdone end-of-season arc about the romance between the heart patient and Izzy was way over the top. Will this multiple-episode misfire take away all the good that “Grey’s” had accomplished to that point?
Quote: “Well, to me, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is more about not necessarily being a medical drama as it is about people who are starting a job, and on a bad day you kill somebody. On a good day, you save a life. To me, it’s not so much about the fact that it’s medicine as about it’s surgery and it’s competition, and that feels fresh,” Rhimes said on “Tavis Smiley.” House
Exec producers: Katie Jacobs, Paul Attanasio, David Shore, Bryan Singer
Viewers: 17.3 million
Episodes submitted: “Autopsy,” “The Mistake,” “Distractions,” “Clueless,” “House vs. God,” “No Reason”
Season Highlight: Tough to pinpoint one particular moment or episode in a disease-of-the-week procedural, but Omar Epps’ near-demise seems as good as any.
Why it may win: The pieces are all coming together for “House”: Laurie is masterful (though, shockingly, not good enough for Emmy), his supporting cast is strong, and ratings are topnotch. What’s not to like?
Maybe not: Being a procedural might hurt its chances a bit. And the fact that Laurie couldn’t crack the top five drama actors might have some underlying meaning as well.
Quote: “I will not consider this show successful until it is being watched by every man, woman and child in this country (which I dearly love) and until we have won Emmys in all 7,000 categories (I may be wrong on the exact numbers there),” says Shore. The Sopranos
Exec producers: David Chase, Brad Grey, Ilene S. Landress, Terence Winter
Viewers: 13 million (cumulative, per week)
Episodes submitted: “Members Only,” “Join the Club,” “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh,” “Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request … ,” “Live Free or Die,” “The Ride”
Season Highlight: There was nothing more shocking than the last five minutes of episode one, when Uncle Junior — in a state of delirium — shoots Tony and sends him to the hospital where he teeters on death’s door.
Why it may win: Though its cachet has fallen and critics have become more vocal, “Sopranos” is still the crown jewel of HBO and remains a formidable force.
Maybe not: As he has in years past, Chase doesn’t necessarily tell his stories in a straight-ahead fashion. That irks some viewers who are looking for more linear storytelling.
Quote: “There wouldn’t be the same show if Tony wasn’t a mobster. That mob spine intensifies everything. If Tony was selling medical replacement hips, it wouldn’t be life and death. The little things of every day wouldn’t have the same resonance. It intensifies the banal and mundane stuff,” Chase told the Newark Star-Ledger. The West Wing
Exec producers: John Wells, Christopher Misiano, Alex Graves, Lawrence O’Donnell Jr., Peter Noah
Viewers: 8.1 million
Episodes submitted: “Here Today,” “The Undecideds,” “The Cold,” “Election Day Part II,” “Requiem,” “Tomorrow”
Season Highlight: Election night. The whole season, after a series of ups and downs for each candidate (Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits), was leading up to this. And when Ohio went the way of Smits, so did the presidency.
Why it may win: Obviously, with four wins it’s a voter fave, and if history dictates, there’s no reason not to think that it might not end its run with another trophy.
Maybe not: Even though the writers raised their game this season, it’s still not the same show it was back when Aaron Sorkin was running things.
Quote: “The difficulty with any show is not the latter part but the middle part of the series. After you come on, the show is hot, there are lots of press and magazine covers, and then there’s the (next) new show that comes along. It’s that period where you’re no longer the hot thing,” says Wells.