“My Boys,” TBS
Logline: A single woman sportswriter, whose best pals are a group of guys, looks for love in Chicago.
Variety says: “Breezy, smart and occasionally funny, director Betsy Thomas has created a real-feeling world where a femme sportswriter is very much one of the guys, with all the merriment and challenges that entails.” (Brian Lowry, Nov. 27)
Showrunner: Betsy Thomas, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: Exec producer, “Second to None” (2001/TV movie) ; co-exec producer, “Then Came You” (2000/TV series)
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Trying to tell stories that involve all of our seven characters and also expand their lives, all in 21 minutes. We enjoy the scenes where they’re all together (like poker) so much, but writing and shooting those scenes ends up being a lot more difficult and demanding than it probably appears.”
Happy accident: “The character of Andy’s wife, Meredith, in that I hadn’t really envisioned that we would meet Meredith in the first couple of seasons because it was so fun to write for Andy constantly complaining about her. But then my brother told my sister-in-law that I had written her as a shrew. So to keep peace within the family, I decided to reveal that Meredith wasn’t a shrew at all, and that Andy had created the bad-guy side of her so he would have an excuse to leave poker night and he wouldn’t look like a wuss. It forced us to expand Andy’s life and character, which I think was a complete blessing.
Why it’ll win: Both men and women seem to identify with the skein.
Why it won’t: Comparisons to “Sex and the City” could work against it.
Logline: An upstart police consultant solves crimes by using such a keen sense of observation his older colleagues are convinced he’s psychic.
Variety says: “Ultimately, ‘Psych’ plays like just another detective show in a sunny seaside locale, juggling elements of humor and mystery, but neither in sufficient quantities to make the net result completely engaging.” (Lowry, July 5)
Showrunner: Steve Franks, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: Co-screenwriter of Adam Sandler starrer “Big Daddy” (1999)
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “We have to solve the crime twice. Once we get our hero to figure out the mystery, we also have to find a way for him to make it appear he has ‘psychically’ divined the information we all watched him discover from the clues at hand. The other tricky element is that we’re a comedy and we’re solving crimes with real stakes and real consequences.
Happy accident: “The entire show is a happy accident. When I pitched the show, I started the pitch by talking about my dad and I, the things he used to do to get me interested in police work when I was 8. Without any transition, I segued into the pilot story. When it came time to write the script, I kept the father-and-son flashback in there and it really helped inform the character in the present day. And now the flashbacks open every episode.”
Why it’ll win: Skein ended 2006 as the year’s No. 1 new cable show in key demos.
Why it won’t: So-so reviews and not enough hype.
“30 Rock,” NBC
Logline: Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), head writer of sketch comedy “The Girlie Show,” juggles her pompous network exec (Alec Baldwin) and starlets while running the show.
Variety says: “Tina Fey the writer-producer gets saddled with a so-so leading lady in Tina Fey the actress — just one of the hurdles that make ’30 Rock’ something less than a joyous romp. … Baldwin and co-star Tracy Morgan do yield a chuckle or two, but a ‘Saturday Night Live’ pedigree won’t be enough to anchor this ‘Rock’ unless it gets consistently funnier, and fast.” (Lowry, Oct. 9)
Showrunners: Tina Fey, creator, producer, writer, actor
Previous career highlights: “Saturday Night Live” staff writer, head writer and thesp; “Mean Girls” (2004) screenwriter, thesp
Emmy pedigree: Fey and the writing staff of “SNL” garnered nods in 2001, ’02 and ’03 for Emmy comedy writing and won in the category in ’02.
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Cramming it all into 21 minutes and 35 seconds.”
Happy accident: None mentioned.
Why it’ll win: Show earned some of the year’s highest critical praise for its writing and talent, including Baldwin and Fey.
Why it won’t: More people need to see it. Also, Baldwin’s recent custody scandal won’t help.
“The Tudors,” Showtime
Logline: Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as a testosterone-charged Henry VIII facing revolts, falling in love and fighting wars.
Variety says: “A big, bold, opulent gamble, ‘The Tudors’ is not the great series that it might have been, but it’s certainly a watchable and diverting one — lustily combining liberal doses of bodice-ripping with medieval geopolitics.” (Lowry, March 27)
Showrunners: Michael Hirst, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: Screenwriter of “Elizabeth” (1998) and sequel “The Golden Age,” skedded for release later this year
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Making sure the story is solid. That it moves forward, episode by episode, with historical, political and emotional honesty. That I give all my actors enough material and room to show their talents. That I’m able to tap the genius of the (production) designer and the costume designer. And, on top of it all, that I’m honest with myself. I don’t want to let myself down. I have this great opportunity to say something — and I want to make sure I say it in the most powerful, dramatic and beautiful way I can.”
Happy accident: “I was asked if I could write about the Tudor dynasty like a soap opera. Something like ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘West Wing,’ but unlike the usual run-of-the-mill BBC historical dramas; all stiff collars and wooden acting. Initially I said no! I didn’t want to walk into this accident. Then, I said what the hell, and I went to work.”
Why it’ll win: Rhys Meyers has scored rave reviews for his performance as the young Henry, andit was Showtime’s highest-rated premiere night in three years.
Why it won’t: Key competitors, including “The Sopranos” and “Rome,” could steal skein’s glory.
“Brothers and Sisters,” ABC
Logline: L.A.-based Walker family’s adult siblings strive to reflect the perceived perfection of their role-model parents.
Variety says: “At the show’s core is the thrill of realizing that TV’s Gidget grew up to be the mother of Ally McBeal, but even with a ‘Desperate Housewives’ lead-in, there’s initially precious little sizzle surrounding these philosophically divided siblings.” (Lowry, Sept. 18)
Showrunners: Jon Robin Baitz, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: Al Pacino starrer “People I Know” (2002) screenwriter; wrote episode of “Alias” and “The West Wing”
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Finding the balance between the salt and the sweet. It’s finding where it is funny and finding where it’s moving, dramatic, sad and laugh-provoking all within the course of 42 minutes every week and not dumbing it down. I think that my inclination tends to be to drive the show towards the dramatic and for me it is learning how to shift the weight so we get the lighter colors and can earn the dramatic stuff.”
Happy accident: “The great marriage between Matthew Rhys and Kevin Walker (the character he plays on the show). I think because he is so fluid and funny as an actor and able to make hairpin curves, he almost hijacked Kevin in a way.”
Why it’ll win: Drama emerged as the season’s No. 2 new program in 18-49 and has meshed well with “Housewives” on Sunday (Variety, Nov. 29). Plus good notices for Sally Field and Calista Flockhart.
Why it won’t: It’s No. 2.
“Friday Night Lights,” NBC
Logline: A serialized soap, based on the feature by the same name, about the world of small-town Texas high school football.
Variety says: “Earnest, beautifully shot and perhaps more organically religious than anything else in primetime, the series will have its fans but doesn’t initially possess the addictive pull required to become a Tuesday-night game-changer. … From a blimp’s-eye view, though, ‘Friday Night Lights’ ultimately feels like one of those family programs Middle America and conservatives pine for that too few of them actually bother to watch — a portrait of decent, God-fearing folks wringing joy from America’s game as an escape from their hardscrabble lives.” (Lowry, Oct. 2)
Showrunner: Jason Katims, exec producer, head writer
Previous career highlights: Writer for “My So-Called Life,” “Roswell,” “Boston Public,” co-writer of “The Pallbearer”
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “To service all of our characters in the 42-odd minutes of story time we have each episode. The other is to strike a tonal balance within each episode, so if one character is going through something very intense, there is a lighter storyline to balance against that.”
Happy accident: “The biggest risk we took in terms of storyline was the Mud Bowl episode. The conceit of playing a semifinal game on a cow pasture was a hard one to sell, yet it turned out to be, in my mind, one of the most compelling episodes of the season.”
Why it’ll win: A fave among critics, skein secured an 11th-hour reprieve for a sophomore season in early May.
Why it won’t: Low ratings.
“Ugly Betty,” ABC
Logline: Adapted from a Spanish-language telenovela, Queens woman (America Ferrera) gets her dream job at a high-fashion magazine and tries to fit in with her thin, beautiful co-workers.
Variety says: “Certainly, the program strikes a universal chord about inner beauty, and it has the benefit of showcasing a real talent find — albeit one hidden beneath braces, goofy glasses and oversized eyebrows. From that perspective, whatever the ultimate fate of ‘Ugly Betty,’ it’s going to be fun to watch America discover America.” (Lowry, Sept. 26)
Showrunners: Silvio Horta, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: “Urban Legend” and “Urban Legends: Final Cut” screenwriter
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Maintaining the tone week to week. This is a one-hour comedy with a lot of heart, emotion, soap and campiness. It’s important to maintain that tone each week without letting one element overwhelm the others. Some episodes will be more comedic in nature and some more dramatic, but we never want to steer too far in any direction.”
Happy accident: “One started with a small part in the pilot — Fabia, the Donatella Versace-esque character played by Gina Gershon. Gina really wanted to play an out-there character and would only do the part if she got a big blonde wig and had tape to stretch her face back. We went ahead with it and initially I was afraid it was going to be too over the top. It was, but in a wonderful way that really helped establish the tone of the show. We realized with Betty grounding this, we could really, really push the envelope on the comedy and the audience would go along for the ride.”
Why it’ll win: A breakout hit this fall, skein has gained attention and America Ferrera is a big part of the reason why. Show took home this year’s WGA and Golden Globe top TV comedy honor.
Why it won’t: The show is still green.
Logline: Serialized drama about people who discover that they have extraordinary abilities.
Variety says: “If nothing else, credit NBC with this year’s blindest — and perhaps most ambitious — leap into the serialized unknown, with a wild sci-fi premise that has cult-hit potential but will need a heroic confluence of events to extend its appeal beyond that narrow core.” (Lowry, Sept. 22)
Showrunners: Tim Kring, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: “Providence” writer, co-exec producer; “Crossing Jordan” writer, exec producer; “Chicago Hope,” writer, producer
Emmy pedigree: Nominated for outstanding drama series, “Chicago Hope”
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “The serialized nature of the stories. On the previous shows I was on, where there were ‘stand alone’ episodes, you could send a writer up ahead to work on a script. It made it easy to stay ahead of the curve. With serialized storytelling, every thread is interconnected. It makes it very difficult to get ahead. You just have to slog forward at a steady pace and hope you don’t stumble, because there’s very little room for error.”
Happy accident: “I think this show was some combination of the right idea at the right time. I was certainly trying to tap into the collective feeling that we are living in troubled times and in need of heroes, and that we all wish that we were meant for something greater than our ordinary lives. So in that respect, it was not so accidental.”
Why it’ll win: A smash hit, skein has received heaps of attention.
Why it won’t: Comicbook element and no standout performance.
“The Riches,” FX
Logline: Married con artists strike it rich by assuming the identities of a rich couple who are killed in an accident.
Variety says: “Alternative families are in vogue right now, but FX’s latest — a blend of ‘The Grifters,’ the CW’s already-axed ‘Runaway’ and HBO’s secrets-behind-closed-doors ‘Big Love’ — doesn’t possess the requisite magic to steal our hearts.” (Lowry, March 12)
Showrunners: Dmitry Lipkin, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: A playwright, works include “Skitaletz (The Wanderer)” and “Cranes”
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Figuring out what the show is. You know, in every episode, the show evolves — and not in any set pattern. Figuring out how to evolve it in a narratively satisfying way. Keeping the stakes and the tension up while at the same time keeping things light.”
Happy accident: “In the writing, I’ve always thought that there was going to be a family that has kind of come to a crossroads in their lives. The original pilot didn’t have the car accident and the taking over people’s identity in it. FX was happy enough (with my first pilot), but they wanted more. And just through a conversation with my wife, who’s also a writer, we came up with (that central plot point). She said, ‘What if there’s an accident and they take over these people’s lives?’ And I said, ‘That’s too much.’ And she said, ‘No, I think it would work.’ And that’s what happened, and that was a pretty happy accident.”
Why it’ll win: Critics like it and so do viewers.
Why it won’t: Very green.
Logline: A defense attorney-turned-L.A. prosecutor (James Woods) uses his smarminess to put the bad guys in the pokey rather than finding loopholes to send them back on the street.
Variety says: “Change ‘House’s’ M.D. to a J.D. and you pretty much have CBS’ latest drama, with James Woods as a curmudgeonly, sarcastic yet brilliant attorney surrounded by a focus-group-tested posse of young prosecutors. Filled with L.A. references, enlivened by Woods’ rapid-fire delivery, series is a throwback to old courtshows set to a modern soundtrack.” (Lowry, Sept. 20)
Showrunners: Ian Biederman, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: “Crossing Jordan” co-executive producer, writer; single-episode writer for “Party of Five,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
Emmy pedigree: None
Biggest challenge in writing the show: “Trying to weave character into huge, highly complex legal stories. Our episodes are heavily procedural, but James Woods and the rest of the cast have serious dramatic chops. We work hard to provide our actors with compelling human moments to play. Our goal is for the show to be about more than just winning or losing the case of the week. When our procedural and character elements are working together, it’s a really a fun show to write.”
Happy accident: “We thought long and hard before putting our district attorney character — played by Jeri Ryan — in court. As all fans of ‘Law & Order’ know, big-city DAs rarely argue cases. But we had this wonderful actress who was badly under-utilized — so we finally decided we had to take the leap. We constructed a story where Jimmy’s character gets thrown off a big case and Jeri steps into the breach to save the day. I was waiting for the angry outcry. Instead, the audience loved it. Jeri was dynamite in the episode, and people were psyched to see her role expand. It’s a move that will have a major impact on the shape of the show going forward.”
Why it’ll win: Show is a Nielsen winner, and Woods has garnered a lot of attention for his perf.
Why it won’t: Stiff competish.
“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” NBC
Logline: A backstage look at a fictional sketch-comedy TV show.
Variety says: “Despite conventional wisdom that augurs against the success of a TV show about TV, it’s hard not to root for ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,’ a series that weds Aaron Sorkin’s crackling dialogue and willingness to tackle big ideas with a beyond-stellar cast.” (Lowry, Sept. 18)
Showrunners: Aaron Sorkin, creator, exec producer, writer
Previous career highlights: “The West Wing” creator, exec producer, writer; “Sports Night” exec producer, writer; “A Few Good Men” writer (play, screenplay); “The American President” writer
Emmy pedigree: Nominated 11 times, including six kudos, of which four wins were for outstanding drama series (“The West Wing”) and one was for outstanding writing drama series (“The West Wing”)
Biggest challenge in writing the show?: “Writing a 42-minute movie every nine days can get tough, but ‘Studio 60’ had the added challenge of getting the audience to buy into a romanticized vision of people who work in Hollywood.”
Happy accident: “Amanda Peet’s pregnancy was initially an obstacle but turned into a creative blessing. I’m sure Amanda and her husband, David, were glad they could help me out.”
Why it’ll win: Earned WGA, DGA (Thomas Schlamme) and a Golden Globe (actress, Sarah Paulson) noms.
Why it won’t: Initially loved by critics, show lost steam and viewers. Recently canceled.