Reality and nonfiction quick picks

Critical faves, past contenders and first-timers


The Amazing Race (CBS)
Season 12
Emmy cred: The around-the-world parade has a hold on this category, winning the series award every year since the reality-competition classification was established in 2003. Besides the series wins, “Race” has won five craft Emmys.

American Idol (Fox)
Season 7
Emmy cred: Despite ratings declines, creator Simon Fuller’s megahit still pulls a large audience with its multiple shows a week, plus the series has been nominated the past five years and won a craft award last year for technical direction.

America’s Next Top Model (CW)
Seasons 9 and 10
Emmy cred: This model competition has yet to receive any Emmy noms, but it continues to make cover girls. Cycle 10 produced the show’s first plus-size winner.

Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Seasons 5 and 6
Emmy cred: Nominated in the competition series category the past two years, “Stars” has also received 13 craft noms in the past two years with two wins (technical direction and costumes) in 2006.

Survivor (CBS)
Seasons 15 and 16
Emmy cred: Mark Burnett’s skein missed out last year on a series nom, but “Survivor” was nominated the four previous years and won the nonfiction special category in 2001. In addition to the series noms, the skein has received 24 craft nods but has had only one win, in 2001. Perhaps its latest cycles, in Micronesia and Gabon, will put it over the winning edge.

Project Runway (Bravo)
Season 4
Emmy cred: The Weinstein Co.’s behind-the-scenes look at the fashion-design process has been nominated for outstanding competition series the past three years (with four crafts noms), and season four was the fiercest yet.

Top Chef (Bravo)
Seasons 3 and 4
Emmy cred: More than just foodies love this battle of the chefs, and last year so did the Academy, which gave it series and crafts nominations.


Antiques Roadshow (PBS)
Seasons 11 and 12
Emmy cred: This skein has been rewarded with series nominations the past three years as it provides viewers hope that their garage may have a nugget of gold in it.

Carrier (PBS)
Season 1
Emmy cred: Produced by Mel Gibson’s Icon Prods., this new show follows the lives of the crew aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Nimitz during its six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. Director Maro Chermayeff has two previous Emmy noms (“Biography” in 2004 and “Frontier House” in 2002).

Dirty Jobs (Discovery)
Seasons 3 and 4
Emmy cred: The first two seasons of host Mike Rowe jumping into various employment opportunities failed to earn a series nom, yet this show did receive a cinematography nod last year.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
Season 5
Emmy cred: This skein is as successful at getting nominated as it is at rebuilding families’ homes, with series nods the past four years, winning in both 2005 and 2006. It’s also garnered two crafts noms.

Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan (National Geographic)
Season 4
Emmy cred: Earning series noms the past two years, pet trainer Cesar Millan exhibits calming techniques that can be applied beyond the animal world.

Mythbusters (Discovery)
Seasons 5 and 6
Emmy cred: These special effects experts who test out urban legends with scientific methods have yet to collect any noms but continue to set the record straight.

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo)
Season 3
Emmy cred: Griffin may have climbed off the D-list after winning the series category last year and being nominated in 2006.


American Masters (PBS)
Season 21
Emmy cred: Following four series noms in the past five years (winning in 1999, 2003 and 2004) and an Emmy for sound mixing last year, “Masters” moved on this season with profiles on Carol Burnett and Charles Schulz that helped sustain the show’s 25-year legacy.

Biography (A&E)
Seasons 20 and 21
Emmy cred: This venerable series has been nominated every year for the past decade.

Deadliest Catch (Discovery)
Season 4
Emmy cred: With two series nominations and five crafts noms the past two years, this skein from Thom Beers’ Original Prods. continues to profile the dangerous, high-sea adventures of Alaskan crab fisherman.

Ice Road Truckers (History Channel)
Season 1
Emmy cred: “Deadliest Catch” guru Beers successfully transitions his knack for showcasing larger-than-life blue-collar types with dangerous gigs to History Channel. Season one was a huge hit, drawing the cabler’s biggest series auds ever.

Inside the Actors Studio (Bravo)
Season 14
Emmy cred: The format of host James Lipton interviewing actors about their craft keeps garnering Emmy attention with series nominations each year for the past 11 award seasons.

The Jewish Americans (PBS)
Season 1
Emmy cred: Producer David Gruber, who has three Emmy wins (“The American Experience,” “Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers,” “Smithsonian World”), takes an in-depth look into Jewish assimilation and impact on U.S. history, with narration by Liev Schreiber.

The War (PBS)
Season 1
Emmy cred: With four Emmys already in his possession, producer Ken Burns (“The Civil War”) returns to the battlefield with this series on World War II and its impact on American families.


Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq (HBO)
Emmy cred: Three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini meets 10 wounded soldiers home from Iraq who give their testimonials about their ordeals.

Autism: The Musical (HBO)
Emmy cred: Reality pioneer Bunim-Murray Prods.’ upbeat documentary was already shortlisted for an Oscar.

The Gates (HBO)
Emmy cred: Antonio Ferrera and two-time Emmy winner Albert Maysles follow the 26-year struggle of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to get the 23-mile Central Park “Gates” art installation approved and built.

King (History Channel)
Emmy cred: Tied to the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw examines the civil rights leader’s life and legacy.

Life After People (History Channel)
Emmy cred: Emmy-winning writer-director David de Vries (“Egypt Beyond the Pyramids” in 2001) examines, with the aid of CGI, what would eventually happen to civic infrastructure if humans suddenly vanished from Earth.

Pioneers of Television (PBS)
Emmy cred: This four-part documentary examines the development of TV paradigms including sitcoms, latenight, variety and gameshows, with colorful insider stories.

Great Performances: Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story (PBS)
Emmy cred: Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this docu showcases the Memphis-based soul label. “Great Performances” has won 18 Emmys going back to 1976.

Sand and Sorrow (HBO)
Emmy cred: Written and directed by Paul Freedman, this George Clooney-narrated docu examines the genocide in Darfur by interviewing campaigners, commentators and people on the ground.

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