Critical faves, past contenders and first-timers
REALITY COMPETITION SERIES
Biggest Loser (NBC)
Seasons 6 & 7
Emmy cred: This weight-loss phenom has gained auds and cred in the last year, adding a charitable incentive for viewers to join in: The Pound for Pound Challenge pledges to match 3.5 million lost pounds with food-bank donations.
The Amazing Race (CBS)
Seasons 13 & 14
Emmy cred: Can the other nominees keep up with this perennial Acad-pleaser? After all, the globetrotting stress test has won every year since this category debuted in 2003.
American Idol (Fox)
Emmy cred: This ratings monster still commands respect: It’s been nominated the past six years and won an ’07 craft award for technical direction. Host Ryan Seacrest was nommed last year.
Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Seasons 7 & 8
Emmy cred: Thanks to such dancing queens as Susan Lucci, Lil’ Kim and Cloris Leachman, “DWTS” is the No. 3 most-watched show on TV. Host Tom Bergeron was nominated last year.
Project Runway (Bravo)
Emmy cred: Legal woes have kept the fashion-design competition off the air since fall, though skein has strutted away with three series noms and a co-host nom for Heidi Klum in the past.
Seasons 17 & 18
Emmy cred: Though Mark Burnett’s oft-nominated show (with 32 to date) got sidelined in the series category the past two years, emcee Jeff Probst took home Emmy’s first reality host trophy.
Top Chef (Bravo)
Emmy cred: Sharp knives! Scalding liquids! Pointed remarks! High drama in the kitchen has earned this addictive battle of the chefs two series and three crafts nominations.
Antiques Roadshow (PBS)
Emmy cred: This not-so-hidden treasure is a three-time nominee in this category, won a Bronze Telly Award for an episode this season and is the top-rated PBS primetime program with almost 10 million weekly viewers.
Dirty Jobs (Discovery Channel)
Emmy cred: Despite host Mike Rowe taking on every grungy job out there, its scorecard has remained a clean, blank slate, though the show did receive a cinematography nod in ’07.
Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan (National Geographic)
Seasons 4 & 5
Emmy cred: Nat Geo’s highest-rated show has been nommed twice before, crossing the 100th episode mark last fall. The submitted episode, “Dueling Pit Bulls,” hails from the fourth season.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
Emmy cred: Can ABC’s popular habitat-rehab program maintain its streak? Every season has been nominated so far (with the skein winning twice), and the show remains tops among adults 18-49 in its timeslot.
Seasons 5 & 6
Emmy cred: A&E’s top-rated program scored a nom last year, alternating focused looks at specific addictions with another two dozen cases of individuals confronted by family, friends and a professional since then.
Jon and Kate Plus 8 (TLC)
Emmy cred: Talk about married with children! With 5-year-old sextuplets and 8-year-old twins, the Gosselins snagged an amazing 9.8 million viewers for their most recent season premiere.
Little People, Big World (TLC)
Emmy cred: The inspirational show about the diminutive Roloff family followed pint-sized patriarch Matt to Iraq to assist three dwarf children in need of life-saving medical attention.
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo)
Emmy cred: The acid-tongued comedian has definitely moved up the ranks — while still biting the hand that feeds her — after winning the series category last year.
American Masters (PBS)
Emmy cred: It’s a five-time Emmy winner in this category, submitting “Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About.”
Deadliest Catch (Discovery)
Emmy cred: Heaving seas — and stomachs — have proved a successful recipe for this fishing adventure, which has already netted two series noms.
Greensburg (Planet Green)
Seasons 1 & 2
Emmy cred: This uplifting and earth-conscious series, in which a Kansas town is reconstructed as a green utopia, was created by Emmy winner Craig Piligian and green activist Leonardo DiCaprio.
How the Earth Was Made (History)
Emmy cred: Rocks obviously rock, as this show about geological processes that have shaped our planet is one of the net’s top series, averaging 1.4 million total viewers in its first season.
IFC Media Project (IFC)
Seasons 1 & 2
Emmy cred: Rather than take the news at face value, Peabody-winning journo Gideon Yago peers behind the headlines to examine how stories are constructed.
Inside the Actors Studio (Bravo)
Emmy cred: And they say comedy gets no respect; this year, the nominations magnet (it’s grabbed series noms each year for the past decade) has submitted the Conan O’Brien episode.
Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America (PBS)
Emmy cred: Hosted by Billy Crystal and narrated by Amy Sedaris, this six-hour docu recaps American comedy through interviews with nearly 100 comedians.
102 Minutes That Changed America (History)
Emmy cred: This reconstruction of the World Trade Center attacks, blending amateur and professional footage, attracted 5.2 million viewers.
The Alzheimer’s Project (HBO)
Emmy cred: This ambitious series of documentaries on the condition, exec produced by Maria Shriver, includes “The Memory Loss Tapes” (which follows seven patients) and “Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?” about young children with grandparents who are affected (based on Shriver’s book).
Biography (Biography Channel)
Emmy cred: The long-running show has been nominated every year since 1996, but always in the nonfiction series category.
Ironic Iconic America (Bravo)
Emmy cred: Top designer Tommy Hilfiger turns his eye on all that is kitschy and eccentric about American culture, from Vegas wedding chapels to Mt. Rushmore.
Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (ABC)
Emmy cred: This tie-in to the actor’s memoir finds Fox seeking out and interviewing positive thinkers, from Lance Armstrong to the prime minister of Bhutan.
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (HBO)
Emmy cred: Marina Zenovich’s docu, which played both the Sundance and Cannes film fests, re-examines the public scandal that fueled the legendary director’s flight from the U.S.
Running the Sahara (Showtime)
Emmy cred: Directed by Oscar winner James Moll, docu shows the intense physical and emotional impact on runners as they brave the elements in one of the most hostile environments on earth.
Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery (HBO)
Emmy cred: This docu, from directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill (winners of six primetime Emmys between them), is a meditation on the sacrifice of fallen soldiers and their final resting place.
The Trials of Ted Haggard (HBO)
Emmy cred: Four-time Emmy nominee Alexandra Pelosi (“Journeys With George”) provides a revealing behind-the-scenes look at the fallen pastor as he struggles to rebuild his life.