Network: Fox

Showrunners:Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow

Total noms: 10

Emmy pedigree: 10 noms last year, two wins

2002-03 Nielsen ranking: No. 35; 11.8 million viewers

Pro: One of the most buzzworthy series, skein is still on the rise.

Con: While some episodes were great, others were a bit melodramatic.

The right ingredients: “Give your main characters impossible personal amd professional dilemmas to resolve, and then pour salt on the wound by letting them have zero time. Zero is a little too tight so we settle for 24 hours,” says producer Michael Loceff.

Critically speaking: “From the very start of the first season, ’24’ has staked its reputation on being a ruthless thrill ride that spares no one grief. If the show pulled its punches, it wouldn’t be ’24,’ ” says Matt Roush, TV Guide.


Network: CBS

Showrunner: Ann Donahue, Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony Zuiker

Total noms: 6

Emmy pedigree: 10 noms over two years, one win

2002-03 Nielsen ranking: No. 1; 26.2 million viewers

Pro: It’s the No. 1-watched drama on TV.

Con: Does that make it the best?

Back to square one: “We had a big year, though we strayed a bit from raw, grounded science. I think we need to get back to basics for season four,” says exec producer Anthony Zuiker.

Critically speaking: “The best ‘CSI’ episodes leave you feeling that not a minute was wasted. … It’s a well-crafted, well-run series making its efficient way through another good season,” says Robert Bianco, USA Today.


Network: HBO

Showrunner: Alan Ball

Total noms: 16

Emmy pedigree: 23 noms last year

Viewer totals: 5.1 million for season’s most-watched episode

Pro: The seasonlong storyline from Lisa the whiner to Lisa the corpse made for compelling viewing.

Con: Will HBO’s mob gang cancel out “SFU”?

On the dark side: “We have seen some real dark times this year, and with a dark show you wonder if people would still want to tune in. But in this life you can be certain of only two things: death and taxes; so perhaps in some strange way we provide comfort,” says Peter Krause.

Critically speaking: “There is no more satisfying or surprising series anywhere on television,” says John Leonard, New York magazine.


Network: NBC

Showrunner: Aaron Sorkin

Total noms: 15

Emmy pedigree: Series is the three-time defending champ.

2002-03 Nielsen ranking: No. 23; 13.4 million viewers

Pro: Although the series arguably may have focused too much on policy and turned viewers off, the last four episodes — the VP’s resignation, Zoe’s kidnapping and Bartlet handing over the presidency — were thrilling.

Con: Can four weeks make up for an entire season?

On life without Sorkin: “In four years of establishing the tone of the administration, any new writer will have a strong base to work from. You can’t veer too much from what already has been established,” says John Spencer.

Critically speaking: “The show remains one of TV’s most satisfying hours, a savvy blend of great acting, whip-smart dialogue and grand gestures,” says Robert Bianco, USA Today.