(Honors gamelike reality series in which contestants get voted off the island, fired from the boardroom or cut down by Cowell)
The Amazing Race (CBS)
Emmy cred: It’s won the reality-competition trophy every year since the category was established in 2003, and it regularly cleans up on crafts awards such as editing and cinematography. Although its viewer popularity has peaked, this globe-trotting spectacle is still the reality genre’s most aesthetically interesting.
American Idol (Fox)
Emmy cred: Fueled by the two-part “Idol Gives Back” special, this was “Idol’s” most ambitious season yet. However, its talent competition fell exceptionally flat this time around making it questionable as to whether this is the year it finally overtakes “The Amazing Race.”
America’s Next Top Model (CW)
Emmy cred: The TV Academy has yet to acknowledge “Model,” but its buzz is now among the reality genre’s loudest.
Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Emmy cred: Nominated in the reality/competition category last year, “Dancing” — like “The Amazing Race” — is appreciated by the crafts-oriented denizens of the TV Academy, earning trophies last year for costume and technical direction.
Deal or No Deal (NBC)
Emmy cred: Primetime gameshows rarely garner Emmy love, but producer Endemol likes “Deal’s” chances enough to put campaign juice behind it this year.
Project Runway (Bravo)
Emmy cred: It’s been tapped in reality/ competish the last two years, and most would agree that cycle three was the most successful yet.
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
Emmy cred: Produced by “American Idol’s” Nigel Lythgoe, this fancy-footed Fox summer skein was, for TV Guide critic Matt Roush, more enjoyable than established ABC hit “Dancing With the Stars.”
Emmy cred: Mark Burnett’s seminal skein won the “nonfiction program/ special class” trophy back in 2001, and many felt last year’s Cook Island rendition was the best cycle in years.
(Includes “petri dish”-style reality shows lacking gamelike competitive elements)
Antiques Roadshow (PBS)
Emmy cred: This Americanized version of the BBC favorite has earned series noms the past two years.
The Dog Whisperer (National Geographic Channel)
Emmy cred: A nom last year, canine guru Cesar Millan has seen his popularity continue to grow and spill over past his pet-training skein.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
Emmy cred: It’s won the category the past two years but a recent spate of bad news — star Ty Pennington’s DUI arrest and an unflattering expose in the Los Angeles Times — may tarnish the show.
Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels (A&E)
Emmy cred: This high-profile newcomer is looking to fill the same gap as the also-rocker-themed “The Osbournes,” which won the category several years ago. Former Kiss man Gene Simmons and Co. serve up a less-bizarre — and less-exciting — look at celebrity life.
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo)
Emmy cred: Nominated last year, it’s one of the few reality shows with a strong comedy element.
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (Showtime)
Emmy cred: After three previous noms but no wins, it would be a pretty impressive trick for Penn & Teller’s well-reviewed debunking skein to materialize in the winner’s circle.
Emmy cred: Real-life version of “Friday Night Lights” shows the true pressures of life as a high-school football player. Critics say the series scores, even though buzz has been slow to build.
(Mainly covers documentary-style series)
Emmy cred: The pay cabler gave this doc, a collection of short films by top filmmakers, a major cross-platform push. Still, crix found the film itself less than fully satisfying.
This American Life (Showtime)
Emmy cred: The TV adaptation of Ira Glass’ popular NPR radio show pleased pretty much everyone, especially critics, putting it in position for freshman success.
American Masters (PBS)
Emmy cred: This show accounted for nine Emmy noms last year in categories ranging from writing to editing and sound. It last won nonfiction skein in 2004, and this season’s profiles of Annie Liebovitz and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun are up to its usual standards.
Emmy cred: This venerable show has racked up three Emmys and continues to garner nominations after two decades on the air.
Inside The Actors Studio (Bravo)
Emmy cred: With a dozen nominations over 13 years, the long-running interview show is always on the short list of Emmy voters, who have yet to give the show an actual win.
Deadliest Catch (Discovery)
Emmy cred: This cult hit went to the next level this year, as the dangerous job of crab fishing killed two crewmen. The buzz has been growing on this show, which was nominated last year and is looking like serious Emmy bait again this time around.
30 Days (FX)
Emmy cred: For season two, creator-exec producer Morgan Spurlock sent himself to jail and sent a member of the Minutemen to live with a family of illegal immigrants. Critics found the show surprisingly effective, though voters may need their collective memory jogged as it hasn’t aired new episodes since last summer.
(Mainly covers nonserialized docu-style programming)
The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (HBO)
Emmy cred: This forceful doc dug into the details of the abuses at the infamous military prison in Iraq, making for essential if gruesome viewing that could be hard for voters to ignore.
Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People’s Temple (PBS)
Emmy cred: This acclaimed doc racked up fest honors for its portrayal of the still-mysterious, still-fascinating story of Jim Jones and his followers. Newly released footage and a levelheaded approach offer fresh insight into modern history’s largest mass-murder/suicide.
Brando (Turner Classic Movies)
Emmy cred: Critics and auds fell all over again for this two-part bio of iconic actor Marlon Brando. Turner’s success with previous Hollywood bios makes this, dare we say, a contender.
When the Levees Broke (HBO)
Emmy cred: Spike Lee’s four-hour lament for the city of New Orleans gave voice to the frustrations of residents and a nation angry with the response to the tragedy. The high-profile project was a smash hit with crix and auds.
Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater (HBO)
Emmy cred: This bio takes an evenhanded and intimate look at the influence that former senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater had on politics and his family. The insight into the origins of modern conservatism created by Goldwater pleased crix as much as the examination of the man himself.