2001 Emmy Picks

We bet Ellen DeGeneres will plug her new CBS sitcom when she emcees that network's presentation of the 53rd Annual Emmy Awards (Sun., Sept. 16, 8 p.m. ET). Otherwise, no wagering—but here are the winners we'd like to see.

DRAMA SERIES

ER(NBC)
Law & Order (NBC)
The Practice (ABC)
The Sopranos (HBO)

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The West Wing (NBC)

The West Wing slipped a bit after last year's win, but The Sopranos was as compelling as ever with its mixture of domestic conflict, mordant humor and Machiavellian Mob maneuvering. In the category of best writing for a drama series, four of the five nominations went to The Sopranos. Quite a statement.

COMEDY SERIES

Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)

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Frasier (NBC)
Malcolm in the Middle (FOX)
Sex and the City (HBO)
Will & Grace (NBC)

Though it's not the hippest, sexiest or wildest comedy in the field, Everybody Loves Raymond deserves its first top honor for delivering five seasons of solid laughs. Malcolm in the Middle, the only nominee not on last year's list, rates runner-up recognition for taking family dynamics to the next level of lunacy.

Drama Series

LEAD ACTOR

Andre Braugher, Gideon's Crossing (ABC)
Dennis Franz, NYPD Blue (ABC)
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos (HBO)

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Rob Lowe, The West Wing (NBC)
Martin Sheen, The West Wing (NBC)

Watching Gandolfini as Tony Soprano calls to mind those old movie ads—"Paul Newman is Hud"—that suggested a star's performance was more than mere play-acting. Every word and gesture seems real, even as the Mafioso lies to his wife, rationalizes to his shrink and mourns those he has murdered. Sheen remains presidential and Franz is perennially worthy. Braugher is always good, though his defunct show could have been better. But to deny Gandolfini his second Emmy would be an act of disrespect.

Drama Series

LEAD ACTRESS

Lorraine Bracco, The Sopranos (HBO)
Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy (CBS)
Edie Falco, The Sopranos (HBO)

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Marg Helgenberger, CSI (CBS)
Sela Ward, Once and Again (ABC)

In all fairness, castmates Bracco and Falco should have joint custody of this award. When psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi was sexually assaulted in a March episode, Bracco was unforgettably effective at conveying the character's pain, fear and rage. But again we bow to Falco for her well-rounded portrayal of a Mafia wife torn between conscience and comfort. While Carmela Soprano is trapped in a moral contradiction, Falco's work is a model of consistency. Ward, who won this category last year, merits an honorable mention.

Comedy Series

LEAD ACTOR

Kelsey Grammer, Frasier(NBC)
John Lithgow, 3rd Rock from the Sun (NBC)
Eric McCormack, Will& Grace (NBC)
Frankie Muniz, Malcolm in the Middle (FOX)
Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)

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A lead-actor Emmy would be a nice parting gift for Lithgow, the farceur extraordinaire whose series wrapped last spring after 5 ½ seasons. But come on, he and Grammer already have three apiece in this category. While the 15-year-old Muniz is engaging as a boy genius who's also a regular kid, maybe he should wait pick up an Emmy till he's licensed to drive it home. Finally, proper attention should be paid to Romano, whose timing and delivery get better and better.

Comedy Series
LEAD ACTRESS

Calista Fiockhart, Ally Mcbeal (FOX)

Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond(CBS)
Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle (FOX)

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Debra Messing, Will & Grace (NBC)
Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City (HBO)

Frankly, we might well go for Heaton if she hadn't taken this category last year. But a share-the-wealth impulse leads us to choose between Parker, irresistible as a vulnerable woman-about-town, and Kaczmarek as the loving but fearsome mom who can freeze her raucous brood's blood by screaming, "Boyyzzz!" Better give a slight edge to Kaczmarek or else she'll ground us for a month.

Sunday, Sept. 16 FIREBALLS FROM SPACE Discovery Channel (9 p.m. ET) Find out if comets are coming to conk us.

Monday, Sept. 17 ECHOES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE PBS (9 p.m. ET) West Wing-er Martin Sheen narrates a documentary about 200 years of life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Tuesday, Sept. 18 FRASIER NBC (9 p.m. ET)

Frasier's past loves—Cheers alums Shelley Long and Bebe Neuwirth—plague him in the hour-long season premiere.

Wednesday, Sept. 19 THE DREW CAREY SHOW ABC (9 p.m. ET) The try-anything series starts its seventh year with a "Back-to-School Rock 'n Roll Comedy Hour."

Thursday, Sept. 20 FRIENDS NBC (8 p.m. ET) In the season debut, a pregnancy rumor upsets Monica and Chandler's wedding reception.

Friday, Sept. 21 PASADENA FOX (9 p.m. ET) Dynasty redux? Dana Delany stars in the premiere of a drama series about a filthy-rich family.

Saturday, Sept. 22 MISS AMERICA 2001 ABC (8 p.m. ET) Tony Danza plays host, and the 41 nonfinalists help pick the winner.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City (HBO)

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)

Supporting Actress, Drama Series Allison Janney, The West Wing (NBC)

Supporting Actor, Drama Series John Spencer, The West Wing (NBC)

Movie Wit (HBO)

Miniseries Anne Frank(ABC)

Lead Actor, Miniseries or Movie Barry Pepper, 61* (HBO)

Lead Actress, Miniseries or Movie Emma Thompson, Wit (HBO)

Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie Brian Cox, Nuremberg (TNT)

Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie Audra McDonald, Wit (HBO)

Variety, Music or Comedy Series Late Show with David Letterman (CBS)