Will Housewives Rule the Emmys?
But they all agree on one thing: A Desperate Housewife will be a little less desperate by the end of the night.
The race for lead actress in a comedy features all but one of the stars of ABC's breakout hit: Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross and Felicity Huffman will go for the gold, while snubbed costar Eva Longoria cheers from the sidelines. Their competition includes Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton and Malcolm in the Middle's Jane Kaczmarek.
Desperate Housewives and the veteran sitcom Will & Grace are, in fact, the leading contenders all around, with a season-high of 15 nominations each from the TV academy – though PEOPLE critic Jason Branch does comment: "That the flatlining Will & Grace still made the cut for best comedy series (ditto Eric McCormack for best actor) shows how slim the sitcom pickings are."
Other heavies in the laughs department were the 13 nominations – including outstanding comedy series and leading actor Ray Romano – for Everybody Loves Raymond, which wrapped after nine seasons. Rounding out the best comedy contenders are Arrested Development and Scrubs.
The new ABC drama Lost, about crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island, is up for 12 Emmys, including best drama. Its competition includes Deadwood, Six Feet Under, 24 and the veteran White House drama The West Wing.
Newlywed Jennifer Garner is up for lead actress in a drama for Alias, and she's vying with Patricia Arquette (Medium), Glenn Close (The Shield), Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) and Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU) for the honor. PEOPLE's Branch picked Close (playing the bullheaded police captain) as the favorite to win.
James Spader, last year's winner of the lead actor in a drama series award, was nominated again for Boston Legal – despite the show's abbreviated run this year (it was replaced by Grey's Anatomy). Other nominees are Hank Azaria for Huff, Hugh Laurie for House, Ian McShane for "Deadwood" and Kiefer Sutherland for 24.
Besides Romano and McCormack, in the running for best comedy series actor are Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), Zach Braff (Scrubs) and Tony Shalhoub (Monk).
In fact, expect comedy to monopolize the evening Sunday. Because ratings for the ceremony have been slipping over the past few years, Ellen DeGeneres, who memorably hosted after 9/11, is returning to lead the proceedings, and producers promise Donald Trump and William Shatner, among others, as competing vocalists in a contest called "Emmy Idol" – in which some top-name warblers will belt out classic TV themes.
Among them: Kristen Bell, who'll do the theme to Fame, and Gary Dourdan and Macy Gray, set for a duet of "Movin' on Up," from The Jeffersons. Trump is set to do the Green Acres theme with Will & Grace's Megan Mullally, while Shatner's partner will be opera's Frederica von Stade – with whom he'll deliver a vocal rendition of the instrumental theme from Star Trek.
Let's just hope they'll still have voices left to announce the winners.
The Emmys air live on CBS at 8 p.m. from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.