Defending Champs, Rookies and the Last Chance Gang Define Emmy Nods

The 2011 Emmy nominations will be read early tomorrow morning by Melissa McCarthy and Josh Jackson, at an hour (8:35 EDT) and pace no normal human could follow. But amid the flurry names will be dominant three-peaters, young upstarts and few old friends hoping for a proper Viking funeral.

2011 marks the final chance at Emmy glory for a couple of old favorites, most notably Steve Carell, who broke about 9 million hearts when he announced he would be leaving "The Office." He's been nominated five times in the past without a single win, a "lifetime achievement" prize wouldn't be a huge surprise. Another perennial contender taking its final bow is "Friday Night Lights," the best show no one ever watched, which has earned eight nods and zero trophies during its run.

Bryan Cranston has won Best Actor in a Drama for three years running, but won't get a chance to defend his title because Season 4 of "Breaking Bad" as pushed been back to this summer. This leaves Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" his best chance to finally break through and claim the prize, but it would surely be a somewhat hollow victory—as the old saying goes, If you wanna be The Man, you gotta beat The Man (Ed. note: we totally brain-farted when we first posted, having completely forgotten about Cranston's ineligibility--he's that good). Steve Buscemi of "Boardwalk Empire" is likely to be the latest leading man to join the fight, with "Justified"'s Timothy Oliphant itching for a fight as well.

Like Cranston, "Mad Men" will be defending a Best Drama it has won for the last three years, and "Boardwalk Empire" is likely to be in the mix for that prize as well. Other new shows that could make some noise the Best Drama fight are "Game of Thrones," "The Walking Dead" and "The Killing," the latter needing to overcome some serious finale backlash.

The Best Actress in a Comedy award has gone to a first timer every year since Helen Hunt of "Mad About You" won three in a row from '97 to '99, and the trend will probably continue, as Edie Falco of "Nurse Jackie" tries to defend her crown against newcomer Laura Linney of "The Big C," Melissa McCarthy of "Mike & Molly" possibly getting a closer look after her breakout performance in "Bridesmaids."

The Best Comedy fight will feature two of last year's biggest rookies: "Glee," which scored three wins on eight nominations, and "Modern Family," which grabbed six awards—including Best Comedy—on 11 nods. Elbowing its way into the party could be Linney's "Big C."

One notable thing about some of the new dramas is how off-center they are. You've got the ren-faire epic "Game of Thrones," the zombie apocalypse of "Walking Dead," the serial murder saga "The Killing"... the Emmys have been recognizing progressively less traditional fare for years now, but 2011 could mark a big jump.

Oh, and "The Daily Show" will win for the ninth year in a row.


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