Ellen DeGeneres is becoming the disaster quarterback of the Emmy Awards.
Four years ago, she brilliantly pulled off the seemingly impossible task of hosting an awards show that was delayed twice because of 9/1 1.
She is back at 8 p.m. Sunday on WIVB-TV as Emmy host, just a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed her native New Orleans -- an ongoing disaster that has led to some potentially award-winning television news coverage.
Once again, tragedy has made awards shows seem a little superfluous, making it DeGeneres' difficult task to put us in a partying mood at the same time she pays respects to New Orleans.
This year's 57th Annual Emmys will include a tribute to the three historic newsmen who used to cover national news events -- NBC's Tom Brokaw, CBS' Dan Rather and the late Peter Jennings of ABC.
The show has the potential for some Western New York winners, with David Milch's "Deadwood" nominated as best drama, Ruben Santiago-Hudson's "Lackawanna Blues" nominated for best movie and St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute graduate Christopher Markus nominated for best screenplay for "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers."
Milch, who has always loved the horses, undoubtedly realizes how tough it is to handicap the Emmys most years, and this year in particular. The nominations are a clash between the old and the new shows, and it's difficult to guess where sentiment lies.
A year ago, I hit an uncommonly high prediction rate of 54 percent, but I think I have a better chance of guessing what is under the hatch in "Lost" than doing that well this Sunday.
But here are my picks:
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Brad Garrett and Peter Boyle ("Everybody Loves Raymond") and Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace"), face relative newcomers Jeffrey Tambor ("Arrested Development") and Jeremy Piven ("Entourage"). "Entourage" is a hot show in Hollywood and Piven plays an agent who is the kind of jerk that actors deal with all the time. Give it to him. If he loses, he should get a new publicist. But don't be surprised if Boyle gets the sentimental vote.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy: It's a battle of veterans Jessica Walter ("Arrested Development"), Holland Taylor and Conchata Farrell ("Two And a Half Men"), Megan Mullally ("Will and Grace") and Doris Roberts (of "Raymond"). Even CBS is probably rooting for Taylor because her show takes over the Monday "Raymond" slot. But Roberts is the likely winner.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama: Veterans William Shatner ("Boston Legal"), Alan Alda ("West Wing") and Oliver Platt ("Huff") battle two "Lost" men, Naveen Andrews and Terry O'Quinn. O'Quinn is the most intriguing character in last year's most innovative series. He should win. But I won't protest if Alda or Shatner wins. They might give better speeches.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama: Veterans Blythe Danner ("Huff"), Tyne Daly ("Judging Amy"), Stockard Channing ("West Wing") and CCH Pounder ("The Shield") compete with newcomer Sandra Oh ("Grey's Anatomy"). This category is ripe for a surprise. Since Danner is in a little-watched Showtime series that few viewers might have even heard of, she'd be the most surprising choice. Give it to her in lieu of a lifetime achievement award.
Best Actor in a Comedy: Ray Romano ("Everybody Love Raymond"), Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") and Eric McCormack ("Will & Grace") are the safe choices in a category that includes stars of two low-rated comedies, Jason Bateman ("Arrested Development") and Zach Braff ("Scrubs"). Go with Bateman, who is on the low-rated series that Hollywood is most proud of.
Best Actress in a Comedy: Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") and Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm in the Middle') try to add to their collection in a category that includes "Desperate Housewives' " Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman. Huffman has the most well-rounded role and the best acting credentials before "Housewives." If the three "Housewives" don't cancel out each other, she'll win. If they do cancel each other, it is Heaton again.
Best Actor in a Drama: James Spader ("Boston Legal") defends his crown against Kiefer Sutherland ("24") and newcomers Ian McShane ("Deadwood"), Hugh Laurie ("House") and Hank Azaria ("Huff"). Laurie, a Brit whose accent isn't detectable on the medical mystery series that he stars in, should hire an international lawyer if he doesn't win.
Best Actress in a Drama: Glenn Close ("The Shield"), who gave a year of her feature film career to a cable series, is considered the heavy favorite in a category that includes Jennifer Garner ("Alias"), Mariska Hargitay ("Law & Order, SVU"), Patricia Arquette ("Medium") and Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under"). It's a Close call over Conroy, who plays a much-more complex character.
Best Miniseries: HBO's "Empire Falls" moved as slowly as the Emmy show probably will. But it has HBO's muscle and star power behind it in a weak category that includes "Elvis" (CBS), "The 4400" (USA) and "The Lost Prince" (PBS).
Best Movie: HBO's "Lackawanna Blues," "Warm Springs" and "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" compete with "The Office Special" (BBC America) and the syrupy "The Wool Cap" (TNT). I'm not betting against "Blues," but wouldn't be surprised if one of the other HBO films derailed it.
Best Comedy: "Everybody Loves Raymond," which had a classic finale and a terrific final season, battles last year's surprise winner "Arrested Development," and last season's gigantic hit, the comedic soap "Desperate Housewives." "Scrubs" and "Will & Grace" don't have a chance. I'd guess it is between "Housewives" and "Raymond," which had its own beleaguered housewife. I'm going against hype and picking sentiment. "Raymond" in a surprise.
Best Drama: "Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing," which were considered dead wood by many, battle "Deadwood," "24," and "Lost." "24" had its best season since the first one, but that got lost in the incredible story of "Lost." Not only did the drama about the survivors of an airplane crash entertain and enthrall, it changed the face of TV this season. If it doesn't win, I'll be totally lost.