A lot of factors go into picking Emmy winners, most of them wrong

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

OK, now I think I've got the trick to this Emmy picking. Last year -- my first attempt at this game -- was pretty dismal, I admit. One right, in some forgettable supporting actor category.

But what are you going to do in the year that they don't give the best movie/miniseries acting award to Robert Duvall for "Lonesome Dove?" You're going to get a lot wrong, that's what you're going to do.

The problem was that I didn't factor in the absurd voting procedure. The Emmys are chosen by a bunch of essentially bored people, all members of the Television Academy, who have nothing better to do on a weekend in August -- heavy production season in network television -- than sit around in a hotel and watch screenings.

People in the industry know that the members of these so-called Blue Ribbon Panels love it when their heartstrings are tugged. If you're a nominated drama you always submit your three-hankie episode for consideration (the best series are chosen on the basis of one nominated episode).

Another clue to their mentality: They loved "Cagney & Lacey." Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless used to take turns with that best dramatic actress statuette. And of course they thought nobody was funnier than John Laroquette.

So now you begin to understand how Duvall got beat by James Woods. His movie about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, "The Story of Bill W.," was a tear-jerker, with a bravura performance much more accessible than the subtleties Duvall gave to his character.

The Television Academy's screwed up voting procedures seem to guarantee that injustices will dominate Sunday night's award ceremonies, which will be televised by Fox beginning at 8 o'clock on Channel 45 (WBFF). So keeping in mind all the clues -- bored voters, Tyne Daley, Sharon Gless, John Laroquette, tear-jerkers . . . -- here's another attempt at crystal ball gazing.

* Best Comedy Series -- "Cheers," "Designing Women," "ThGolden Girls," "Murphy Brown," "The Wonder Years."

It should go to "The Simpsons," but the Academy has that off in some animated category, so here's betting that they do as close to the right thing as they can and give it to "Murphy Brown."

* Best Drama Series -- "China Beach, "L.A. Law," "Quantum Leap," "thirtysomething," "Twin Peaks."

A tough one. "Twin Peaks" has the hype but will make no sense to the judges who watch only one episode. "thirtysomething" has that Nancy-gets-cancer episode that will get votes. "Quantum Leap" is really an anthology show, so it can weigh in with a good hour. And never count out "L.A. Law." Let's go with "China Beach," which can often push the right emotional buttons.

* Best Miniseries -- "Blind Faith," "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story," "Family of Spies," "The Kennedys of Massachusetts," "Small Sacrifices."

If it's not too gruesome for the crowd, watching a mother being brought to justice after she shot her three kids will win it for "Small Sacrifices." Otherwise, "Family of Spies." "The Kennedys of Massachusetts" is actually the best of the bunch.

* Best Drama/Comedy Special -- "Caroline?" "The Final Days," "The Incident" "A Killing in a Small Town," "Murder in Mississippi."

They'll give it to "Murder in Mississippi," a fine film, though "The Final Days" deserves it.

* Best Comedy Actor -- Ted Danson ("Cheers"), Craig T. Nelson ("Coach"), Richard Mulligan ("Empty Nest"), John Goodman ("Roseanne"), Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years").

Danson's always the bridesmaid though he clearly should win. The pick here is Goodman since he's seen as suddenly such a big film star, ending "Roseanne's" Emmy shutout.

* Best Comedy Actress -- Kirstie Alley ("Cheers"), Blair Brown ("The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd"), Delta Burke ("Designing Women"), Betty White ("The Golden Girls"), Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown").

Brown's work is the best of the bunch but is probably too subtle for this crowd. They'll prefer White's Laroquette-like one-note persona. I'd give it to Roseanne Barr.

* Best Drama Actor -- Peter Falk ("Columbo"), Edward Woodward ("The Equalizer"), Robert Loggia ("Mancuso FBI"), Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap"), Kyle MacLachlan ("Twin Peaks").

The Emmys' most screwed-up category. Gary Cole should win it for "Midnight Caller." The next best thing would be to give it to MacLachlan, though it's hard to say how "Twin Peaks" is going to go over in these screening rooms. So Bakula will probably impress them with one of his cross-dressing roles and take the statue.

* Best Drama Actress -- Dana Delany ("China Beach"), Jill Eikenberry ("L.A. Law"), Angela Lansbury ("Murder, She Wrote"), Patricia Wettig ("thirtysomething'), Piper Laurie ("Twin Peaks").

Wettig's Nancy-gets-cancer hour will give her a well-earned second Emmy.

* Best Comedy Supporting Actor -- Woody Harrelson and Kelsey xTC Grammar ("Cheers"), Jerry Van Dyke ("Coach"), Alex Rocco ("The Famous Teddy Z"), Charles Kimbrough ("Murphy Brown").

There will undoubtedly be a lot of sympathy for Van Dyke with people who have nothing better to do in August than go to these screenings since many of them are probably hoping for a similar revival of their own careers. But Rocco's sleazy agent Al Floss was such an industry favorite that he'll win the Emmy he richly deserves.

* Best Comedy Supporting Actress -- Rhea Perlman and Bebe Neuwirth ("Cheers"), Estelle Getty ("The Golden Girls"), Faith Ford ("Murphy Brown"), Julia Duffy ("Newhart").

Neuwirth deserves it, but her work is not right for the Laroquette lovers. They'll probably give it to Getty again.

* Best Drama Supporting Actor -- Richard Dysart, Larry Drake and Jimmy Smits ("L.A. Law"), Dean Stockwell ("Quantum Leap"), Timothy Busfield ("thirtysomething").

One of Dysart's respect-the-profession speeches will win it, and he's as good as anyone else.

* Best Drama Supporting Actress -- Marg Helgenburger ("China Beach"), Diana Muldaur and Susan Ruttan ("L.A. Law"), Melanie Mayron ("thirtysomething"), Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks").

I'd give it to Mayron, but she's a bit too distinctive for this crowd. Smart money's on Muldaur, who was great.

* Best Actor, Miniseries or Special -- Hume Cronyn ("Age Old Friends"), Albert Finney ("The Image"), Michael Caine ("Jekyll and Hyde"), Tom Hulce ("Murder in Mississippi"), Art Carney, ("Where Pigeons Go to Die")

Lane Smith ought to have this one for his Richard Nixon in "The Final Days." Hume Cronyn's squint will go over big with the screeners and get him the statue.

* Best Actress, Miniseries of Special -- Lesley Ann Warren ("Family of Spies"), Annette O'Toole ("The Kennedys of Massachusetts"), Barbara Hershey ("A Killing in a Small Town"), Alfre Woodard ("A Mother's Courage"), Christine Lahti ("No Place Like Home"), Farrah Fawcett ("Small Sacrifices").

There's a lot of emotional gut-wrenching in here that could win it for anyone but O'Toole. But no one was more gut-wrenching -- or better -- than Warren.

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