History might be made on two fronts tonight at the Emmys.
While much has been written about either AMC's Mad Men or FX's Damages having a chance to become the first basic cable series to win as best drama, even more compelling is the possibility that HBO's John Adams could be the most honored program in TV history before the night ends.
The historically sound and dramatically dazzling miniseries about the life of America's second president won eight Emmys last week at the Creative Arts portion of the competition and needs only three more tonight to tie Angels in America, the 2003 HBO miniseries based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about AIDS, and the 1976 ABC production Eleanor and Franklin, a made-for-TV movie about the life of President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.
Given that, my vote for best miniseries is an easy one. I'm voting for history and John Adams, and I do so not just for the overall excellence of the production. But also as a vote against the meanness of so much reality TV and the mediocrity of most network scripted fare.
I am betting Adams will get at least three awards tonight: best lead actor in a miniseries (Paul Giamatti), best lead actress (Laura Linney) and best miniseries. Also nominated: Tin Man, Cranford and The Andromeda Strain
Best drama series
I will be disconsolate if Mad Men doesn't win. And that's not because it would miss the chance to be the first basic cable to accomplish that feat, but because it is such a smart and rich exploration of American life in the 1960s and the Madison Avenue consciousness that made us into the super-sized credit-ridden consumer nation we are today. Also nominated: Damages, House, Dexter, Lost and Boston Legal. (Tom O'Neil, the Hollywood journalist and historian who wrote the definitive book on the awards, The Emmys, tells me that Mad Men is the favorite, but Damages is the sleeper pick of many insiders.)
Best comedy series
No contest: NBC's 30 Rock, the TV sendup produced by and starring the terrific Tina Fey. Also nominated: Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office and Two and a Half Men.
Best actor (drama)
Jon Hamm, the matinee-idol good-looking star of Mad Men. One of the things that makes this series so intriguing is that you cannot get a clean read on Don Draper, the ad man played by Hamm. Holding our attention and making us care while still keeping most of the character's inner self a secret demands a special kind of actor. Hamm fills the bill. Also nominated: Gabriel Byrne, Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall, Hugh Laurie and James Spader.
Best actress (drama)
She is in every frame of the cop drama, and she makes me smile like no other leading lady on television.
Best actor (comedy)
Steve Carell and Tony Shalhoub are OK, but no one is in a league with Alec Baldwin of NBC's 30
He's the perfect foil for Fey as an empty suit of a network executive. Also nominated: Charlie Sheen and Lee Pace.
Best actress (comedy)
The easiest pick of all: Tina Fey. Week in and week out, she carries the show head and shoulders above any other sitcom on TV. Also nominated: Christina Applegate, America Ferrera, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary-Louise Parker.
And while it's a minor category, here is one last locally flavored matchup to watch: best writing in a drama series.
Among the competition for Baltimore native Robin Veith, who is featured in our cover story, are Baltimore writers Ed Burns and David Simon for their work on The Wire.