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Emmy Breakdown: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

In the weeks leading up to the 2007 Primetime Emmy Awards, I'll be looking at the nominees in some major categories and trying to predict who's most likely to win in these Emmy Breakdowns. Up today: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos") — If "The Sopranos" is going to get the kind of spectacular Emmy send-off that I'm expecting, this category almost has to go to Gandolfini. Yes, he's won three times before; yes, voters could be wary of handing him the award yet again. But Tony Soprano is an icon because of Gandolfini, and I can't imagine voters passing up their last chance to recognize him. Chance of winning: High.

Hugh Laurie ("House") — I'm shocked every time I remember that Hugh Laurie hasn't won an Emmy yet for his role as the acerbic, cranky, brilliant Gregory House — and more amazed that last year, he wasn't even nominated. I don't know why Emmy voters have such an aversion to Laurie, whom I think delivers one of the most consistently strong performances on TV. If not for Gandolfini, I'd think voters might finally come to their senses and give him the award. Chance of winning: Moderate to high.

For the other three actors' pros and cons, just

Denis Leary ("Rescue Me") — Leary is a love-him-or-hate-him actor on a love-it-or-hate-it show. He's gotten a lot of praise for "Rescue Me," and yet I've never been as drawn in by his performance as many others. His peculiar and unique blend of comedy and drama is intriguing, and it certainly appeals to many — but is it strong enough to beat Tony Soprano? I think it's going to be a while before Leary's Tommy Gavin is that iconic. Chance of winning: Moderate to low.

James Spader ("Boston Legal") — "Boston Legal" is an Emmy favorite, and — like fellow nominee William Shatner — so is Spader himself. Just a few years ago, he won back-to-back Emmys, first for "The Practice," then for "Boston Legal," beating Gandolfini one year and Laurie another. But this year, I'd rank his chances below either of theirs, though (again, like Shatner) he could always pull an upset. Chance of winning: Moderate.

Kiefer Sutherland ("24") — Frankly, I'm a little surprised to see Sutherland here. Perhaps the reasoning behind his nomination is that despite this last season of "24" including some of the show's worst writing ever, Sutherland did the best he could with what he had. Sometimes my affection for him was the only thing keeping me from turning away from "24" altogether. Yet as much as I enjoy watching him, and as much as I love the character of Jack Bauer, this season did not showcase Sutherland in any extraordinary way. He was pretty much same old, same old, and while his "same old" might be good, it's not impressive enough to warrant this win. Chance of winning: Low.

Sutherland and Laurie photos courtesy of Fox
Leary photo courtesy of FX
Spader photo copyright 2007 ABC, Inc.
Gandolfini photo Source

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