Emmy voters like a good epic and find biopics irresistible. How will these clashing sensibilities play out in this year's movie/miniseries race? And now that Jon Stewart has vacated his chair for a few weeks, might it be possible for someone to steal his throne? Let's look at this year's variety, reality and movie/miniseries races.
MINISERIES OR MOVIE
"Top of the Lake" (Sundance Channel)
"Behind the Candelabra" (HBO)
"American Horror Story: Asylum" (FX)
"The Bible" (History)
"Political Animals" (USA)
"Parade's End" (HBO)
Bubbling under: "Betty and Coretta" (Lifetime), "The Girl" (HBO), "Steel Magnolias" (Lifetime), "Phil Spector" (HBO), "The Hour" (BBC America), "The Big C: Hereafter" (Showtime), "Mary and Martha" (HBO), "Wallander" (PBS)
Analysis: The category will likely come down to two very different projects from acclaimed directors: Jane Campion's atmospheric miniseries "Top of the Lake" and Steven Soderbergh's more conventional Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra." Soderbergh's project had bigger stars (and greater hype), but Campion, with the luxury of running time, created a more daring work of art. The highly rated "The Bible" will have its share of disciples too.
VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central)
"The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central)
"Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (NBC)
"Jimmy Kimmel Live" (ABC)
"Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
"Real Time With Bill Maher" (HBO)
Bubbling under: "Portlandia" (IFC), "Conan" (TBS), "Late Show With David Letterman" (CBS), "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (NBC)
Analysis: "The Daily Show" has won this award 10 years running, and there's little evidence voters will tire of rewarding it. That doesn't mean the category couldn't do with a little change. IFC's "Portlandia" had a stronger season than the retooling "Saturday Night Live" and deserves a little love three seasons into its run.
REALITY COMPETITION PROGRAM
"The Amazing Race" (CBS)
"Top Chef" (Bravo)
"The Voice" (NBC)
"Project Runway" (Lifetime)
"Dancing With the Stars" (ABC)
"So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox)
Bubbling under: "Survivor" (CBS), "American Idol" (Fox)
Analysis: In the decade of this category's existence, "The Amazing Race" has won nine out of 10 years. Is it really that amazing? Sue us, but we dug "Top Chef's" foray into the Pacific Northwest, particularly the breakfast-on-a-stick episode. Truffled popcorn? That's award-worthy!
HOST OF REALITY OR REALITY COMPETITION PROGRAM
Tom Bergeron, "Dancing With the Stars"
Cat Deeley, "So You Think You Can Dance"
Phil Keoghan, "The Amazing Race"
Jeff Probst, "Survivor"
Betty White, "Betty White's Off Their Rockers"
Bubbling under: Ryan Seacrest, "American Idol"; Carson Daly, "The Voice"
Analysis: Probst won the first four Emmys in this relatively new category. Last year, he wasn't even nominated, and Bergeron took the prize. Thought: If "The Amazing Race" is all that, why hasn't Keoghan ever won? He's as engaging and empathetic as Probst with a sense of humor to boot.