To check out our embellished Emmy ballot, click here.
Outstanding Comedy Series
The Emmy goes to: "Arrested Development"
Salon Readers' pick: "The Office"
Our pick: "Arrested Development." A few different nominees deserve this one, depending on how you look at it. "Everybody Loves Raymond" deserves the award for longevity after eight seasons of solid, relatable, consistently great comedy. "South Park" deserves the award for slaughtering sacred cows and the award for general-purpose psychotic fun. "Sex and the City" deserves Most Improved, rebounding from the worst season ever with one of its best. "The Office" takes top honors for sheer genius, milking seemingly endless volumes of humor out of basically the same scene for three years straight. But overall, "Arrested Development" should really take home this award for its relentlessly strange, original, manic, un-p.c. spin into high-speed absurdity. The cast is incredible, the writing is sharp and full of bizarre leaps and hilarious digressions, and the stories are utterly unhinged. The biggest joke of all, of course, is that this show almost got cancelled.
Outstanding Drama Series
The Emmy goes to: "The Sopranos"
Salon Readers' pick: "The Sopranos"
Our pick: "The Wire" This category really reflects just how far outside the box the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is willing to go. "24" is a great show, but last season's inconsistent roller coaster ride proved that the writers should probably consider plotting out their stories over the summer. "The West Wing" isn't the same without Aaron Sorkin and doesn't belong here, "CSI" never has, and neither does the good-but-not-that-good "Joan of Arcadia." Naturally, "The Sopranos" should win out of the official nominees, but it's a damn shame that "Deadwood," "The Shield" and "The Wire" ("Six Feet Under" didn't qualify for the award this year, not having aired during the judged season) weren't included, or this would be the tightest race of them all. Overall, the brilliant performances and intricate, nuanced stories of "The Wire" make it tops.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
The Emmy goes to: Kelsey Grammer, "Frasier"
Salon Readers' pick: John Ritter, "8 Simple Rules"
Our pick: Sacha Baron Cohen, "Da Ali G Show." With mad respek to Ricky Gervais and Matt LeBlanc, both of whom are fantastic comic actors, Cohen may very well be the Peter Sellers of his time. Although Ali G is Cohen's weakest character, Austrian fashionista Bruno is a poster boy for the fabulously empty, and Borat bestrides the narrow world like a colossus. Booyakasha! There it is.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
The Emmy goes to: James Spader, "The Practice"
Salon Readers' pick: James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"
Our pick: Ian McShane, "Deadwood." McShane is just too marvelous, too marvelous for words (like "glorious," "glamorous," and that old stand-by "amorous"). Who knew that a swaggering U.K. soap star could not only completely inhabit his role as town villain/savior, but that he could also propel the entire show into the realm of instant classic with his utterly transfixing performances. With a subtle twitch, McShane's face transforms from glowering to hurt, from empathetic to enraged. Watching unpredictable moods and motives wash over his face is the main reason to tune in to "Deadwood" -- in truth, he could dominate every single scene and we'd never get tired of watching him. McShane's absence on the ballot is easily the most ludicrous oversight of the Emmys this year.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
The Emmy goes to: Al Pacino, "Angels in America"
Salon Readers' pick: James Brolin, "The Reagans"
Our pick: Justin Kirk, "Angels in America." Al Pacino's usual scenery-chewing greatness aside, Kirk ultimately had a more challenging role as Prior Walter, a character that could've easily seemed either pathetic or deranged in the wrong hands. Kirk, best known for his Broadway work, inhabited the role so fully and generously, it gave the rest of the production a heart that the other performers (including Pacino's larger-than-life turn as Roy Cohn) could have never done on their own.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
The Emmy goes to: Sarah Jessica Parker, "Sex and the City"
Salon Readers' pick: Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle"
Our pick: Jennifer Aniston, "Friends." Patricia Heaton and Jane Kaczmarek are fine comic actresses, but one of these women is not like the others. Although this season of "Friends" was flaccid, Aniston has incredible comic chops and charm to spare, and she deserves this award for bringing energy plus an odd, unexpected beat to every scene. Overexposed as she's been since marrying Brad Pitt, Aniston's talents as an comic actress are often overlooked in the rush to determine her favorite styling product.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
The Emmy goes to: Allison Janney, "The West Wing"
Salon Readers' pick: Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"
Our pick: Edie Falco, "The Sopranos." "The West Wing's" Allison Janney continues to shine regardless of the quality of her scripts, and Amber Tamblyn ("Joan of Arcadia") and Jennifer Garner ("Alias") certainly deserve mention, but how can you expect anyone to top the rage and confusion and mundane moments of grace offered up by Edie Falco's Carmela? (Falco also demonstrated absurdly great timing in a guest spot as a lesbian real estate mogul on "Will & Grace.")
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
The Emmy goes to: Meryl Streep, "Angels in America"
Salon Readers' pick: Meryl Streep, "Angels in America"
Our pick: Meryl Streep, "Angels in America." Wow. Judy Davis, Glenn Close and Streep? Is there really that little work on the big screen for these powerhouse actresses? Can't we boot a few Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Byrne vehicles for just one film starring some of these insanely talented women? Onward: When playing famous people, Davis gets so wrapped up in mimicry, she often loses the emotional thread of the role and tends to seethe and swoon and take big, fat bites out of every scene (see also: the Judy Garland biopic in which Tammy Blanchard's younger Garland upstaged Davis' older Garland). Close is, of course, remarkable, but what can compare to Streep's mesmerizing transformations from rabbi to Ethel Rosenberg to Hannah Pitt to angel? She's had this thing wrapped up since the read-through. Plus: Don't we all want to hear her bash Bush again when she accepts her statuette?
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
The Emmy goes to: David Hyde Pierce, "Frasier"
Salon Readers' pick: Sean Hayes, "Will & Grace"
Our pick: David Cross, "Arrested Development." This is a tough one. Sean Hayes is head-spinningly funny as Jack on "Will & Grace," Jeffrey Tambor is odd and delightful as George Bluth Sr. on "Arrested Development," and where do you even begin with hauntingly freakish Gareth on "The Office," as played by Mackenzie Crook? Happy as we'd be to see any one of these guys win, let's just hand this one over to David Cross for making us smile every time his naively never-nude Tobias wanders across the screen.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The Emmy goes to: Michael Imperioli, "The Sopranos"
Salon Readers' pick: Michael Imperioli, "The Sopranos"
Our pick: Chris Bauer, "The Wire." His bio claims he's been in movies we've really enjoyed ("Sweet and Lowdown," "High Fidelity," "The Myth of Fingerprints"), but we sure don't remember seeing the 38-year-old Bauer's mug before his turn as "The Wire's" resident Everyman, Frank Sobotka, in its second season. But it was a gripping performance, as he inhabited the role of the determined longshoreman, scrapping to keep his family -- and the union -- out of trouble while battling forces bigger than himself. It proved one of the most tragic roles of the season -- meaning Bauer won't be back for any encores -- and was pulled off with amazing presence and assurance.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
The Emmy goes to: Cynthia Nixon, "Sex and the City"
Salon Readers' pick: Jessica Walter, "Arrested Development"
Our pick: Megan Mullally, "Will & Grace." Incredibly funny and talented as all of the nominees are, Mullally's wicked laugh and sickly sweet voice drown out the competition. At tapings, Mullally takes a good line and makes it better and better, adding different inflections with each take until the audience is roaring. While the other nominees are truly good actresses, Mullally's talents rival the pure-sitcom skills of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Lucille Ball. In Karen, she's transformed an ordinary selfish-bitch character into a lovably demonic archetype.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
The Emmy goes to: Drea de Matteo, "The Sopranos"
Salon Readers' pick: Drea de Matteo, "The Sopranos"
Our pick: Drea de Matteo, "The Sopranos." Ooo, this one is tough. Paula Malcomson (Trixie) and Robin Weigert (Calamity Jane) both bring so much to their roles on "Deadwood," and Amy Ryan's shy Beatrice Russell, who transformed herself from glorified traffic cop to almost-sleek detective on "The Wire," was touching. Still, de Matteo brought such an unforgettable toughness to her trapped-animal role as the doomed Adriana this season. Those world-weary tics and confused, beleaguered looks of hers -- who else could have brought so much palpable heartbreak to this role?
The Emmy goes to: "Angels in America"
Salon Readers' pick: "Angels in America"
Our pick: "Angels in America." No-brainer.
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
The Emmy goes to: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Salon Readers' pick: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"
Our pick: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." "Da Ali G Show" and "Chappelle's Show" are both absurdly unpredictable and hilarious, but "The Daily Show" is easily the most consistently funny show on television, and they do it every single week night. How do they do it? And how in the world can Jon Stewart be so mind-numbingly good at his job, quipping and cutting up with everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Bill Clinton? Jon, what would we do without you during these troubled times? You're the spoonful of sugar that makes the bad news go down.
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
The Emmy goes to: "Elaine Stritch: At Liberty"
Salon Readers' pick: "Chris Rock: Never Scared"
Our pick: "Chris Rock: Never Scared." Chris Rock is the funniest man alive.
Outstanding Animated Program (less than one hour)
The Emmy goes to: "Samurai Jack"
Salon Readers' pick: "The Simpsons"
Our pick: "South Park." Fantastic as the best years of "The Simpsons" were, those days are gone, while "South Park" remains at the top of its game. While Homer evolved from beer-guzzling moron to master schemer, the weird little kids of "South Park" have remained stubbornly screwed-up and ignorant, and the twisted digressions and flights of fancy and bizarre little songs and absurd leaps combine to make this the most original, funny, truly courageous fare on TV.
Outstanding Nonfiction Special
The Emmy goes to: TBA
Salon Readers' pick: "Born Rich"
Our pick: "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace." Brave and unflinching as "Born Rich" is, PBS's "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace" exemplifies the kind of restrained, patient storytelling that's so rare in today's rapid-cut world. The camera never turns away out of convenience, fixing its gaze on the sometimes lovely, sometimes awkward center of this extremely moving, deeply inspiring story about a truly original character in American history.
Outstanding Nonfiction Series
The Emmy goes to: "The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer's"
Salon Readers' pick: "Inside the Actors Studio"
Our pick: Indifferent. We know what our folks ("American Masters") and those kids ("Best Week Ever") like. But honestly? We just don't feel strongly one way or the other.
Outstanding Reality Program
The Emmy goes to: "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
Salon Readers' pick: "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
Our pick: "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Look, none of the entries in this category are any good at all, outside of "Queer Eye." Our own addition, "Paradise Hotel" (see also: "Drunk Asshole Hotel"), was pure slobbery genius, a beautiful catastrophe, a shiny train wreck of epic proportions. Unfortunately, though, its follow-up "Forever Eden" proved that "Paradise Hotel" was an accident and a fluke, so there's no way we can give this award to that show in good conscience, when something as entertaining, weird and well-produced as "Queer Eye" is on the slate. As for the others: "Colonial House"? Just because it was on PBS doesn't mean it wasn't contrived. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"? Why not nominate "The Swan" while you're at it? "Project Greenlight"? Now you're just being silly.
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
The Emmy goes to: "The Amazing Race"
Salon Readers' pick: "The Amazing Race"
Our pick: "America's Next Top Model." In terms of the actual nominees, "The Amazing Race" should win this one, hands down. Its producers have a knack for kicking up the suspense and a wicked senses of humor, and they somehow pull off the most challenging production puzzle in the whole wide world. These guys make "The Apprentice" look downright leaden and hokey -- but then, we're talking about entirely different settings and scenarios. That said, "America's Next Top Model" not only deserves to be included in this fine bunch, it deserves to take top honors for entertainment value alone. Of course, a show about models will never win or even be nominated, and there's absolutely no way to do justice to the divine beauty of this outrageous circus of a show. You have to see it to believe it.