The Los Angeles Times' Tom O'Neil has great scoopage about the Emmy voting process: lists of the episodes being submitted for awards consideration by leading dramas and comedies. These decisions, arbitrary as they may seem, make a big difference, since nominators select shows based on submitted episodes only. It's widely believed that one of the reasons Lost was not nominated for Best Drama Series the year after it won was that the producers submitted a subpar episode.
So which shows and actors are hurt by their episode selection? And which have picked the right episode to help them toward a nomination? We've got five winners and five losers, selected scientifically from the dozens of shows and actors mentioned in the LAT.
Ugly Betty. Though the show has been well received all year, its producers, as per tradition, chose the series pilot, which packed in so much exposition that its laughs were few and far between — and mostly revolved around that stupid poncho.
Scrubs. We're sure that the producers of NBC's comedy thought submitting the show's musical episode would make Scrubs a shoo-in, but the gimmicky half-hour might only remind voters how hard the show has had to strain to earn laughs this past season.
Michael Chiklis, The Shield. "Back to One" wasn't a bad episode, but no hour showcased the volcanic temperament of Vic Mackey like last week's episode, "Chasing Ghosts," featuring (as New York's Adam Sternbergh put it) "a virtuoso fugue of anger, betrayal, and despair."
John Krasinski, The Office. Krasinski is beloved by fans not only for his comedic chops but for his deft work in the Pam-Karen-Jim love triangle. So why submit an episode ("Business School," the one with the vampire bat) that has many laughs but skimps on the romance?
Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls. It's Graham's last chance to be nominated for her fantastic work as Lorelei Gilmore. And though the dramatic episode submitted — "Farewell, My Pet," in which Lorelei and Christopher break up — isn't a terrible choice, we're sad that no one thought to submit "Lorelei? Lorelei?," featuring the finest karaoke rendition of "I Will Always Love You" ever committed to film.
Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy. Though Pompeo is often a wan presence on the show named for her character, her submitted episode, "Wishin' and Hopin'," is a small masterpiece in which Meredith Grey's mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, has a rare lucid day.
Masi Oka and Jack Coleman, Heroes. These two actors, both breakout stars on NBC's new hit, pop out of the show's ensemble in their respective episodes. Oka (Hiro) gets to meet a future version of himself in "Five Years Ago," and Coleman (Bennett) starred in the series' best episode to date, "Company Man," which tracks Bennett's tortured decision to turn against his employers to save his daughter.
Ethan Suplee, My Name Is Earl. Suplee, who plays Earl's simpleminded brother Randy, is frequently annoying on NBC's comedy, but in the submitted episode, "Larceny of a Kitty Cat," Suplee played nicely against form as Randy fell in love with a cat owner played by Amy Sedaris.
30 Rock. Tina Fey's show bucks tradition by submitting an episode other than its strained pilot for consideration, and the show can only benefit. "Hard Ball" is a particularly excellent choice, featuring as it does Jane Krakowski's Jenna getting in trouble thanks to a misquote in Maxim, and scoffing at Barack Obama's presidential chances.
The Wire. Creator David Simon is on the record as claiming that HBO's cop masterpiece will never be nominated for an Emmy, and the show's multitudinous cast of characters and intricate, slow-developing plots do make it tough to sell the show on the basis of one episode. But if any single hour of The Wire can do it, it's "Final Grades," last season's finale, which begins with a shocking, brilliant sequence in which Bubbles, confessing to a murder, tries to hang himself in an interrogation room … Nah, who are we kidding? It'll never get nominated.