Surgeons vs. Spies: 'Grey's Anatomy' and '24' in Emmy Showdown

Will this year's Emmy race be just what the doctors ordered? Or will a super spy who's always short on time once again save the day?

Fox's "24" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" lead the pack of nominees as the red carpet rolls out Sunday for the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, with Conan O'Brian serving as host and a gaggle of stars preparing to make their big arrivals.

While many viewers simply fixate over what couture Heidi Klum, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Love Hewitt will be wearing, here's how the most closely watched Emmy races shape up, according to some of the top TV analysts.

Best Drama Series

The Nominees: "Grey's Anatomy," ABC; "House," Fox; "The Sopranos," HBO; "24," Fox; "The West Wing," NBC.

"24" edged out "Grey's Anatomy" in the race to earn the most nominations, competing in 12 categories, and the Kiefer Sutherland spy drama might take home the most trophies, but in this key category, ABC's spicy hospital drama might have the edge.

"'Grey's Anatomy' is a slap-dunk shoo-in to win," says Tom O'Neil, editor of the Los Angeles Times' award show Web site, "It's brilliantly written and acted. It's got everything going for it in the Emmy race.

Brian Lowry, the chief TV critic at Daily Variety and co-host of TV Guide Channel's "Square Off," is also picking "Grey's Anatomy," but his endorsement comes with a mention of "Lost" -- the show that won best drama last year -- which didn't earn a nomination, despite strong ratings.

"This is the one really glaring aspect of that category," Lowry says. "I thought 'Lost' had a terrific second season. It's a very strong show."

Marc Berman of Media Week believes "24" will pull out a victory, despite the apparent groundswell support for "Grey's Anatomy." "It's been a really strong season for that show, and it's been nominated in this category four times," he says. "It may be time."

There might also be a strong sentimental pull for "The West Wing" -- a show that's won best drama four times and aired its final episode earlier this year -- and "The Sopranos," which will be bowing out in 2007.

The other nominee, "House," is one of the hottest shows on TV. But the fact that star Hugh Laurie didn't earn consideration for best actor has experts wondering. "The show is great," says Berman. "But how can you nominate the show and not him? He is the show."

Best Comedy Series

The Nominees: "Arrested Development," Fox; "Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO; "The Office," NBC; "Scrubs," NBC; "Two and a Half Men," CBS.

There's no drama in the race for best comedy series -- almost everyone is picking NBC's "The Office" as the show to beat, and that star Steve Carell has an excellent chance of winning best actor in a comedy.

"This is the breakout comedy hit of the year, so, without a doubt, it's one of the evening's best bets," says Berman.

While the other nominated shows have their fans, Carell's career is on a tremendous upswing. The former "Daily Show" correspondent had a breakout hit in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" last year, and he's currently appearing in "Little Miss Sunshine," this summer's most acclaimed comedy.

"It seems inevitable that Emmy voters will get behind this new show to support it," says O'Neil.

Best Actor in a Drama

The Nominees: Christopher Meloni, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC; Denis Leary, "Rescue Me," FX Network; Peter Krause, "Six Feet Under," HBO; Kiefer Sutherland, "24," Fox; Martin Sheen, "The West Wing," NBC.

Martin Sheen is a five-time loser in the race for best actor in a drama. He actually won an Emmy years ago for a guest spot on "Murphy Brown." But now he faces his sixth and final chance to be honored for his performance as President Josiah Bartlet.

Perhaps it's a good thing that Sheen is up once again for Emmy consideration for a guest spot in a comedy ("Two and a Half Men"), because his commander-in-chief might have trouble swaying the Emmy electorate.

Still, at least Sheen got nominated. Three-time winner James Gandolfini didn't make the cut, even though "The Sopranos" is in the running for best drama. "That one's hard to explain," says Berman, "especially when you consider that another HBO star from a show that's off the air -- Peter Krause of 'Six Feet Under' -- is in the running."

Like Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland has cultivated his status as an Emmy also-ran. He's been nominated five times for his cloak-and-dagger work as Jack Bauer, and has yet to win.

"That's a tough role," says Lowry. "It would be nice to give him something to reward him for it, and I think in lieu for the series winning, I think an Emmy for Kiefer Sutherland would be more than appropriate."

Best Actress in a Drama

The Nominees: Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer," TNT; Geena Davis, "Commander in Chief," ABC; Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC; Frances Conroy, "Six Feet Under," HBO; Allison Janney, "The West Wing," NBC.

Last year Patricia Arquette won in this category for "Medium." She didn't earn a nod this year, but we might need to call on her character's psychic abilities to figure out how three of this year's candidates earned nominations for shows that are dead and gone.

Only Kyra Sedgwick and Mariska Hargitay are competing for performances with shows still on the air. Janney, a three-time winner, could pull off a fourth victory as part of a tearful farewell to "West Wing." But many experts give Sedgwick the edge.

"'The Closer' has a great season. It's fresh and it's new," says Berman.

"I'm not a huge fan of 'The Closer,' " Lowry says. "I think Kyra Sedgwick could very likely win, but given who's in the category, I would probably go back and give it to Allison Janney as a lovely parting gift."