Two on a quest to save the world, one on a quest to save his clients, one taking an interesting way of saving lives, and a mob boss. These five men make for a strong face-off of dramatic acting powers, but only one can come up victorious. Even though your first instinct may be to ditch the lawyer and award a hero … don’t forget, we mentioned the words: Mob Boss. Who would ever want to vote against that!

DRAMA LEAD ACTOR:
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos (“The Second Coming”)
Hugh Laurie, House (“Half-Wit”)
Denis Leary, Rescue Me (“Retards”)
James Spader, Boston Legal (“Angel of Death”)
Kiefer Sutherland, 24 (“Day 6: 5am-6am”)

5. Kiefer Sutherland: Oh how the mighty have fallen. After a banner year for 24 last year, it failed to get back into the race for Drama Series and failed to gain any positive buzz as it did before. Kiefer was really the only reason to consistently watch the show last season, because he’s such a good badass. Still, his spotlight dimmed this year, and he has four formidable foes with much better material to work with and much stronger performances than Sutherland has had in all of Day 6. Maybe the 7th day will go better for him.

4. Denis Leary: Rescue Me had its 15 minutes of fame, and now this just seems like a filler nominee. It’s not a bad choice or bad tape by any means, but there’s just something about the nomination that just makes you say, “Oh, he did? That’s nice.” He does have some nice scenes to display his acting chops in, but with this years addition of Laurie, and Spader and Gandolfini back … Leary will just have to be content with having a massively outside shot. Maybe he and Laurie can duke it out next year.

3. James Spader: The 17-time past Emmy champ (OK, he’s only wont two, but it feels like much more) is a threat yet again. Spader has an undefeated record at the Emmys, and if he continues that streak this year, someone should look into who he’s related to at the Emmy tallying accounting firm. Now, David E. Kelley does nice things for his Emmy contenders by giving them great material to work with, which he surely decides to write as their Emmy submission. But as I was watching Spader’s tape, nothing special popped out … nothing special that is, until the very end. Spader has a nice, closing argument money scene that brings him up to the strong dark horse status that’s he’s grown accustomed to. Still, the horse may be in bad shape seeing as how it has to fight down votes from Tony Soprano. Yikes!

2. Hugh Laurie: Poor Hugh. He gets a well deserved nomination and it has to be the same year Tony Soprano makes his triumphant return. Dr. House is really an awesome character deserving of some golden recognition and as witnessed in Laurie’s submission, there’s really no one else you can imagine playing such a funny, complex, downright amazing character. There’s really no “big moment” for Laurie through the episode, it’s really more of a showcase/showoff of how consistent he is in nailing down his performance. Well done Hugh! Maybe next year, though.

1. James Gandolfini: Fuggedaboutit, Gandolfini’s got this in the bag. In a brilliant submission, Gandolfini gets to show off the range and sheer on-screen power that has nabbed him three Emmys before. He’s got the most screen time of any of the other nominees and some great scenes to work with, including his argument with Edie Falco and his therapy session. I really don’t see anyone denying Gandolfini of his last chance to be awarded (again) for embodying Tony Soprano, one of Televisions greatest characters ever. If that envelope reads anyone else’s name, expect the Academy to be taken out.

WHO WILL WIN: James Gandolfini
DARKHORSE: James Spader

-Ralph Galvan, BuddyTV Contributing Writer
(Image courtesy of AP)