Oz: Abbot Genser/HBO
June 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

New TV shows the Emmys shouldn’t overlook

Emmy’s at the gate! With the 2000-1 season complete, members of the TV Academy are turning their attentions to their ballots (the nominations will be announced in July, and statuettes are given out in September). Every year, voters overlook a number of award worthy shows in favor of tired standbys like ”ER” and ”Frasier.” While some veteran series deserve to be recognized again (”Everybody Loves Raymond,” ”The Sopranos”), Emmy shouldn’t forget these small screen gems:

The WB has never appeared on the TV Academy’s radar screen — witness the lack of nominations for ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and ”Felicity.” Maybe this exquisitely crafted family dramedy will break the jinx. The deeply endearing Lauren Graham has a good shot at a Best Actress in a Drama nod (she received a Screen Actors Guild award nomination for the role), but TV daughter Alexis Bledel is equally deserving, as is creator Amy Sherman-Palladino for her side splittingly literate scripts.

Like ”Gilmore,” it’s a small town dramedy in the spirit of ”Northern Exposure.” Unlike ”Gilmore” and ”Exposure,” it’s classified as a comedy, which could be good news for lead Tom Cavanagh, who won’t have to compete against the Martin Sheens and James Gandolfinis of the world. With Michael J. Fox out of the race (and John Lithgow on his last legs), the immensely charming Cavanagh should earn inclusion on the Best Actor list. Also meriting noms: lovably interesting love interest Julie Bowen, guest actor extraordinaire John Goodman, and cocreators Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman. (Plus, if it wins Best Comedy, maybe executive producer David Letterman will make a speech!)

Whenever I call Kevin James’ CBS sleeper one of TV’s finest, funniest shows, I inevitably get responses like, ”Are you joking?” To which I respond: Have you seen this series? The irresistible comedic rhythms of James, Leah Remini, and Jerry Stiller — perfectly timed by director Rob Schiller — are nothing short of classic. ”King” also reached new levels of emotional depth this season: The marital separation of Deacon (Victor Williams) and Kelly (Merrin Dungey) was one of the most affecting subplots on any series — comedy or drama.

Sure, the Academy loves HBO’s ”Sex and the City” and ”The Sopranos,” so why not the pay cable net’s startlingly innovative prison opus? The season finale was the most combustible hour of TV I saw all year. Among the many cast members who’ve earned points for good behavior: Kathryn Erbe (whose character’s hanging still haunts me), twisted TV lovers Lee Tergesen and Chris Meloni, on- and offscreen brothers Dean and Scott William Winters, and J.K. Simmons (as the supremely chilling Vern Schillinger).

ABC foolishly pulled the plug on the superb medical drama, but that doesn’t mean voters should cross it off their lists. Just as James Earl Jones won best actor in a drama for 1991’s ”Gabriel’s Fire” after ABC snuffed it out, Andre Braugher should take home a second trophy (he previously won for ”Homicide: Life on the Street”) for his achingly subtle work as Dr. Ben Gideon.

What TV shows do you hope the Emmys won’t overlook?

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