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Emmy's next best drama actor will be a first-time champ

August 25, 2011 |  2:00 pm

Mad men suitcase

While Emmy voters often like to check off names of previous winners, they can't possibly do that when it comes to the choice of lead drama actor this year. For the first time since 1966, none of the six men competing in that category has an Emmy on his shelf.

Bryan Cranston is the three-time reigning champ for "Breaking Bad," but his show aired no new episodes in the 2010-11 TV season. That means six men finally have their best shot in years to prevail at last. Hugh Laurie ("House") has tried six times in this category. Michael C. Hall ("Dexter") and Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") have made four failed attempts each. Kyle Chandler ("Friday Night Lights") returns for a second try. Steve Buscemi ("Boardwalk Empire") and Timothy Olyphant ("Justified") have their first chances in this lead actor contest.

Back in 1966, Bill Cosby won his first of three Emmys for the NBC series "I Spy." He was up against four other Emmyless men: Robert Culp (also "I Spy"), Richard Crenna ("Slattery's People"), David Janssen ("The Fugitive") and David McCallum ("The Man from U.N.C.L.E."). Since then, voters have loved to reward actors over and over with Emmys, including four for Dennis Franz ("NYPD Blue"), three each for Peter Falk ("Columbo"), James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos") and James Spader ("The Practice" and "Boston Legal"), and two apiece for Edward Asner ("Lou Grant"), William Daniels ("Magnum, P.I."), and Daniel J. Travanti ("Hill Street Blues).

Also, voters seem to embrace law enforcement officers (including police and detectives) more than any others with 23 of the past 45 winners in those roles. Could that be a good sign this year for Olyphant (who plays a U.S. Marshal) or Hall (who works for the police even though he is also a serial killer)? Other popular professions have been lawyers/politicians (with six wins), criminals (also with six wins), and doctors (with five wins).

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-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Jon Hamm, sleeping one off with co-star Elisabeth Moss, is widely expected to win an Emmy this year for "The Suitcase" episode of "Mad Men." Credit: AMC

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