The Emmys Under The Microscope

By Caillan Davenport
Posted at July 16, 2003 - 10:41 AM GMT

At 5:38:30 a.m. tomorrow, Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm In The Middle) and Bryce Zabel, Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, will announce the nominees for this year's Primetime Emmy Awards. Will the nominees include a bunch of science geeks among the mobsters, White House staffers and undertakers? Read on to find out about the Emmy chances for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami in the 55th Primetime Emmy awards.

Forensics couldn't be any hotter in lounge rooms across the United States. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is the most-watched show on television, while CSI: Miami was the most popular freshman series last season. Earlier this year, both series won People's Choice Awards. But can Gil Grissom, Horatio Caine and their teams win the hearts of Emmy voters?

Aaron Barnhart, television critic at the Kansas City Star since 1997 and webmaster of TV Barn, certainly thinks the original CSI is in with a shot for an Outstanding Drama Series nomination. "Of course," he said. "It's the number one show in television."

This view is echoed by Andrew Hershberger, Cinescape's television columnist. "CSI is everybody's darling and the Emmys are not going to forget that come nomination time. A failure to nominate the show this year would be as shocking as Legally Blonde 2 winning best picture."

Someone who isn't so sure is Emmy expert Tom O'Neil, author of The Emmys and host of "There's real suspense hanging over CSI at this year's Emmys," he said.

Despite being one of the most talked-about shows on television, CSI missed out on an Outstanding Drama Series nod for its freshman season, but did receive one in 2002. O'Neil said there was one difference about last year's Emmys: The Sopranos was ineligible to enter. "Now those thugs are back and they're going to shove some show out. Which one? It'll be CSI, Law & Order or Six Feet Under. 24 is a lock — it's the hottest drama on the tube now. The West Wing will be nommed again — it's undefeated in this race, having won 3 for 3."

Consequently, there may not be enough room at the table for CSI, let alone CSI: Miami. "Matt Roush of TV Guide and I both think that CSI will be the casualty," O'Neil continued, "although that's probably foolish of us to predict that's TV's most popular drama won't be popular enough with Emmy voters to make the High Five. But part of CSI's problem, is that it's slightly sci-fi/fantasy. But, more than anything else, it's characters aren't as deeply developed as they are on the other TV series."

That doesn't bode well for acting nominations. Marg Helgenberger (Catherine Willows) is the only CSI actor to have been recognised by the Academy, with a nod in the show's first season. She also has the virtue of being well-known to Emmy voters, having picked up a gong for her work on China Beach in 1990.

But lead Actor and Actress in a Drama Series are two of the most hotly contested categories at the Primetime Emmys, and Helgenberger, together with William Petersen (Gil Grissom) and David Caruso (Horatio Caine), will have to fight off Emmy darlings such as The West Wing's Allison Janney and James Gandolfini from The Sopranos.

"Marg is the best bet to be nominated, Peterson maybe, a guest star possibly," said Cinescape's Hershberger. "They skipped on acting nominations last year so the may want to cover their ass this go around. The Emmys are always flaky on consistent actor nominations unless John Laroquette is involved, lord have pity on us all."

But will CSI's adherance to plot-based rather than character-based storytelling work against it? Hershberger said it "shouldn't be an issue". "Law & Order is more plot based then character and that is an Emmy favorite (for damn good reason too)."

TV Barn's Barnhart said he "wouldn't rule out" nominations for Petersen or Caruso. "It takes a while for CBS shows to build momentum — look how long Ray Romano had to wait — but William Petersen's a fixture now. He's bound to be nominated sooner or later. David Caruso is an outside chance, but why not? CSI: Miami is a huge hit and he's the star."

But not everyone is a fan of CSI's Florida cousin, including Hershberger, who doesn't think the show is worthy of high-profile nominations. "But they may want to throw Caruso a bone, lest he beat somebody up," he said.

CSI Files will bring you the complete line-up of nominations for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami tomorrow morning.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Caillan Davenport is one of the CSI Files editors.