TV fanatics, rejoice! The 2011 Primetime Emmy nominations are here and, as expected, the competition is fierce. Mixed in with awards show mainstays like Mad Men and 30 Rock, many first-time nominees such as Boardwalk Empire and Parks and Recreation could give Emmy staples a run for their money. Let's break down the major categories and discuss who will win, who should win, and who was flat-out ignored.

Outstanding Drama Series: This category is perhaps the most intense, given the heavyweight nominees that include new fan favorites Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, and first-time nominee Friday Night Lights. Empire and Thrones are both HBO productions, and with such iconic dramas as The Sopranos and True Blood (mysteriously absent from the nominee list this year) under its belt, HBO could steal back the Best Drama trophy from AMC's Mad Men, which has won for the past three years running and is nominated again this year. I have a feeling that Friday Night Lights, now shown on DirecTV, just doesn’t have enough viewer or critic attention to beat either Dexter or The Good Wife, which, like Mad Men, are both popular and critically acclaimed. The clear winner here is fan favorite Mad Men, which had a stellar and unforgettable third season.

Outstanding Comedy Series: The only newcomer in this category is NBC’s Parks and Recreation, which has only recently begun to receive critical praise after a slow start. Returning nominees include 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family and The Office. Fan and critic favorite Nurse Jackie is conspicuously missing this time around, as is NBC's new hit, Community. The leader of the pack here is undoubtedly Modern Family, which won the award last year and is upheld by an always-charming ensemble cast. There's not much competition breathing down Modern Family's neck: the sing-and-dance gimmicks of Glee will probably turn off many voters (much to the disappointment of Gleeks everywhere), whereas 30 Rock and The Office both had sub-par seasons. The dark horse could be The Big Bang Theory, which has been picking up momentum in recent years, but most likely Modern Family is in for a repeat win.

Outstanding Lead Performance by an Actor in a Drama Series: The usual nominees of Friday Night LightsKyle Chandler, Dexter’s Michael C. Hall, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and House’s Hugh Laurie are joined by newcomers Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire and Timothy Olyphant of Justified. Chandler, Hall, Laurie and Olyphant are clearly outnumbered by truly outstanding performances by Hamm and Buscemi. With Hamm’s fellow AMC-er Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad ineligible this year, Hamm could have had a slam dunk for the award (it would be his first after three straight losses). But Buscemi, a film and television actor long respected by critics and adored by fans, just might overtake Hamm, even though he had a breakthrough season as the tortured Don Draper. This category will definitely be a fight to the death between two highly capable and deserving actors.

Outstanding Lead Performance by an Actress in a Drama Series: Shockingly, last year's winner Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer didn’t make the cut this year. Her absence, as well as that of Mad Men’s January Jones, makes room for first-time nominees (in this category) Kathy Bates of Harry’s Law, Mireille Enos of The Killing and Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men. They all join returning nominees Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights, Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Julianna Margulies of The Good Wife. Like her costars, Moss had a fantastic season on Mad Men. Enos is most likely not as widely known as her fellow nominees, so she probably won’t get the votes she needs to secure a win. Bates is the obvious favorite here, but due to the weak ratings and reviews of Harry’s Law, she'll struggle to receive the attention she deserves. Britton and Hargitay are likely to be overshadowed by Margulies for her captivating performance as the shamed wife of a politician.

Outstanding Lead Performance by an Actor in a Comedy Series: Returning favorites that include 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin, The Office’s Steve Carell, and last year’s winner, The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, join newcomers Louis C.K. of Louie, Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory and Matt LeBlanc of Episodes. The surprising absentee of the group is Glee’s Matthew Morrison, who garnered much praise this season on the hit musical series. Louis C.K. probably won’t receive much attention from voters, since Louie is little-watched. The Big Bang Theory seems to be gaining momentum with two nominations in the same category, but of the two, current champion Parsons is the standout. As for LeBlanc, let’s be honest…does anybody know what Episodes is, let alone watch it? Baldwin is always a favorite among voters and fans, but the latest season of 30 Rock was less than impressive compared to the past. However, all the actors in the category will be out-shined by Carell, who sadly departed from The Office last season, making Dunder Mifflin a lonely place without the foolish but kindhearted Michael Scott. Not only did Carell deliver a heartfelt performance in his last few episodes, but also in true Emmy fashion, voters will likely give the award to the much-loved actor as a parting gift.

Outstanding Lead Performance by an Actress in a Comedy Series: It seems to be a good year for newly minted TV actresses. Like the Best Lead Actress in a Drama, this category is made up of half newcomers and half veterans. Critically praised TV and movie actresses Laura Linney of The Big C, Melissa McCarthy of Mike and Molly and Martha Plimpton of Raising Hope join big name stars Edie Falco of Nurse Jackie, Tina Fey of 30 Rock and Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation. This is also yet another category that hasn’t given Glee any love this year, giving the big snub to Lea Michele. McCarthy is fresh off her breakout role in the movie Bridesmaids, so her newfound stardom could give her some edge. Plimpton is a critical darling, but Raising Hope's relative lack of popularity just won't cut it. Of course, Linney is the most widely recognized comedic and dramatic actress of the bunch, so she definitely has a good chance. Returning nominees and collaborators Fey and Poehler both gave hilarious performances last season, but none of the actresses in this category can quite compete with Falco who, after winning the award last year, is a shoe-in.

So, there you have it. There are obvious snubs, clear standouts and an underdog here and there. Of course, there are countless other categories such as those for supporting performances, reality shows and made-for-TV movies (hello, HBO), but these categories are where the real competition lies. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when Glee star Jane Lynch hosts TV’s biggest night on September 18.

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