TV Eye

And the Winner Is ...

Some of you may be wondering, how does that "TV Eye" gal do it? Week after week, she manages to come up with something to say about that ubiquitous fixture filled with images of old and new, the weird and wonderful. Some weeks it's easy. Other times, it takes a miracle. Thank goodness, then, for St. Clare, the Patron Saint of Television. St. Clare appeared to me on one of my meditative journeys -- meaning I was trolling BookPeople, Toy Joy, Office Depot, or Target to escape the reality of a pending deadline. And then, there she was. Four inches of plastic, glow-in-the-dark kitsch. I couldn't resist. Clare was born in 1194 to a wealthy family in Assisi, Italy. After hearing St. Francis of Assisi preach in the streets, and not too hip on her father's plan to marry her off at the age of 12, Clare ran away to become a nun, and eventually founded the Order of Poor Ladies (the Poor Clares). Of her miracles, the most memorable occurred when she was near death. Unable to attend Christmas Eve mass, she suddenly heard singing, and when she turned to see where it was coming from, she saw the Christmas Mass, in progress, on her bedroom wall. Sort of a miraculous pay-per-view. Unfortunately, no one else saw the vision aside from Clare. But no matter. Pope Pius XII took Clare's private screening as a miracle and proclaimed her the patron saint of television in 1958.

It's not that I petition St. Clare when I'm tangled in a writer's conundrum, but she has brought a smile to me in those wee hours of the morning when her glow-in-the-dark figure is brighter than any ideas in the room. And for that, I'd like to honor her by introducing the First Annual Clare Awards, or the Claries (I wanted to call them the TV Clares but was told no one would get it). The Claries are not in opposition to the Emmy Awards. In fact, sometimes Clare agrees with Emmy. But sometimes, she has her own way of coming to conclusions. Like the Emmy Awards, the Claries are awarded from nominations made by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Outstanding Drama: The nominees are ER, Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The Practice, and The Sopranos. Emmy may go with The Practice, but Clare picks The Sopranos. Sure, there's violence, foul language, and infidelity, but Clare can't resist the story of a good, Italian, Catholic boy gone somewhat awry, trying to find his way back to, well, let's just say, equilibrium.

Outstanding Comedy: Ally McBeal, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Friends, Sex and the City. Media watchers say the Emmy will go to Friends, but Clare thinks there may be a surprise nod to the just-now-discovered Raymond. She's voting for Raymond but has a soft spot for those saucy girls on Sex and the City.

Outstanding Actor, Comedy Series: Michael J. Fox (Spin City), Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), John Lithgow (3rd Rock From the Sun), Paul Reiser (Mad About You), Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond). Emmy may go for Fox. Clare votes for the long shot Romano, as in Everybody Loves --

Outstanding Actress, Comedy Series: Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg), Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Helen Hunt (Mad About You), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City). Media watchers say Flockhart will get the nod, though Heaton deserves it. Clare says: Please don't let it be the overrated Elfman, or the overawarded Helen Hunt. Though Clare doesn't care for the self-indulgent Ally McB, she's willing to admit that Flockhart does play overwrought angst well. Clare concedes that Flockhart is a good choice, though she will be cheering for Parker.

Outstanding Actor, Drama: Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Jimmy Smits (NYPD Blue), Sam Waterston (Law & Order). Media watchers say the Emmy will go to Smits because of his death scene on the show. Clare thinks Smits is a worthy contender, but she's voting for Gandolfini.

Outstanding Actress, Drama: Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos), Edie Falco (The Sopranos), Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope), Julianna Margulies (ER). Anderson, Lahti, and Margulies are consistently good. Clare says Bracco should have been nominated in the supporting actress category. So that leaves Falco, who kicks ass in The Sopranos and in the other HBO series she appears in, Oz. Clare is especially fond of Falco's turn in the Emmy-nominated episode "College," in which Falco's Carmela Soprano confesses to Father Phil amidst sexual tension, ziti, and DVD.

Supporting Actor, Comedy: Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal), John Mahoney (Frasier), David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), David Spade (Just Shoot Me). Boyle is the only real corker in the bunch, though Clare predicts the Emmy will go to Spade.

Supporting Actress, Comedy: Kristen Johnson (3rd Rock From the Sun), Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Lucy Liu (Ally McBeal), Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond). Clare thinks Emmy will go for Roberts, but of the official nominees, she's rooting for Liu. How can she not support Liu, whose character Ling is annoyed by sex because "it's messy"? Clare also has a write-in vote for Megan Mullally of Will & Grace. Mullally's Karen is a stitch as Grace's (Debra Messing) "assistant" with too much money to spend, too little work ethic, and a knack for the surgically precise put-down ("Honey, didn't we talk about that blouse?").

Supporting Actor, Drama: Michael Badalucco (The Practice), Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order), Steve Harris (The Practice), Steven Hill (Law & Order), Noah Wyle (ER). Clare says pick one, any one, but not Wyle. His work, along with the past ER season, was consistently lukewarm. Why reward mediocrity?

Supporting Actress, Drama: Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice), Kim Delaney (NYPD Blue), Camryn Manheim (The Practice), Nancy Marchand (The Sopranos), Holland Taylor (The Practice). Clare says if Emmy doesn't give this to Marchand, she should do Hail Marys into the year 2001. If there were a best performance of the year award, it should go to Marchand. She was that good.

Outstanding Writing, Comedy: Ally McBeal, "Sideshow"; Frasier, "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz"; Friends, "The One Where Everybody Finds Out"; Just Shoot Me, "Slow Donnie"; Sports Night, "The Apology." Media watchers say Sports Night will win, though Friends should win. Clare is voting for Just Shoot Me. Sure, it was not nice what that boy did, pretending he was one of the meek of the earth, but it sure was funny.

Outstanding Writing, Drama: NYPD Blue, "Hearts and Souls"; The Sopranos pilot, along with "College," "Isabella," and "Nobody Knows Anything." Clare says if The Sopranos has four out of five of the nominations, you don't exactly need a sign from above to tell you who the winner should be, do you? If Emmy is intent on rewarding Smits for his swan song from Blue, she should at least award The Sopranos' writers for giving its incomparable cast such dynamic material.

The 51st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sunday, Sept. 12, 7pm, on Fox.

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