LOS ANGELES—Before the sun rises in Los Angeles Thursday, Lauren Graham will know whether the new voting system for the Primetime Emmy Awards really made a difference.
Graham, the star of "Gilmore Girls," is one of the poster children for the changes the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences made in Emmy voting this year. She'd be joined by the tough guys from FX and pretty much any good show that's ever aired on The WB, Graham's home for the past six seasons, or UPN.
The nominations for the 58th annual Primetime Emmys, which will be announced a little after 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday, will be the first under a two-tiered system designed to open up the awards some to those who deserve recognition but haven't necessarily received it in the past. It will also be a public test of whether that system works, and the awards get an infusion of first-time nominees, or whether the Emmys' same-old, same-old reputation endures.
Under the old voting rules, TV academy members chose their favorite shows and performers, with the top five in each category becoming the nominees. The new system will add an extra layer of voting that the academy hopes will diversify the field.
Members still vote for their favorites. The races for outstanding drama and comedy, and lead actor and actress in both genres, will then go to "blue-ribbon panels" that will pick the nominees from the top 10 vote-getters in the series categories and the top 15 for lead actor and actress.
If various lists of finalists floating around online are at all accurate, Graham -- who's earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations for her "Gilmore Girls" work -- at least has a shot. So do Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars"), Denis Leary ("Rescue Me"), "Entourage," "The Office" and Ricky Gervais ("Extras").
Then again, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see any of those -- with the possible exception of "The Office," which seems like a pretty good bet to snare an outstanding comedy nod -- left off, either, in favor of safer or more familiar choices.
One place where a snub seems almost certain is the drama series category, which is ridiculously deep this year. With a field that includes "The Sopranos," last year's winner "Lost," "24" and "Rescue Me," plus the now-departed "Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing," it's conceivable that a show like "Grey's Anatomy" or "House," both of which are among the most popular series on TV, could be left out.
The comedy field is a little more wide open than in past years as well, now that perennial nominee "Everybody Loves Raymond" is gone. "Desperate Housewives" is still being submitted as a comedy, and 2005 nominees "Scrubs" and "Arrested Development" are in the mix too, but there could be openings for newer shows like "The Office," "My Name Is Earl" and Showtime's "Weeds."