Only a few weeks remain till the end of Emmy eligibility on May 31. Since the networks tend to save up their best for last, much of this week's programming may end up before Emmy judges as samples of various series' best work. But not all TV networks are as open with specific episode info as HBO, so Emmy-watchers must try to catch important first airings on their own.
Here are some TV highlights this week that may factor into the Primetime Emmy race:
"How I Met Your Mother" (CBS), the Gotham-sitcom successor to "Friends," sends Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) to Hollywood, where he meets his idol--Bob Barker, host of "The Price is Right"--in the appropriately titled episode "Showdown." With the Emmy award-winning game show legend retiring this June, look for more tributes on CBS in the weeks to come.
Wanda Sykes returns to "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS) just in time to head out of town with Christine (Emmy-winner Julia Louis Dreyfus) and company for a camping trip rife with all of the usual comic trappings. While the sharp-tongued comedian won an Emmy in 1999 for co-writing "The Chris Rock Show," she has never been nominated for performing but, as a modern-day "Rhoda," she could finally break through on the acting side.
CBS should be second-guessing the decision to end "The King of Queens" after nine seasons as it scores the highest ratings in three years for the 9:30 p.m. time slot. This week Kevin James (who got his first nod last year) and Leah Remini (surprisingly never nominated), show why they will be missed as they spar over a move to Manhattan.
Part of the ratings success of "King" can be attributed to the failure of "24" (Fox) to build on its Emmy win as best drama series last year. Some TV critics believe that the show is now on the wrong track as Jack Bauer (Emmy-winner Kiefer Sutherland) puts his personal feelings first and risks a showdown between China and Russia. While the return last week of time-slot competitor "Heroes" (NBC) was not a ratings smash, this freshman series continues to impress with innovative storylines like Monday's time-traveling episode that sends Hiro and Ando five years into the future.
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And the con is on when "The Riches" (FX) family pulls a fast one to raise much-needed cash. Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard -- as gypsies masquerading as affluent folk always in danger of being exposed as frauds -- could see Emmy nods in their future.
With last week's elimination of Heather Mills from "Dancing With the Stars" (ABC), this guilty pleasure becomes less of a must-see, especially with the results show airing opposite ratings power "House" (Fox). This week, Emmy nominee Hugh Laurie and his team struggle to cure one boy so that he can help save his brother in an episode even more tension-filled than usual.
While "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC) runs another of its ripped-from-the-headlines episodes notable only for guest Tate Donovan as the roving Romeo astronaut, "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC) redeems the franchise as Benson (Emmy-winner Mariska Hargitay) chooses between professional and personal loyalties when her brother is suspected of rape. As a bonus, Emmy-winner Kim Delaney reprises her guest role as a by-the-book police captain.
Good acting from an ensemble that has gone unrecognized at the Emmys--"The Shield" (FX)--competes with the seriocomic "Boston Legal" (ABC), which this week features three-time Emmy nominee Gail O'Grady ("NYPD Blue") as an old flame of James Spader who lights a fire under William Shatner.
"America's Next Top Model" (CW) sends the final five Down Under while host Tyra Banks hopes to come out on top as the third season of the series tries to break into the reality competition category. Third time proved the charm for the model-turned-talk-show-host who got her first nod from the Daytime Emmys this year.
Documentary series "American Masters" (PBS), winner of 11 Emmys, kicks off its 20th season with Emmy-winner Bette Midler narrating an affectionate tribute to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun that includes interviews with music legends Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. After last week's special "Idol Gives Back," this week "American Idol" (Fox) takes away someone's chance of becoming such an icon.
On "Lost" (ABC), Locke (Terry O'Quinn) is found after being MIA for the last couple of episodes. He takes center stage as he directs Sawyer (Josh Holloway) to bring the curtain down on their mutual nemesis (Emmy-winner Michael Emerson).
NBC supersizes its lineup tonight kicking off the fun with "My Name is Earl" (NBC) and an episode in "Smell-o-Vision" (a la John Waters and '70s cult classic "Polyester").