"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," an adaptation of the bestseller about the defeat of the Sioux after their victory at Custer's last stand, is an epic production with Anna Paquin and Aidan Quinn.
Jim Broadbent stars in the biopic "Longford" as a crusty British lord who believes so strongly in human redemption that he is easily manipulated by a psychopathic killer (Samantha Morton) seeking mercy from the state.
In the true-event-based "Life Support," Queen Latifah is cast as a crack addict who becomes an AIDS activist. Inspirational life stories are popular in this category ("Tuesdays With Morrie," "Warm Springs" are previous winners).
HBO also has another inspirational drama in "Angel Rodriguez," about a troubled, homeless teen who seeks help from a good-hearted counselor (Rachel Griffiths).
But HBO has some competition.
Matthew Perry reaches out to help tough Harlem schoolkids in TNT's true-life "The Ron Clark Story." It's already received nominations from the Globes, SAG and the writers' and directors' guilds, so it's ripe for Emmy attention.
Lifetime made sure voters took note of its three most Emmy-friendly movies by shipping campaign DVDs early. "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy" features "Scrubs" star Sarah Chalke as a real-life, sassy "gloss girl" who strives to keep a positive attitude while battling breast cancer. "A Girl Like Me" tells the true story of a single mom (Mercedes Ruehl) who campaigns for the rights of transgendered people after her son-turned-daughter is killed by a gang.
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Considering recent headlines, voters might be tempted to give top Emmy noms to Lifetime's "The Mermaid Chair," starring Kim Basinger as a married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk. Because it's likely that Basinger's ex, Alec Baldwin, will be nominated for best comedy actor in "30 Rock," an awkward reunion could occur on Emmy night.
Other contenders: "The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines" (TNT), "Wallis & Edward" (BBC America), and three heartfelt Hallmark Hall of Fame productions on CBS: "The Valley of Light," "Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness" and "Candles on Bay Street."
Brits, true events, the West and a King
Three installments of PBS' "Prime Suspect" (2, 3 and 5) have won the Emmy for miniseries, so No. 7, "The Final Act," will be a formidable foe, with recent Oscar-champ Helen Mirren as the booze-bedeviled police detective who finally surrenders her badge.
PBS is also campaigning for "Jane Eyre," starring newcomer Ruth Wilson, who edged out Mirren for a BAFTA nod, as the forlorn governess in the adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte classic.
HBO, which has won five of the last 10 Emmy mini races, has "Tsunami: The Aftermath," starring Toni Collette, Sophie Okonedo and Chiwetel Ejiofor in an intense drama about the tragedy in Thailand.
TNT's "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" showcases two award veterans in chilling tales by Stephen King: William Hurt as a hit man attacked by a battalion of indefatigable toy soldiers and William H. Macy as a novelist who swaps lives with his fictional gumshoe. Two of King's long forms have been nominated in the past, "The Shining" (1997) and "The Stand" (1994), and TNT picked up the Emmy for the mini "Joseph" in 1995.
Emboldened by its Emmy win for Steven Spielberg's "Taken" in 2003, the Sci Fi Channel is campaigning for "The Lost Room" starring Peter Krause and Julianna Margulies in a mystery about a hotel room that's a secret portal to an alternate universe.
AMC's first mini, "Broken Trail," was a bonanza hit, roping in 9.8 million viewers. TV Guide called the sprawling western epic an "instant classic" and The Times hailed the "quiet, lyrical performances of Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church" as cowboys herding horses from Oregon to Wyoming.
ABC, which last won this race in 2001 with "Anne Frank," has the controversial "The Path to 9/11," which stirred controversy for its dramatization of events leading up to the World Trade Center bombings.
BBC America is hoping for its first Emmy win with the political thriller "The State Within" about a British ambassador to Washington (Jason Isaacs) who faces off against a formidable secretary of Defense (Sharon Gless).