September 21, 2009 12:00 PM

>• Tom Gliatto picks his favorites in the big categories of TV’s annual awards extravaganza, which airs on CBS Sept. 20, 8 p.m. ET/PT.

ACTOR, DRAMA MICHAEL C. HALL DEXTER Showtime’s lovable serial killer is a hard enough role, but Dexter actually evolved into decent husband material.

COMEDY THE OFFICE Season 5 of the NBC sitcom was a crazily coherent patchwork: corporate intrigue, romantic nuance and the best cat joke I’ve ever seen.

ACTRESS, DRAMA ELISABETH MOSS MAD MEN Ambitious copywriter Peggy Olson is arguably a supporting part, but no one else on AMC’s cult hit comes close to Moss in crystallizing the show’s tone: a dissatisfied sleepwalk through that dream era, the early 1960s.

ACTOR, COMEDY JIM PARSONS THE BIG BANG THEORY As supergeek Sheldon Cooper on the CBS sitcom, he has the strange looming gangliness of a stork and delivers one-liners with laser accuracy. He could be the love child of Don Knotts and Allison Janney.

REALITY SHOW AMERICAN IDOL The singing is almost beside the point. What other reality show so dominates the cultural conversation as this FOX hit? Such divisive responses to flamboyant Adam Lambert! Even post-season, everyone’s tracking Paula Abdul‘s moves on Twitter.

DRAMA, BIG LOVE HBO’s superb series about polygamists hit its stride in season 3—gripping, funny—as warfare within a fundamentalist sect exploded. It was The Sopranos in long cotton frocks.

ACTRESS, COMEDY MARY-LOUISE PARKER WEEDS The trick to her bravura performance on the Showtime series, which just ended season 5, is that she approaches the role as if she were up to her neck in classic drama. Her Nancy Botwin, whose life is a string of near-disasters, is a complete original: a bitter romantic.

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