The HBO Mob finally is finally expected to win the top drama series award on Sunday

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 17, 2004 04:00 PM

According to most predictions, the 56th annual Emmys ceremony will hit a high note on Sunday night, when HBO’s Mob drama The Sopranos – which always seemed to play bridesmaid to The West Wing – will finally walk away with the long-elusive top award for best TV drama.

By all accounts, Wing, which has captured that honor for four straight years, has lost its luster in this past season. Though it if does beat Sopranos (as well as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Joan Of Arcadia and 24) and win as best drama for the fifth straight time, it will set an Emmy record.

Only Frasier, which had its final fadeout last May, has won five years running, as best comedy series.

Also in this year’s spotlight: a rare posthumous nominee (John Ritter, for 8 Simple Rules); a critics favorite that’s ratings challenged (Arrested Development); and a snubbed but subsequently well-received TV movie (The Reagans, which went from CBS to Showtime after a slew of protests about it sight unseen).

Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America, with 21 chances for the gold, is the most nominated single program this year, and its pay-cable network, HBO (which, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner) leads the field with 124 nominations, followed far behind by NBC’s 65.

The Emmys, to be hosted by Garry Shandling, will air on ABC starting at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday. will cover the event as it happens.

Among the remaining nominees in some of the top categories, PEOPLE’s favorites to win, as determined by the magazine’s TV writer Mike Lipton (and marked with a *), are as follows:

Comedy series: Arrested Development*, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Everybody Loves Raymond, Sex and the City and Will and Grace

Drama series actor: James Spader (The Practice); James Gandolfini* (The Sopranos); Kiefer Sutherland (24); Martin Sheen (The West Wing) and Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace)

Drama series actress: Jennifer Garner (Alias); Amber Tamblyn* (Joan of Arcadia); Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit); Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Allison Janney, The West Wing

Comedy series actor: Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm); John Ritter (8 Simple Rules); Kelsey Grammer (Frasier); Matt LeBlanc (Friends); Tony Shalhoub* (Monk)

Comedy series actress: Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond); Jennifer Aniston (Friends); Bonnie Hunt (Life With Bonnie); Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) and Sarah Jessica Parker* (Sex and the City)