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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If the first time is a charm, then 2010 could be shaping up as a downright charming year for a host of rookie Emmy nominees.
As voting wraps up Tuesday, buzz is building behind freshmen series "The Good Wife," "Glee" and "Modern Family," any of which could wrest key wins from veteran series like "30 Rock" and "Mad Men," which have become the shows to beat.
Don't be too surprised to see some fresh faces on stage at the Nokia Theater on August 29. While the Emmys have a reputation for rewarding favorites ("The Amazing Race," anyone?), the reality is that debut performances often catch the eye of voters.
The TV Academy has had no problem giving away Emmy statuettes to first-time actor nominees, especially "if there is a nice momentum" for their series or their performances, says Wesley Hyatt, a TV historian and the author of "Emmy Award Winning Nighttime Television Shows 1948-2004."
In 1971, Jean Stapleton won the lead actress in a comedy Emmy for CBS' new hit "All in the Family," while fellow rookie sitcom "Mary Tyler Moore" nabbed a supporting actor Emmy for Ed Asner and a supporting actress statuette for Valerie Harper. Besides writing and directing nods that year, "All in the Family" also went on to win a category where most debuting shows come up short: outstanding series.
"MTM" didn't win a comedy series Emmy for five seasons, while seminal genre-definers "M*A*S*H," "Seinfeld," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Sopranos" and "ER" failed to make the series win their first season out as well (it took the slower-to-catch-on "Seinfeld" and "Raymond" a couple seasons to even get nominated).
"It's typical to have to wait and win in this category," Hyatt says.
But Hyatt can't deny the current enthusiasm surrounding "Glee" and its genre-bending use of music, wit and drama, and "Modern Family," which he calls a "fresh twist on the family sitcom." He hesitates to handicap both series' chances, particularly in the acting categories, where both shows have multiple nominations. Because actors submit individual episodes of their own choosing for Emmy consideration, Hyatt argues that prognosticating a winner is impossible.
Still, nominees as diverse as January Jones (lead actress drama, "Mad Men") and Kyle Chandler (lead actor drama, "Friday Night Lights") have a real shot to win for their first nom in the category.
The unpredictability of the comedy supporting actress race has been lost on "Modern Family" co-star Julie Bowen, who is shooting a feature in Nova Scotia.
"I haven't exactly been in the party swirl," Bowen says. "I was offered free haddock, but I'm not sure if it's Emmy related."
Despite five acting nominations for "Family," "There hasn't been a big group hug," she explains, because the show is in summer hiatus. Bowen's biggest dilemma will come from her own voting, where she must make a hard choice in the supporting actor category between colleagues Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet.
"The only thing that sucks is that I have to vote for ONE guy," she says. "My TV husband? My TV brother? My TV kind of brother-in-law? That's just mean."
Of course, another choice for Bowen is to vote for the other newcomer in the category, "Glee" co-star Chris Colfer, who is having to share the spotlight with the six other nominated actors from his show.
"We're going in like it's 'Family Feud,'" he jokes.
Colfer may be the best example of an Emmy newcomer -- one of his 251,000 Twitter followers let him know he may be the first Emmy nominee born in the 1990s. And like any other Emmy newbie, it is no surprise Colfer is a bit awestruck.
"No matter how many times I read the list of nominees I still don't expect to see my own name listed," he says. "It's great validation, especially toward the people that laughed at you on your way."