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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - New kids on the block "Glee" and "Modern Family" challenge three-time Emmy champion "30 Rock" on Sunday as the Primetime Emmy Awards take on a populist tone.
The U.S. TV industry's highest honors will be handed out in a three-hour show in Los Angeles that will also embrace Twitter and the Internet, and will be broadcast live across the United States for the first time since 1976.
With five first-timers among the 12 best comedy and drama series nominees alone, the Emmys are expected to reward a crop of new faces and popular shows -- boosting network TV at a time of stiff competition from video games and social networking.
"This year we are going to see a lot of new blood," said veteran awards watcher Tom O'Neil of website The Envelope.com.
"A lot of the Emmy front-runners are high-rated network shows like 'Lost,' 'The Good Wife' and 'Glee.' It's been a triumphant rebound this year for network TV after lower-rated cable shows and stars have won in recent years," O'Neil added.
Stylish critical darling "Mad Men" may be the exception. Despite a small, 2 million audience on cable channel AMC, the advertising drama earned 17 nominations and is seen as having the edge in the best drama series contest for a third year.
This year, the buzz is with comedies. Subversive Fox musical comedy "Glee" leads the pack with 19 nominations after a first season that took pop culture by storm.
"Glee" actors Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch are all in the running for Emmys, along with "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy.
"Modern Family" is not far behind with 14 nominations, including five for its cast. Industry watchers say the popular ABC comedy's more traditional format may have the edge over "Glee" with older Emmy voters.
Both shows face competition from NBC's TV industry spoof "30 Rock," a three-time winner, and its stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.
Jim Parsons, who plays a geeky physicist in the CBS show "The Big Bang Theory," is tipped to steal Baldwin's best comedy actor crown.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Office" and "Nurse Jackie" round out the comedy series contest, with Edie Falco (formerly of "The Sopranos") a potential best comedy actress winner in the last of those three shows.
Julianna Margulies is expected to take home an Emmy for playing a stoic spouse in "The Good Wife" -- one of the most-watched new dramas on U.S. television -- ending Glenn Close's two-year reign for "Damages."
Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" is also looking to make it three in row, but could be stopped by "Dexter" actor Michael C. Hall, or Jon Hamm of "Mad Men."
Sci-fi thriller "Lost," a worldwide hit, has a shot at the best drama series Emmy after ending its six-year run in May.
"The Emmys sometimes like to hail milestone breakthrough drama series with a farewell hug," said O'Neil.
In a bid to capitalize on younger fans expected to tune into the Emmys this year, broadcaster NBC is for the first time inviting fans to use Twitter to send in humorous messages that host Jimmy Fallon can use in the ceremony.
NBC has also teamed up with Ustream for an interactive companion show that will stream online live from the Emmys backstage area. Both initiatives embrace social technologies that are often viewed as competition in an era of dwindling audiences for mainstream TV.
"With more and more viewers using the Internet while they watch television, we believe the live streaming across these multiple platforms will allow viewers an all-access look at television's biggest night," said Television Academy Chairman John Shaffner.
Editing by Eric Walsh