By Peter Bowes
Outgoing show Six Feet Under has nine Emmy nominations
The television world's annual back-slapping bash is taking place in Los Angeles on Sunday.
The 58th Primetime Emmy Awards has been moved forward a few weeks, from its traditional home in September, to avoid a clash with American football on US TV.
Airing in August, when far fewer people are watching television, the ceremony is likely to face an uphill struggle to win a large audience.
In addition, the list of nominees has been widely criticised for seemingly ignoring some of the most popular shows on TV.
"They're strange," says Rob Salem, TV critic for the Toronto Star.
"The general problem with Emmy voting, even more so than the Oscars, is that it tends to become more about the status quo."
In an attempt to shake up the awards, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences adopted a new system to select the nominees.
Ellen Burstyn's nod for a 15-second performance has been criticised
Previously the Academy's general membership determined the runners and riders in the main categories.
This year, a blue-ribbon panel of TV insiders viewed episodes submitted by prospective nominees and drew up the shortlist. It resulted in a list that surprised many critics.
"There are some odd things that pop up there," says Roger Catlin, TV writer with the Hartford Courant newspaper.
Last year's two major winners, Lost (Best Drama) and Desperate Housewives (Best Comedy), were both snubbed.
"Some critics say there might have been a fall-off in their quality but how could they fall off that much from one year to the next?" asks Mr Catlin.
The Sopranos stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were ignored in the best actor and actress categories, in a season that some critics believe was one of the best for the mafia drama.
The most surprising nomination was for a 15-second appearance by Ellen Burstyn in the HBO drama Mrs Harris.
The role, which involved reciting three sentences of dialogue, won the veteran actress a nod for best supporting actress in a mini-series or TV movie. It has been cited as an example of Emmy voters going for familiarity over merit.
"The nomination is the talk of the TV industry for what it reveals about the deeply flawed process by which Emmy nominees are chosen - if you can call that a process," writes Adam Buckman in the New York Post.
The list of nominees also features a number of shows that have already ended their run on US television, such as Six Feet Under with nine nominations and the West Wing, which bagged six nods.
"I've always been shocked by the Emmy awards every time I've got nominated, but this one is really bitter-sweet because it's a wonderful tribute to the show," says The West Wing's Allison Janney, who is up for best actress in a drama.
Dame Helen Mirren leads the British charge for her role as Elizabeth I
"They really honoured all these shows that are going off the air - it was quite lovely actually."
But many people in the TV industry would prefer the Emmys to be more forward-looking than reflective.
"The Academy is very slow to recognise innovative, inventive programming, as much as it's being critically raved about, as much as people may be watching it and investing in it emotionally," says Mr Salem.
Grey's Anatomy and 24 dominate the list of popular shows up for awards.
A host of British stars are in the running, including Dame Helen Mirren for the mini-series Elizabeth I, Sir Ben Kingsley for Mrs Harris and Kate Winslet and Patrick Stewart for playing themselves in the sitcom Extras.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are nominated for writing Extras. A surprising omission is Hugh Laurie, despite receiving a Golden Globe earlier this year for his portrayal of a cranky doctor in House.