LOS ANGELES – If life was like a TV show, the young misfit characters from "Glee" would burst into song at the Emmy Awards, wow the audience, and dance off with the coveted best comedy series trophy after one triumphant season.
Yet, although the madcap but dark musical comedy goes into this year's highest television honors with a leading 19 nominations, victory for "Glee" at the August 29 primetime Emmy Awards ceremony is far from a foregone conclusion.
"Just because a show has the most buzz across America, it doesn't mean that translates into Hollywood circles," said veteran awards watcher Tom O'Neil of website The Envelope.com.
That's because Emmy voters tend to be older and more conservative than the fans that have helped make the Fox high-school comedy the most-talked about TV show of the year.
Although "Glee" is a leading contender for the best comedy Emmy -- and actress Jane Lynch is seen as a shoo-in to win best supporting comedy actress for her role as scheming cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester -- the quirky show faces a tough challenge from the more traditional "Modern Family" (14 nominations) and three-time Emmy champion "30 Rock."
"If you ask most American TV lovers, they think 'Glee' is going to win; if you ask most Hollywood insiders they would say 'Modern Family'; but if you ask Emmy historians they would probably say '30 Rock' has the edge. It's a fascinating match-up," O'Neil said.
"Modern Family" won three technical awards in the "creative arts" portion of the Emmys on August 21, with a haul of two for "Glee", including an Emmy for guest star Neil Patrick Harris.
Whatever the outcome, Emmy Awards night is expected to feature a fresh and more populist line-up of winners than in the past two years, when cable shows and repeat winners have dominated, industry watchers say.
Five of the 12 best comedy and drama series nominees are first-timers, in what is seen as a shot in the arm for the industry at a time of fierce competition from videogames and social networking.
'Dexter', 'Lost' win buzz factor
The admired but little seen 1960s advertising series "Mad Men" may be out in front in drama with 17 nods, including coveted best drama series. But it faces a challenge to its two-year reign from the CBS lawyer drama "The Good Wife" and the ambitious sci-fi mystery series "Lost" which ended its six-year run on ABC in May.
And don't dismiss Showtime's serial killer drama "Dexter", starring the popular Michael C. Hall, and HBO's edgy adult vampire series "True Blood."
"The buzz around 'Dexter' last season, which was so good, is still riding that wave," said Craig Tomashoff, executive editor of TV Guide magazine.
John Lithgow already took home an Emmy on August 21 for his guest role on "Dexter," and Tomashoff is backing Hall -- already a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild winner -- to end Bryan Cranston's two-year reign as best drama actor for "Breaking Bad."
Hall, along with "Lost" and "Glee" topped Yahoo! TV searches during the last TV season, in an unusual confluence of popular buzz and potential Emmy glory.
O'Neil thinks that "America Idol" -- the most-watched TV show in the United States -- could finally break the six year hold of "The Amazing Race" on the reality competition slot. Producers submitted the season finale that marked Simon Cowell's "Idol" farewell as its Emmy entry.
Former "ER" star Julianna Margulies is seen as favorite to win the best drama actress Emmy for playing the stoic spouse of a disgraced public official in "The Good Wife" -- one of the highest-rated new shows on U.S. television.
"This is a key year for the Emmys," said Tomashoff. "The shows that people are talking about most are network shows, not cable shows, and that hasn't really happened for a while."
Edie Falco is seen as having a strong shot at adding a best comedy Emmy to her three-trophy haul for the drama series "The Sopranos". She plays a subversive, drug-addicted nurse in the dark Showtime comedy "Nurse Jackie."
Although the Emmys reward talent and creativity over popularity, the array of stars walking the red carpet could draw bigger audiences to the awards telecast this year.
"This year 'Mad Men' has permeated into popular culture through fashion and parties, even for people who have never seen the show. And 'Glee' and 'Lost' have huge cult followings so fans will likely tune in to watch the Emmys," said Yahoo! TV contributing editor Lizbeth Scordo.
The primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out in a live NBC telecast from Los Angeles, hosted by comedian Jimmy Fallon.