Frontrunners beware: Upsets are a part of Emmys history

While Bryan Cranston is forecast to win his fourth Emmy for “Breaking Bad” and Claire Danes  is expected to claim her first Drama Actress award for “Homeland,” these top TV kudos have a history of pulling the rug out from under frontrunners.

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James Spader won three Drama Actor awards (2004, 2005, 2007) for playing legal eagle Alan Shore on “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” defeating both James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”) and Martin Sheen (“The West Wing”). Spader’s stranglehold on that category counts as just one entry in our photo gallery of the 20 most shocking upsets in Emmy history. VIEW GALLERY

Other jaw-droppers include the 2010 Realiy-Competition Series win by “Top Chef,” which ended the seven-year winning streak by “The Amazing Race,” and Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) taking Supporting Drama Actress in 2007 over a strong field including Lorraine Bracco (“The Sopranos”) and her two costars Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson.

RELATED: Emmy voting 101 – How winners are determined 

How do these upsets happen? Winners are decided by panels who view sample episodes. Two years, Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer“) prevailed as Drama Actress over Globe and SAG champ Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) because she submitted a more powerful episode.

However, the real Emmy shockers are when someone wins in spite of a substandard submission. After Heigle, the Supporting Drama Actress Emmy went to three other women whom pundits had counted out after watching their sample reels: Dianne Wiest (“In Treatment,” 2008), Cherry Jones (“24,” 2009) and Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife,” 2010).

OTHER EMMY NEWS:

‘Mad Men,’ ‘American Horror Story’ lead Emmy Award nominations

Emmy Awards: Complete list of nominations

See how you did predicting Emmy Awards nominations 

Surprise! Which Emmy nominees did you fail to predict?

Emmy snubs include ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘The Good Wife,’ Kelsey Grammer, Jeff Probst

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