Part 3 of our journey through the Emmy ballot brings us to Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. As always, Fienberg will attempt to rank the contenders from most likely to least likely to be nominated, throwing in a bunch of preferential wild cards along the way. And, as always, I will pretend that I am an actual Academy member who has a ballot and therefore has to narrow his choices down to six people.
Same rules apply: we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can’t nominate people who didn’t submit themselves (like Maisie Williams from “Game of Thrones”), and we have to consider people in the category they submitted themselves for, even if that means supporting actors submitting as leads (Rob Lowe, every year) or vice versa (Amy Schumer submitting herself as supporting for a show that has her name in it). I’m also obviously limiting myself to shows where I watched enough this season to feel comfortable picking names. (I’ve only seen a couple of “The Middle” episodes this year, for instance, so while I assume Eden Sher was marvelous all year, I can’t say it with enough conviction to put her on the list.)
Dan’s exhaustive analysis is embedded below (click Launch Gallery to see it), and my picks are coming right up.
Where the first two categories had at least one overwhelming candidate (Michael Cudlitz for drama supporting actor, Monica Potter for drama supporting actress) whom I knew would be on my list no matter what – and whose absence from the real Emmy list would greatly disappoint me – there was nobody in this batch whom I looked at said, “Yes. Her. Absolutely. Everyone get in line behind her.” That said, it’s a category with a lot of performances I really enjoyed, and where I’d be happy to see the real Emmy voters wander off the beaten path at least a bit.
Then again, one of my favorites in the category is someone who was actually nominated a year ago: Merritt Wever from “Nurse Jackie.” As I’ve said before, Wever’s warm, infectiously goofy work as Zoey Barkow generally serves as the thing that allows me to accept the show’s definition as a comedy. She continued to do excellent work this year as Zoey grew in responsibility as unofficial second-in-command to the new ER chief, at one point making a trip to The Container Store sound like a young girl’s erotic journey from Milan to Minsk. She’s built up so much residual goodwill on “Jackie” that when she popped up on “New Girl” as Schmidt’s college girlfriend, I immediately began pondering a way for her to participate in both series.
Jenna Fischer was actually nominated for an Emmy for her work in the third season of “The Office,” and I thought for sure she was going to win just based on the scene where Pam reacts to Jim asking her out. Instead, she lost to Jaime Pressly from “My Name Is Earl,” and never got nominated again. I’d like to see her make the list again for her work in the final season of “The Office,” where the best and most interesting material inevitably revolved around the state of Jim and Pam’s marriage. It was a largely dramatic arc for Fischer – and one that, unfortunately, brought her into the orbit of Brian the boom mic guy for a few episodes – but a really strong one for her. And the structure of the finale suggested that while Michael Scott was the main character for so long, Pam Beasley was the center of “The Office” universe.
I’d be surprised to see Fischer return to the field after such a long absence, less so to see Jane Krakwoski back on the list. She wasn’t nominated last year, but was the three previous years, and there are at least two open slots from last year’s list (Kristen Wiig and the late Kathryn Joosten). Jenna Maroney is a character who wasn’t always my favorite part of “30 Rock,” but that fell more on the part of the writing for her than what the eternally game Krakowski was doing. And she got some really good material in this last season, including her brief period as the most politically powerful person in America, and even in smaller moments like the one in “The Stride of Pride” where Jenna advised Jack to embrace the advantages of getting older. Plus, she got to sing out “TGS” with one last performance of “The Rural Juror.” I will never forget you, Jenna Maroney.
Okay, now let’s move to the people with no Emmy portfolio. First up: Julie White from “Go On.” “Goon” wasn’t perfect in its brief life, but White and the writers made Anne – an intimidating lawyer mourning the death of her wife – the show’s most delineated, consistently entertaining creation. While the rest of the series could at times lurch from tone to tone, unsure of how to balance a lot of characters of varying degrees of intelligence or reality, White could be inserted into any scene, with any combination of other characters – one of the best episodes involved her hiring her temperamental opposite, Brett Gelman’s Mr. K, to play nanny to her children – and make things work.
Aubrey Plaza on “Parks and Recreation” and Busy Philipps on “Cougar Town” are both playing characters who young for their ensemble, and who on one hand are extremely immature and on the other wiser than their older counterparts. Like Wever on “Jackie,” the most recent seasons let both characters grow a bit – April getting more responsibility in the parks department, Laurie opening up her own business – while still retaining their comic essences, and both Plaza and Philipps did an excellent job of finding that balance.
UPDATE: In shuffling people on and off the list, as I usually do at the end, I didn’t realize I’d included seven people rather than six. Consider Elisha Cuthbert the seventh place person, but since I wrote the paragraph, I’m going to leave it in.
Finally, if “Happy Endings” really is dead (and all seems quiet on the “rescued by cable” front), then it would be nice if the show got a bit of Emmy recognition before it’s too late, preferably from its breakout performer in Elisha Cuthbert. As always, Cuthbert threw herself into all of Alex Kerkovich’s stupidity and ridiculous tics with great gusto. Few performances more consistently put a smile on my face; I’ll miss it, and hold out hope that another comedy will find something for her to do.
Others considered: Mayim Bialik, Yvette Nicole Brown, Carly Chaikin, Eliza Coupe, Gillian Jacobs, Diane Ladd, Zosia Mamet, Amy Schumer, Phyllis Smith, Jessica Walter, Casey Wilson
What does everybody else think? Who would your top 6 be in this category?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com