If I had an Emmy ballot: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

06.18.10 8 years ago 32 Comments


Emmy Week (and a Half) at HitFix continues, and today’s category is Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama.

Once again, Fienberg and I are approaching this two different way. Dan is predicting which actresses have a good shot at a nomination (along with a few wishful thinking suggestions), while I’m saying who would be on my hypothetical Emmy ballot.

Dan’s gallery is up, and my picks are after the jump…

This field isn’t quite as jam-packed as its male counterpart (which we’ll get to tomorrow morning), but there are still a bunch of outstanding performances, as well as a few who missed my cut but would be perfectly acceptable as actual nominations. (Instead, of course, most of the slots will go to Mariska Hargitay, Glenn Close, et al.) In alphabetical order:

That Connie Britton doesn’t yet have an Emmy trophy for her work as Mrs. Coach on “Friday Night Lights” is unfortunate. That she’s never even been nominated? Well, that’s just embarrassing. She was fantastic as always this year, both in showing Tami under siege after the decision to split the high school in two, and then during the (storyline redacted for the sake of the non-DirecTV audience).

In previous years, Anna Gunn submitted herself as a supporting actress. This year, she promoted herself to lead, which feels right considering how much more important she was this season on “Breaking Bad.” She and the writers combined to make Skyler a much more complicated, flawed and compelling character than ever before, and it would be great if the rising tide of Cranston and Paul could lift her boat, too.

I’m still not 100% sure how much of what makes January Jones effective on “Mad Men” is her actual performance and how much is the work of the costume, hair and makeup people, and on the opaque material that’s written for her. Certainly, she didn’t come off well when she hosted “SNL” (especially in comparison to Jon Hamm), but other good actors have been bad “SNL” hosts before. But since I haven’t figured out a statistical formula to measure Jones’ contribution to the role, I have to give her the lion’s share of the credit for a season in which Betty became more central than ever.

I’m dubious that anyone on “Treme” other than John Goodman has even a chance at an acting nomination. Still, I’m assuming that Melissa Leo submitted herself as lead while Khandi Alexander and Kim Dickens went supporting in the hope that the show might get a couple of its actresses nominated rather than having them all split their modest votes. And while Alexander was arguably more prominent this season, Leo (who does have an Oscar nomination on her resume) was pretty great – it’s not easy making character traits like nobility and persistence seem interesting, and she did – and she delivers her best work yet in the season finale on Sunday.

Of the six women on my list, Julianna Margulies is not only the most likely actual nominee, but the only one who was the unquestioned lead of her series. (The other five could have submitted themselves in the supporting category and no one would have blinked.) The kind of gravity and screen presence to carry an entire drama on your back shouldn’t be underestimated. Margulies had that, and she got to do some very effective, subtle work at showing Alicia Florek trying to navigate a personal and professional life where everything had been turned upside down for her.

My clear favorite in the category, though, is Katey Sagal, who delivered one of the two best performances anywhere on television (Aaron Paul gave the other) this season on “Sons of Anarchy.” The broad strokes of her storyline are the stuff blatant awards show bait is made of, yet Sagal brought such rawness and simplicity to it that it felt like no version of it I’d ever seen before. Sagal also had a homefield advantage, in that “Sons” creator Kurt Sutter is her husband and knows how to play to her strengths, but she still had to deliver on the material given, and she absolutely killed it.

Tough omissions: Lauren Graham from “Parenthood,” Jeanne Tripplehorn from “Big Love.”

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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