If I had an Emmy ballot: Outstanding Lead Actress in Comedy

06.17.10 8 years ago 28 Comments


Emmy Week at HitFix continues, and in fact may be stretched into Emmy Week and a Half, since we’re decelerating from two categories a day to one for a bit. Yesterday, Fienberg and I handled comedy lead actors, and now it’s time to discuss possible nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

As always, Dan and I are approaching this from two different angles. Dan is speculating on who will be nominated (along with some wishful thinking), while I suggest whom I would pick if I had a hypothetical Emmy ballot.

Dan’s gallery of potential lead actress nominees is up, and after the jump are my picks…

Like the comedy actors, this is an awfully thin category, made thinner for me because I don’t watch “Old Christine” or “Desperate Housewives,” don’t like Lea Michele when she’s not singing and think Kaley Cuoco seems better than she is because she was so bad at the start of the series (and because Jim Parsons elevates everyone’s game).

In fact, this is the only category we’re going to do where there won’t be any people I considered tough omissions, and in fact one or two people I put on the ballot mainly for the sake of having six. With that in mind:

Toni Collette won the Emmy last year because voters are impressed by actors who play multiple roles at once. (Alec Baldwin won last year in part because he’s Alec Baldwin, in part because he submitted an episode where Jack met his Spanish-language doppleganger.) And while the versatility that allows her to play Gimme and Alice and Buck is impressive, she also deserves credit for turning Tara into a more fully-realized character this year, even if that wasn’t always the most likable character.

In the early going on “Cougar Town,” Courteney Cox felt, if not like a liability to her own show, than not a huge asset. She was too frantic and trying too hard to sell every joke. As the series refocused from being about Cox having sex with younger guys to her as den mother for another group of wacky friends, Cox never quite dialed things down to completely human levels, but she reined herself in enough to become part of the solution and not part of the problem. She’s still not the main attraction on the show, but she’s good enough to make it in this field.

Alas, “Better Off Ted.” Such a funny show. Such a doomed show. (And because Lakers-Celtics is going to a seventh game, it’s unclear when or if the last two episodes will ever air.) And by far the best thing about it was Portia de Rossi as the likable sociopath Veronica, who used others to further her own career and always made it seem logical that they should help her in this way. She has no shot at a nomination, but she’s my favorite actress in the category.

If I tend to prefer “Nurse Jackie” second bananas Merritt Wever and Peter Facinelli to star Edie Falco, that speaks more to the repetitive way Jackie was written this year, and to the fact that Wever and Facinelli get more of the funny stuff to play. But Falco still commands the screen, and she makes Jackie a more well-rounded and likable character than what seems to be on the page.

Like I said this morning about Alec Baldwin, this was not a good year for “30 Rock.” But there are two moments from this season that belong in any time capsule for the series: Tracy’s ghetto horror stories, and Liz’s attempt to film the opening credits for her “Dealbreakers” talk show. Much of the credit for the latter goes to Scott Adsit’s terrified, exasperated performance as Pete, but a lot of it goes to Tina Fey, too, for seeming convincingly, hilariously non-human as she attempted to smile, blow a kiss, twirl a basketball, etc. And most of the problems I had with Liz in the rest of the season fall on Fey the writer far more than Fey the actress.

Much of the vast improvement from season one to season two of “Parks and Recreation” comes down to how the show handled the Leslie Knope character. Some of what was fixed comes down to how other characters responded to Leslie, but some of it also comes from how Amy Poehler and her writers ever-so-slightly nudged Leslie from a complete cartoon into someone whose behavior was extreme but understandable. Poehler spent more of the year playing straight woman to the supporting cast than I think anyone might have expected when the series began, but she did it well, and was ready in those episodes like “Practice Date,” “Leslie’s House” and “Telethon” (which she wrote) to let Leslie drive the comedy bus again. Plus, the unlikely partnership between sunny idealistic Leslie and sour libertarian Ron Effing Swanson became one of the most appealing workplace friendships on TV, and Poehler’s platonic chemistry with Nick Offerman has a lot to do with that.

Next up, early tomorrow: Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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