Emmys 2012 Predictions: Outstanding Lead Actress for Comedy & Drama

Dan Fienberg and I are continuing our look at the major Emmy categories, picking who should win and who will at the ceremony on Sunday night. Next up: lead actress in both comedy and drama.

The comedy category has a lot of turnover this year, with dueling It Girls (on shows with “Girl(s)” in the title) in Zooey Deschanel and Lena Dunham and the return of perennial Emmy favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a new role.

Zooey Deschanel, “New Girl”

Lena Dunham, “Girls”

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Tina Fey, “30 Rock”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”

Should win

Alan’s pick: The rare seven-nominee field, thanks to ties, and a deep one. Other than McCarthy, who won last year when her “character is going crazy on cold medicine” episode beat out Poehler’s similar submission episode, I wouldn’t complain much about anyone winning. (Even Deschanel, who got upstaged a bit by her co-stars later in the season, was ably carrying “New Girl” in the early episodes.) That said, Amy Poehler needs to win an Emmy already for playing Leslie Knope, particularly for a season where the election arc made her carry more of the comic and emotional load than ever before.

Dan’s pick: This is a darned good category. They got seven nominees and that’s excluding folks like Laura Dern, Laura Linney and Martha Plimpton who could have been nominated in any other year. And there’s nobody who doesn’t at least deserve consideration to win. However, the prize should go to Amy Poehler, whose Leslie Knope alternated between gut-bustingly funny and ultra-emotionally relatable during this season. She made me sniffle four or five times this season, which is partly the genius of “Parks and Recreation,” but also partly the genius of an actress who has more than paid her dues to get a win here.

Will win

Alan’s pick: I really don’t have a good sense of this one. I thought Poehler, for instance, was a lock last year for “Flu Season,” but the voters preferred McCarthy. This year, Poehler went a different route with “Win, Lose, or Draw,” an episode that lets her go very dramatic at times, a formula that’s also had some Emmy success. It’s a formula that got Falco a win a couple of years ago for “Jackie,” and this year she has an episode where her character is in rehab. Fey gets to play crazy in her submission episode (“The Tuxedo Begins”), Louis-Dreyfus got to cry a lot in the “Veep” finale, and McCarthy gets to play crazy in a different way when Molly tries to lose six pounds in a hurry. All of these are classic Emmy bait kind of episodes, and while I should probably put odds on McCarthy to repeat, I’ll let my heart lead over my head and pick Poehler.

Dan’s pick: McCarthy, Falco and Fey all already have wins here and I expect voters to get distracted by the influx of new talent. Dunham wins if Emmy voters adore “Girls.” Zooey wins if Emmy voters want to take a relatively populist choice and recognize somebody from a network series. But, in the end, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is my prediction. She won for “Seinfeld.” She won for “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” And on “Veep,” she deserves credit for anchoring a huge cast, for delivering Armando Iannuccio’s particularly rhythmic and profane dialogue and, in the submission episode, for expertly displaying both real and feigned heightened emotions. The opportunity to recognize an Emmy favorite on an edgy HBO series will just be too delicious.

The drama side features a collection of usual suspects (“Homeland” is new, but Claire Danes was nominated for “My So-Called Life” and won for “Temple Grandin”), plus Michelle Dockery as the unexpected but deserving “Downton” representative.

Kathy Bates, “Harry’s Law”

Glenn Close, “Damages”

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”

Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Should win

Alan’s pick: Claire Danes. That was easy. A mesmerizing lead performance, every bit the equal of the various male actors who have dominated this golden age of TV drama.

Dan’s pick: The Television Critics Association honors one dramatic performance per year, irrespective of gender, and this year’s Outstanding Individual Achievement in Drama prize went to Claire Danes. She got my real vote for that award and she’s getting my hypothetical vote here. Nobody on television gave a better performance last season.

Will win

Alan’s pick: Danes. My only concern was her not getting nominated after the SAG voters failed to do that. But anyone who watches her submission episode, “The Vest” – the one where Carrie has gone without her medication for too long – likely won’t hesitate too long before checking off her name on the ballot.

Dan’s pick: Not that we’ll ever know the vote totals, but this really shouldn’t be close. If anybody other than Danes wins, I’ll be swearing profusely in my HitFix Emmys live-blog.

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