If I Had An Emmy Ballot 2014: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences released this year’s Emmy ballots on Monday. Now that the ballots are out, it’s time for our annual two-pronged experiment, in which Dan tries to predict the likeliest nominees in each major category, while I pretend that I’m an actually TV Academy member and pick the six nominees that would make me the happiest.

We are, as always, playing by the Emmy rules, which means we can’t argue for someone who didn’t submit themselves (say, Alan Cumming for “The Good Wife”), can’t move someone from lead to supporting or vice versa, and can’t declare that “True Detective” is a miniseries and therefore clear more room in the drama categories. I’m also obviously limited by what I watched and what I haven’t. I’ve only seen a couple of “Nurse Jackie” episodes so far this season, for instance, and the sample size wasn’t enough for me to seriously consider reigning Emmy winner in this category Merritt Wever.

Having started out with the drama and comedy series categories, we’re now looping back around to look at the major acting categories, starting with Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Dan’s analysis is here, and mine is coming right up.

Because “Orange Is the New Black” has an enormous female cast with only one lead in Taylor Schilling, the show’s stars took advantage of some relatively lax Emmy rules to split themselves between the guest and supporting characters, barely paying attention to who was actually a contracted regular and who was a guest star in the first season. However goofy that is, it works to my advantage, since I can pick Danielle Brooks and Kate Mulgrew without feeling bad about leaving someone like, say, Uzo Aduba off the list. Brooks didn’t have a ton to do early in the first season (the only one eligible at this year’s Emmys), but she popped off the screen so much that she justifiably got a terrific arc at the end of that year, and Taystee became one of the central figures of the show’s second season (which will be eligible at next year’s Emmys). Mulgrew was simultaneously one of the more familiar actors in a cast full of unknowns, and completely unrecognizable as Red, disappearing into the role and finding the balance between archetype and stereotype. It was a broad performance, but not a cartoonish one, and she found the humanity in that scary Russian lady whenever it was required.

Given the prior eight seasons worth of hype on “How I Met Your Mother,” Cristin Milioti should have had an impossible task. What actress could possibly live up to all we’d been promised about the Mother, and justify the long wait before we met her? Yet amazingly, she was everything we might have hoped for – and maybe more than the show’s creators might have ultimately wanted. Milioti was so charming and funny and instantly in sync with Josh Radnor that it made the long Mother-less stretches of the final season feel even more frustrating, and it made the fan reaction to the series finale even angrier. Here, finally, was a woman who deserved all the hopes and dreams that Ted Mosby and the series had invested in her, who wiped away whatever feelings he had left for Robin, who was clearly and absolutely The One – and then they killed her off. In the hands of a lesser performer, the final “HIMYM” season might have been even more annoying, but ironically the finale would have been easier to take.

Speaking of final seasons, “Community” went out on an improved but ultimately uneven fifth year at Greendale, but as actors shuffled in and out, the show’s most constant and assured comic presence came from Gillian Jacobs, who was the opposite of Britta in the work she did throughout those 13 episodes. Whether helping Troy and Abed make peace with their separation, overthrowing a dystopian society through careful application of mustard to her face, or feeling small compared to her more successful former partners in anarchy, Jacobs was sharp, funny, and touching. She is not the AT&T of candidates in this category.

Finally, we have a pair of actresses from underwatched HBO series, one of which is long over, one of which will return: Nina Conti from “Family Tree” and Niecy Nash from “Getting On.” Conti created one of the season’s funniest TV characters – not as the Tom Chadwick’s sister Bea, but as Bea’s tragic, deranged, hilarious coping mechanism/hand puppet Monk. Nash, meanwhile, carried the at times off-putting, at times fascinating elder care hospital dramedy, displaying both a warmth and a degree of subtlety you wouldn’t expect if you only knew her from “Reno 911.” I really did not like the first few episodes of “Getting On,” and stuck with it almost entirely for Nash, and I was ultimately glad I did, and that the show will be back for a second season.

What did everybody else think? What would be your ideal lineup in this category?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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