Week 2, Part 3: Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me: 11–2. For Playing: Jen, the bitter widow trying to readjust to a normal life — not a picnic, because she’s trying to conceal a murder she committed last season. Pro: Applegate has been one of my favorite comic actresses for nearly thirty years, and in many ways this role, she’s cast against type — she’s angry, bitter and aggressively unpleasant even to the few who penetrate that façade. And that was before she killed somebody. But I now understand completely why she was nominated for Best Actress last year. She’s never won an Emmy in a major category, which is atrocious. I wouldn’t mind if she won here. Con: Her co-star. Generally speaking, when there are two leads in the same category they tend to cancel each other out, and as much as she deserves a trophy, I think it’ll work against her
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: 9–2. For Playing: Midge, the increasingly active standup comic/housewife/mother. Pro: Brosnahan dominates the screen in the way that very comic actresses — even the ones in this category — can manage. There has rarely been a more perfect merger of dialogue and actress (except, of course, for Gilmore Girls) and almost every line she delivers is hysterical, with just a touch of pain behind it. I’ve long since given up trying to figure out which pioneering comedienne she’s modeled after, because Brosnahan has turned into one of the most original characters in the medium. The Emmys might get lazy and honor her, but there’s nothing lazy about Brosnahan or this role. Con: It’s hard to consider this series passé, but the fact that it was mostly forgotten over the Fleabag juggernaut in the previous awards might be enough to keep her from repeating. Then again, there are some good candidates in this category.
Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me: 13–2. For Playing: Judy, the spiritual, earth mother type trying to move on after her fiancée died — which is awkward, considering her best friend killed him. Pro: Cardellini is, if anything, a more versatile actress than Applegate is — witness her work in Mad Men and Bloodline, and then compare it with this loving, kooky caregiver, who’s done some truly horrible things, and she’s so pleasant that she seems to want to get caught. Judy provides with many of the more hysterical laughs (Jen’s are a lot angrier, though no less funny) and we want her to find love and happiness, even though it inevitably makes things worse for her. She deserves a trophy for her work. Con: Applegate’s work has gotten more acclaim than her — she was nominated last year and Cardellini wasn’t. If the Emmys are going to honor somebody in this category, it’s more likely to be Applegate, and Cardelllini’s going to drain votes from her.
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek: 17–5. For Playing: Moira Rose, the fashionable mother of the Rose clan. Pro: There are very few comic actresses who have ever done more for film and television that Catherine O’Hara — and gotten less credit for it. She has always been one of the most versatile forces throughout all of the Second City/Christopher Guest projects over the years. Hell, she played an actress who at the center of hype for an Oscar nomination, and was almost considered seriously for it. Hell, every time she came on stage with her TV soulmate Eugene Levy, she makes you laugh in anticipation. It would really make me happy if she won for her work on this show. Con: Due to last year’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge sweep, there’s no clear favorite for Best Actress this year. O’Hara is the fan favorite, she’s the sentimental favorite. But I don’t have to tell you how little that’s counted for in winning an Emmy.
Issa Rae, Insecure: 9–2. For Playing: Issa, the increasingly more put together (but still struggling financially and romantically) LA resident. For her: Rae’s work on this series is nothing short of magnificent. She no longer writes every episode, but her voice fills every aspect of the series. After a couple of seasons of being stuck in neutral, Issa finally took a huge step towards real growth, both as an event planner and romantically — but the cost was her friendship with Molly, the heart of the series the first three seasons. Her work is brilliant, funny, and gently relevant and given how big she’s broken the past few years, she deserves a win. Con: I really can’t come up with a good argument against her, save the fact that this is a really strong category, and with no Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the Emmys may just fall back to the last winner.
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish:7–1. For Playing: Bow Johnson, the working mother of a family of five. Pro: Do the words ‘she’s due’ mean anything? Ross has been arguably the biggest star of this often incredible series, trying to provide a note of hope in Dre’s worldview. And there’s something undeniably pleasant above her entire style — the fact that her character got a spin-off this year more than demonstrated how truly gifted she is in every aspect of the series. Of all the actresses in this category, I think she deserves it the most. Con: The fact is, Ross’ nomination in this category was arguably the biggest surprise, not because she hadn’t earned it, but because there were other, fresher faces expected to be here. Much as I really want her to win, her moment — and black-ish – may have passed.
Prediction: My heart says O’Hara. My head says Brosnahan. I’m going to go with my head, though I’d love to be proven wrong.