My Picks For This Year’s Emmy Nods: Comedy

Part 7: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy

Do the Emmys even remember what it was like to give an award in this category to someone who wasn’t Julia-Louis Dreyfus? By definition, someone different will win the Best Actress prize this time. (Of course, it’s possible they could nominate Debra Messing again, but still…) The prohibitive favorite would appear to be Rachel Brosnahan, who won both the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice. But there’s room for a lot of new blood in this category (they did expand it to seven nominees last year). So here’s who I’d consider.

Kirsten Bell, The Good Place

As Eleanor slowly began growing after the hundreds of reboots, it became clear that there might have been a decent person (if not a saint) within her. And as she began to realize that Chidi might be her soulmate after all, it actually demonstrated how much she’s begun to (albeit against her well) evolve. That aside, Bell is an outstanding talent who’s been due an Emmy nomination since Veronica Mars. Can we pull the trigger this time, or does she have to deliver a train of cocaine to the judges?

Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall, considering that the Emmys have basically decided CW series are unworthy of Emmys no matter how brilliant they are. But come on. Rebecca’s journey this season was the kind, if it had been on Netflix, would be on the shortlist. She hit rock bottom, somehow managed to drill deeper than that, nearly committed suicide, was finally diagnosed, and in the finale, finally realized that she could keep blame her problems on other people any more. She did all this while writing songs and dance numbers that basically humiliated her, and continues, as she demonstrates on constant award show cameos, that she should be hosting everything. Give her a nomination. And not just for songwriting.

Alison Brie, GLOW

Ruth is a different kind of character than so many of the ones we see on TV comedies. She’s an actress who can’t find a role, she auditions for a wrestling show without knowing anything about wrestling, and she has an affair with her best friend’s husband, which she still hasn’t been forgiven for. And as she finds herself taking on the role of the villain on the show, it becomes clear that she, like so many leads in Kohan’s world, is very hard to like. But there’s something plucky about Brie as she does more and more to raise the humanity as a fish out of water, forming an intriguing relationship with Sam, and desperately trying to rebuild her friendship with Debbie. Like the lead, she’s definitely appealing. And like Ruth, Brie’s overdue recognition. My guess is she’ll get noticed this year.

Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One would be tempting to write Midge off as just another Amy Sherman-Palladino character; after all, she is a fast-talking brunette, albeit one who curses.. But in the hands of this brilliant actress, Brosnahan managed to find the sweet spot between hilarity and poignancy as her character was abandoned by her husband, blamed by her family, and constantly jailed for obscenity, as she delivers her hysterical rants about the life she finds herself locked into. I still don’t know which comedienne Palladino has modeled her after, but in the hands of Brosnahan, she has become another brilliant creation on this actress’ impressive resume. (And she’s still only 27!) It would be good for the series to win an Emmy to make up for the decades of the Palladinos being ignore by the Academy. It would be good for Brosnahan to win because she deserves it.

Issa Rae, Insecure

As the series navigated the second season, Issa (the character) navigated her post-breakup life messily and her career even more timidly, as she dealt with kinds of racism most series don’t take into account. Rae, the actress-writer, was just as brilliant, remaining hysterically funny, emotionally raw, vulnerable, angry, and just about any other emotion that she could find. She’s already become one of HBO’s great unsung talents, on the verge of becoming one of the great creative forces on TV. How about this year we give the mandatory HBO Best Actress in a comedy slot to someone who really has earned it?

Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish

Bow has always been the soul of the Johnson family, always willing to prick the bubble of Dre’s inflated sense of outrage. She always manages to bring the comedy, but the season showed her stretching her dramatic muscles, first in dealing with post-partum depression, then with the struggles of a fragmenting marriage, and finally dealing with the passing of her father. Her journey this season was funny and moving, often simultaneously, and its hard to think of a reason, any reason, to ignore her for a nomination.


Frankie Shaw, SMILF

It’s likely that if there’s a seventh nod, it’ll go to a veteran actress like Alison Janney, Lily Tomlin or Jane Fonda, but is also possible that it will go to another hyphenate. In my mind, there are two women who worthy of such a nod: Pamela Adlon for Better Things or Shaw for this undervalued Showtime series about a twentyish woman living on the poverty, trying to find some kind of way to build a life for herself and her makeshift family. There will brilliant moments of humor, and moves into darker territory as Frankie dealt with sexual abuse of her character as a child. Adlon deserves recognition just as much as Shaw does, but I give the slightest of edges to the latter. It can be at least as experimental as Better Thing, and often a bit funnier.


Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.