Week 2, Part 3: Outstanding Lead Actress in A Comedy
This category more than any other is likely to have a group of new faces. The previous four consecutive winners have either had their series come to the end of the run or are ineligible this year. Almost none of the previous three years nominees are in a similar situation. So who’ll fill the spots? Here are my best guesses and hopes.
Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant
It was really appalling that for all the nominations that The Big Bang Theory got over its twelve year run, not a single one was for Kaley Cuoco who perhaps more than any other character was willing to degrade herself for a laugh. That same impulse is at the center of her in the title role as Cassie, a woman who meet riding planes and carousing to the tune of ‘The Good Time Girl.’ Then she wakes up in a hotel bed in Bangkok with her one night stand dead. That’s only the start of how things get crazy for her, and that’s just inside her head. I’m not sure whether this series is going to be considered greatness, but seeing this incredible comic actress finally get to play the lead and turn her craziness up to eleven is inspiring. She’s the favorite to win an Emmy, and I’m kind of pulling for.
Daisy Haggard, Breeders
I’ve been an admirer of Haggard for a very long time. On Episodes, she was capable of comic genius without ever uttering an intelligible word. In the exceptional Back to Life she gave a wondrous performance as a parolee trying to start a new life in a British community that nearly two decades later still wasn’t ready to forgive her. (I hope we see that series come back too.) And as Ally, she has her best role yet: as a wife with a husband who just keeps forcing crap on her, as a mother who is constantly playing a peacekeeper between the children and her father, and as a daughter whose mother clearly never had much use for her and seems happier with her new fiancé then anything she did with her children. Add to this the stress when she agreed against her will to go into IVF and how she ended up accidentally kissing a work colleague and it’s a wonder she’s still sane. Haggard has flown under the Academy radar for a very long time, and I realize the odds of her being acknowledged this time are still remote. But Haggard deserves recognition. So does Ally.
Allison Janney, Mom
I think arguing that Janney needs more recognition from the Emmys is kind of ridiculous. Her bookshelf must have been groaning from the weight of Emmys before she started playing Bonnie. That doesn’t change the fact that she’s been one of the most brilliant comic actresses on TV for the past eight years, and given the opportunity to completely lead the series in its final season, she more than demonstrated that she was everything you could ask for. And considering the series got the rug pulled out from under it before it could give all his characters a proper goodbye, one more nomination wouldn’t be a bad farewell present for Janney.
Jane Levy, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Right now the biggest possible argument against Levy getting nominated is that her show got cancelled. Which is completely unfair to both the series and her. Levy has one of the toughest jobs in all of television. She has to be the complete straight woman for all the music and choreography going around, she has to try and carry her family and her friends, she has to manage things at SPRQ point, and she has to deal with everything in her relationship. Is it any wonder every episode starts with her being bleeped? Levy does all of this with class and likability and she makes an unbelievable premise work. She was a sure thing for a nomination (a Golden Globe nomination really counted) and I refuse to accept that the fact that NBC had the bad taste to kill her show should count against her.
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Rainbow Johnson is one of the most brilliant mother figures to come across television in decades. Ross is one of the great comic forces I’ve seen in years and watching her duel with Dre, with her mother-in-law, with well everybody is always one of the great joys of watching TV. She is a comfort, a support and a barrel of laughs, and it’s a crime beyond words that she hasn’t won at least one Emmy already. (Thanks a lot Julia-Louis Dreyfus!) Yes, I know her career wasn’t launched by this role any more than Anthony Anderson’s was, but she’s even more due to win her than he (especially since her character’s origin story was cancelled just as it was starting to get interesting)
Jean Smart, Hacks
With each subsequent episode, this series continues to grow on me. But it wouldn’t take much for me to be in awe of Smart’s incredible work as Deborah Vance, a performers whose been around for so long people doubt her ability and the next generation have no use for her. But mixed in all the one-liners she delivers is a lot of rage. I’m still in awe of the monologue she delivered to Hannah when she tried to tell her how ‘good’ she was and the longer you watch the series you can tell just how hard Deborah had to battle to get everything she was owned. I know Smart has a couple of Emmys on her shelf at home, and she could very well earn another in an entirely different genre this year. But I’ll admit I’d like to see her up there to complete the set in Best Comedy. Deborah would approve
Lena Waithe, Master of None
How does Lena Waithe the time to act these days? It hasn’t been four years since she became the first African American lesbian to win an Emmy and in that period. Since then, she’s created two new series (both of which she writes extensively for) has worked for Spielberg, appeared on Westworld and she’s not even forty yet. And having wrapped things up on Master of None five years ago… well, I guess she figured she wasn’t busy enough. So she wrote a five episode arc for Denise and her characters romance and starred in it. She deserves a nomination just for finding the time to do it all. You consider the subtleties of her performances and the fact that she’s finally getting to be lead in her story, and it would be highway robbery to deny her a nomination… not that this won’t be the only one she gets this year.
FOR YOUR NCONSIDERATION
Alia Shawkwat, Search Party
This is more of a lifetime achievement nomination than anything else — though perhaps considering that Shawkwat is barely thirty-two makes than kind of absurd. But honestly, ever since we first met her on Arrested Development, she has put up a career that kind of makes you wonder when she’s ever going to slow down. And considering that Search Party is one of the most amusing and surreal projects she’s ever done (and consider her career) I think its time she got to visit the Emmys. All of her Arrested have gotten some kind of credit from the Academy and watching her play clueless even as the walls get deeper is still remarkable four seasons in. Two HBO Max actresses are certain to get nominated. Why not someone has a track record just as remarkable and a comedy that’s lasted against all odds?