My Predictions For This Year’s Emmys: Comedy Edition

Part 3: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, gone at last. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, not eligible in this category. Natasha Lyonne, not eligible. As the new decade begins, a new face will set the standard for the Best Actress. (Well, maybe not quite as new.) With several series coming around for the last shot, some have a chance of being recognized. Here are my choices for Best Actress.

Pamela Adlon, Better Things

Sometimes she’s been the best thing in inferior projects (witness Californication). And it’s possible just having been associated with a pariah (Louie C.K. was the executive producer of her series until recently) that ended up with her being snubbed last year. But there are few actresses who are willing take unflinching looks at just how hard it is to be an ex-wife, a mother to daughters who don’t seem to appreciate her, and a daughter to a mother who doesn’t seem to care about anybody. A lot of the action in Season 4 revolved around the most innocuous of things — a lot of it was set among sleepy, rainy days. But as Sam makes strides to becoming accepting the flaws of everyone around — and herself — Adlon continues to demonstrate why she is one of the greatest talents working in television. It’s hard to imagine her being ignored. But it was hard to imagine her being ignored last year, too.

Christina Applegate, Dead to Me

I’ve only recently become involved with the big deal on Netflix, but it’s very hard not to be enchanted by Christina Applegate, a comic genius who never seems to get the respect she deserves. True, she spent a brilliant decade playing dumb on Married… With Children, and won an Emmy for her work on Friends, but neither of her undervalued comedies Up All Night and Samantha Who got the love they deserved. Now in her forties, she’s found another genius role as Jill, the widow with two kids in the midst of a complicated relationship with Jen. (Linda Cardellini deserves a nomination herself, but I just can’t see them making room for her.) I’ve been a fan of her work for awhile, and she seems more than deserving of repeating this year.

Kirsten Bell, The Good Place

From her earliest days in Veronica Mars, Bell never seems to have gotten the appreciation from the Emmys that she deserves. Even when starring in one of the greatest shows of our time, she keeps getting locked out. And what more will she have to do? She took over the neighborhood to try and save humanity. When it seem humanity was doomed anyway, she went for a bigger fly. She finally got to the Good Place and saw it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be — so she helped fix it, too. She was finally reunited with the love of her life for eternity — until she wasn’t. And after so many Jeremy Beremy’s, she worked through all her issues and had the last word — in the Good Place and on Earth. If anyone has demonstrated how much a flawed human being can find salvation, it’s Eleanor. If any actress has demonstrated just how to get the comedy and drama out of any role, it’s Bell. Keep it sleazy for her, and give her a forking nomination.

Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Brosnahan has been one of the great pure discoveries of the new Golden Age. It’s astonishing when you realize she’s not even thirty yet, because she’s been so much a part of the Golden Age, from The Blacklist to House of Cards to Manhattan. One hesitates to say she’s found the role of a lifetime, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the title role. As Midge carries on her path towards stardom, she continues to be as fast talking, hysterical and loving as ever. She’s already going to have to have a shelf put together for the prizes she’s already won for being Midge, but it’s safe to say she has not yet begun to be as big as her title character hopes to be.

Everything the title says she is, and more.

Kristen Dunst, On Becoming A God in Central Florida

About the only thing keeping Dunst from a nomination in this category is the fact that the Emmys can’t seem to agree on whether her so is a comedy or a drama. But when you see Dunst inhabit — that’s the only way to describe it — Krystal, the thirtyish widowed mother trying to make a living at the center of a pyramid scheme, and reacting to all of the slogans and sincerity around her with utter incredulity, there’s no way to look at this as anything but an utterly flawless comic performance. For all her flaws, she constantly comes across as the only sane person in the world of FAM, which gives her leg up not just on everyone else. She’s so utterly a creature of the antiheroines of Showtime that it came as a shock that this wasn’t originally made for them. Will the Emmys call this show comedy or a drama? I don’t know. But if they nominate her for a former, they’ll see what a winner looks like.

Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek

Has there ever been a more undervalued comedienne than Catherine O’Hara? From her days on SCTV to her unforgettable role as Kevin’s mother on Home Alone to all of the incredible comedy stops she’s made in Christopher Guest’s movies. One of them, For Your Consideration was such a brilliant parody of the Oscar nomination process that there was actual talk of nominating O’Hara. But Hollywood wasn’t that meta… not yet. Now, as she goes into her fourth decade as a performer, she wraps up playing yet another mother — but Moira has been more beloved than perhaps any of the ones before. There are too many candidates her who deserve to win, and it’s still early to consider her a sentimental favorite (something the Emmys acknowledges less and less). But her acceptance speech would probably be the funniest of the group.

Issa Rae, Insecure

She didn’t need to talk to herself this season for us to love her.

Rae has finally gotten comfortable enough with the writers of her show that she no longer needs to write every episode of the series she started. And this episode featured the most growth Issa has demonstrated yet. From the long plan to get her block party started to her disassociation with Molly that seemed to end their friendship to her wending her way back to Lawrence who was being set up as a happy ending — until the last five minutes blew it to hell. The fact that she managed to rebuild her friendship with Molly after all this may be her best sign of hope. Rae has spent the period between seasons breaking big in her own right. I think she more than deserves another nomination.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Yara Shahdi, grown-ish

Anyone of the leads of the brilliant black-ish series deserve consideration — Tracee Ellis Ross has always been a worthy contender, and I’m impressed by Arica Himmel’s ability to get the nuances of the young Bow in mixed-ish. But I’m going to go on a limb, and name the lead of the only series that doesn’t appear on ABC. Shahdi had the incredible ability to steal every scene she was in on black-ish, and on grown-ish she more than demonstrates that she’s able not just to step into Anthony Anderson’s shoes, but take Zoey through angles that Dre wouldn’t be able to see or understand. As she tries to be a good friend, roommate, and a young black woman in college, she manages to reach nuances you didn’t think she quite had in the parent show. Grown-ish couldn’t work without Shahdi, and though she’s a very long shot, I think she deserves a nomination. No doubt Zoey does too.

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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.