Think fast: Who won last year's Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. FAST!
If you guessed Jean Smart, you're either lying or very very good at this. The "Samantha Who?" co-star was, indeed, last year's winner. I'd remembered that she was nominated, because she's very good at what she does, but I'd forgotten that she'd won.
There may be harder Emmy categories to handicap. Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama may be one of the deepest fields in Emmy history, for example. But even that category lacks the Anything-Can-Happen absurdity of the supporting actress field.
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Since 2004, the category has had a different winner each year (Smart, Jaime Pressly, Megan Mullally, Doris Roberts, Cynthia Nixon) and while we don't know about this year, none of those first four winners were even nominated the following year (largely because three of their shows went off the air, but still...). Also since 2004, only two actresses per year have received repeat nominations from the previous year. The only two actresses with three nominations during that period? Megan Mullally and Holland Taylor.
Usually at least a somewhat reliable bellwether, the Golden Globes let prognosticators down in this category as well, because the all-encompassing "actress in a supporting role" field didn't include a single actress from a series comedy this year and hasn't had more than one supporting actress from a comedy since 2004, when Mary-Louise Parker won for "Angels in America," beating out three "Sex and the City" stars and Mullally.
So how do we predict anything? Can we actually assume that there will be two repeat nominees and three newbies in the category this year? Not if we have any common sense, especially since the field will expand to six nominees.
We should safely assume that Poehler is out, following a truncated "Saturday Night Live" campaign in which her pregnancy prevented her from doing any character work that involved standing up. Can we also assume that "Ugly Betty" has lost enough buzz for Williams to drop out? Will Emmy voters still remember the long-since-cancelled "Pushing Daisies"? Or the only-occasionally-on-the-air "Samantha Who?"?
While it's possible that all five of last year's nominees could return this year, it's just as plausible that four or five of them could be gone. But who's ready to take those slots?
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