If I had an Emmy ballot 2011: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Welcome to part three of our journey through the Emmy ballot on HitFix. Once again, Fienberg and I are approaching each category from two directions, with Dan as the pragmatist and me as the optimist. So as we move onto the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy category, Dan has his usual exhaustive photo gallery of potential nominees, starting with the most likely candidates before eventually moving onto a bit of wish fulfillment, while after the jump, I continue to pretend that I'm a voting member of the TV Academy and have to pick six nominees for this category. (And, again, actors determine what category to submit themselves in, or whether to submit at all. You can download the full performers list here.)
This is a category where I suspect there's going to be precious little overlap between me and the actual Emmy voters, with Sofia Vergara the only one of my picks I have any confidence of being a nominee. I've had a lot of issues with "Modern Family" this season, but Vergara has never been one of them, consistently making me laugh even in episodes that otherwise made cringe at all the wacky misunderstandings. Obviously, a lot of the Gloria humor comes from her accent (think about the montage of her saying "Jay!" so loudly that it sets off a car alarm), but A)it's a fantastic accent (and far more exaggerated than Vergara's real speaking voice), B)Accent or no, you need great timing to pull off those lines, and C)A lot of Gloria-related humor has nothing to do with her voice. Also, a woman with her cartoon proportions would usually be treated as an object on a sitcom, and while there's certainly a lot of humor about how men (Phil in particular) respond to Gloria, Vergara so owns the character that you could never view her as only something to be gawked at.
As I said in my review of the first "Community" paintball sequel episode, I'm glad they chose to center that one around Alison Brie, because - perhaps more than anyone else in the "Community" cast - Brie so thoroughly, wildly commits to the various tones and genres that show employs that putting Annie at the middle of a parody episode kicks things up several notches. There, she was so plausible as a Wild West gunslinger that I could see her finding work in a genuine Western. (Sooner or later, someone will get the bright idea to remake "Bad Girls" - only not awful this time - and Brie should be at the top of that speed-dial.) But whether she was involved in parody (the conspiracy episode), a more down-to-earth episode (Annie being corrupted by Pierce while producing the anti-drug play) or something in between (Annie vs. Jeff in the school election), Brie brought crazy amounts of energy and happiness and silliness, and should be at or near the top of every actual Emmy voter's ballot in this category - even though I fear she won't. Is there a separate Emmy category for Outstanding Miming? Because... well, watch:
"Glee" is a show I watch more out of a desire to stay aware of what's popular - and to read the smart criticism of people like HitFix contributor Ryan McGee - than because I actually like it. But there are a handful of characters and/or performances I enjoy without reservation, and one of those would be Heather Morris as Brittany S. Pierce. By now, everybody knows her story - from backup dancer to background player to crucial supporting player - and what was so impressive about Brittany in season 2 was how the writers and Morris were able to take Brittany seriously on occasion without losing the random, loopy humor that made her so popular in the first place. So funny, affecting when necessary, and the dancing, naturally, is fantastic.
Even more than Morris, or any eligible actresses from the Showtime dramedies, Yvonne Strahovski occupies a very strange place in this discussion, because "Chuck" is more overtly a comedy than any of those shows, and yet Strahovski's role is usually at least 90% serious. (Though she can be funny; see her first scene from the clip below of "Chuck vs. Phase Three," which would be her submission episode in the wonderful alternate universe in which she actually got nominated.) She's there to keep the ridiculousness grounded, add heart and convincingly kick ass when necessary. But she does all those things wonderfully, and the award isn't for Funniest Supporting Actress. (As we move into the other comedy acting categories, some of my later picks will be for roles even less overtly comic than Sarah Walker.)
It would be very easy for Aubrey Plaza and the "Parks and Recreation" writers to coast on her gift for apathetic, deadpan sarcasm. And she's great at that, and there's a lot of it on the show. But one of the things that elevated "Parks and Rec" season 3 to another level was the vulnerability Plaza got to show as April let Andy back into her life, and then impulsively decided to marry the big goof. Even for a show that's sweet and happy by nature, the wedding episode was something special, and a lot of that came from the way Plaza showed an April Ludgate who for once in her life wasn't hiding behind several layers of irony and contempt, but who was letting the world see just how happy she was for five minutes. And of course, at other times she was just Janet Snakehole:
I could single out any number of members of the "Cougar Town" ensemble as an example of why the show is so much fun for me to watch every week. Right now, I'm going with Busy Philipps, who continues to take a role that could have easily fallen into dumb bimbo caricature and invest it with an almost overwhelming amount of confidence and joy. I could watch this clip of her mouthing along to her own Penny Can radio ad all day, every day, for weeks and not get tired of it.
Tough omissions: I considered a handful of other actresses - Rosemarie DeWitt on "United States of Tara" (again, not a funny performance, but a good one), Allison Janney on "Mr. Sunshine," Mary Elizabeth Ellis as the one part of "Perfect Couples" liked unreservedly, Amy Ryan for her handful of "The Office" appearances, Merritt Wever for being the one reason I considered sticking with "Nurse Jackie," Rashida Jones for being a fine straight woman (and for being very funny when allowed to, in the story involving Ann and Chris), Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown for also doing funny and versatile "Community" work, Betty White for being Betty White - but I don't know that any of them were likely to unseat these six.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org