Okay, it's part 2 of our look at the Emmy nominations process for 2012. As always, Fienberg and I are going to approach things in two ways. I'll pretend that I have an Emmy ballot and make my picks for the six actors or shows I would put on my ballot, while Dan will rank the potential nominees from most likely to least. And, as always, we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can't consider people who didn't submit themselves, nor can we reassign anyone to a more suitable or easier category.
Yesterday, we looked at the comedy supporting actors, so now it's time to make our picks for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. (Click here for Dan's predictions.)
As Dan notes, all six of last year's nominees are eligible again, and it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see them all nominated again. But my preferences went in other directions, especially in what turned out to be a very strong year for women in comedy.
If Mayim Bialik gets nominated in this category (she is, in fact, the only person on my fake ballot who I think has even a chance at a nomination), she's going to be my early pick to win. "Big Bang Theory" had arguably its strongest season by focusing nearly as much as the women in the cast as on the guys, and though Kaley Cuoco's been there longer, it's Bialik who tends to drive those scenes. But that's not why I think she has a great chance to win. Emmy votes aren't cast based on a body of work over a season, but on a single submitted episode, and sometimes on a submitted scene. Bialik's co-star Jim Parsons — who is excellent overall — won the first of his two Emmys with an episode where he memorably played drunk in one scene, and Bialik had one of the funniest moments on any sitcom this season, in this scene where Sheldon tries to apologize to Amy with a bit of jewelry:
Now we come to a pair of actresses who made radical, and welcome, transitions from the weakest link of their respective show at the start to among their most valuable players this season. In one corner, you have Elisha Cuthbert from "Happy Endings," who couldn't do much with the traditional romantic comedy material she was given early last season, but who continually knocked it out of the park once the writers decided that Alex would be the group's most enthusiastic, yet clueless, member. The show doesn't try to downplay Cuthbert's looks, but finds ways to let her be funny even when she's at her most gorgeous, like in the Halloween episode:
In the other, you have Gillian Jacobs from "Community." The improvement of Britta from her early use is old news by now, but Jacobs had her best season as she alternated between ruining (or Britta'ing) everything and being the most sincere, generous member of the group. A character I once would have not minded never seeing again became one of the most indispensable people on one of my favorite shows, and Jacobs' fearless performance was a big part of that.
ABC's "Suburgatory" had three excellent candidates for this category. Cheryl Hines was the only one of the show's adult Chatswin-ites who managed to find some humanity inside the cartoonish excess, and Carly Chaikin committed totally to playing the vapid yet surprisingly clever Dalia. But even better was Allie Grant as Lisa Shay: ignored, belittled, trapped in the wrong town, with the wrong family, and overwhelmed at any kind of of positive feedback, as you can see in the clip below. Hines probably has the only shot of the three, but my imaginary vote goes to Grant.
All the actors on "Cougar Town" make me happy in one way or another, but none as consistently and in as many different ways as Busy Philipps as Laurie. It's another subversion of the dumb sidekick stereotype, but Philipps plays Laurie with such confidence, weird energy and just plain warmth that she doesn't feel quite like anyone else on TV.
While certain actors on "Parks and Recreation" get to keep playing the same amusing but familiar beats over and over, Aubrey Plaza had the challenge this season of playing an April who was growing and changing, even as she didn't particularly want to. There was still plenty of withering sarcasm and idle troublemaking (April representing the moon in the model U.N. episode), but there were also surprisingly sweet moments as April began to realize that she was growing up, and that her time working alongside Leslie Knope had changed her far more than she expected it to. Terrific work all season long.
Others considered: Alison Brie and Yvette Nicole Brown from "Community," Cheryl Hines from "Suburgatory," Diane Ladd from "Enlightened," Zosia Mamet from "Girls," Eden Sher from "The Middle," Anna Deavere Smith and Merrit Wever from "Nurse Jackie," Sofia Vergara from "Modern Family," Kaitlin Olson from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and Eliza Coupe and Casey Wilson from "Happy Endings."
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org