Emmy Watch: Actress

Female cable stars are giving their broadcast counterparts a run for Emmy gol

The 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards is predicted to be cable's coming-out party, but the celebration arguably began last year, when a category-record three of the six drama series nominees (Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's "The Closer," Minnie Driver of FX's "The Riches" and Edie Falco of "The Sopranos") represented the cable band.

This year, with the departure of "The Sopranos" and Falco's candidacy, the drama category loses its only nonbroadcast winner ever. (Falco parlayed three of six nominations into victories.) And HBO also has dominated in the longform lead actress category, earning six wins in the past 10 years -- with the other two going to performers representing Showtime and ABC.

Then there's the lead comedy actress lineup. The only nonbroadcast winner ever was Sarah Jessica Parker in 2004 for HBO's "Sex and the City." Cable has had precisely one non-HBO category nominee ever: Mary-Louise Parker for Showtime's "Weeds" last year. Lead drama actress has had a grand total of four non-HBO nominees, all over the past three years -- with no wins.

That brings things to 2008, when a case can be made for all of the lead drama actress slots being filled by those working in cable: Glenn Close (FX's "Damages"), Holly Hunter (TNT's "Saving Grace"), Elisabeth Moss (AMC's "Mad Men"), as well as Sedgwick and Driver. They figure to be competing with, among others, Emmy winners from the past three years: Sally Field (ABC's "Brothers & Sisters"), Mariska Hargitay (NBC's "Law & Order: SVU") and Patricia Arquette (NBC's "Medium").

Comedy acting, on the other hand, remains a broadcast network stranglehold, with "Weeds'" Parker looking to be the only serious contender amid a gaggle of network stars that include Tina Fey (NBC's "30 Rock"), two-time winner Patricia Heaton (Fox's "Back to You"), Anna Friel (ABC's "Pushing Daisies"), Christina Applegate (ABC's "Samantha Who?") and the last

three Emmy category champs: America Ferrera (ABC's "Ugly Betty"), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine") and Felicity Huffman (ABC's "Desperate Housewives").

Fey's "Baby Mama" (Universal) success might make her a favorite, but Silvio Horta, creator and exec producer of "Ugly Betty," says Ferrera deserves to be the first category repeat winner since Heaton in 2001. "What sets America apart is how perfectly she's able to nail the drama as well as the comedy that's built into our show," he says.

Applegate could emerge as a dark horse, and she already has an Emmy, for her 2003 guest appearance on "Friends." She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for "Samantha."

"Christina is simply phenomenal," emphasizes "Samantha" executive producer Don Todd. "She's surprised a lot of people with how good she is in this role."

While the lead drama actress field has talent to spare, it's difficult to bet against Close and her work in "Damages," for which she won the Globe in January. She's also got 10 nominations and a win for 1995's TV movie "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story."

"Glenn should win," "Damages" co-creator and exec producer Glenn Kessler says. "Everyone knows this woman is one of the greatest and most fearless actresses in America."

Sedgwick has earned three Globe noms (and a win in 2007) and two Emmy nods since 2006, and her show's creator and executive producer, James Duff, believes she's due.

"Kyra gets better every year," Duff says. "To be as great as she is day after day while having to work in virtually every scene is almost incomprehensible."

As for the lead actress made-for-TV movie/miniseries race, it'll be hard to beat Laura Linney's performance as Abigail Adams in HBO's miniseries "John Adams." That said, however, Linney's chief competition is notably accomplished, including Susan Sarandon (HBO's "Bernard and Doris"), Vanessa Redgrave (HBO's "The Fever"), Judi Dench (PBS' "Masterpiece: Cranford"), Sissy Spacek (CBS' "Pictures of Hollis Woods") and Emily Watson (Lifetime's "The Memory Keeper's Daughter"). Phylicia Rashad (ABC's "A Raisin in the Sun"), Kim Cattrall (PBS' "Masterpiece: My Boy Jack") and Bryce Dallas Howard (HBO's "As You Like It").