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This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s special Emmy stand-alone issue.
Nothing against Claire Danes or Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but a few other ladies deserve their moment at the Emmy podium this year. For some, including drama contenders Rose Byrne and Regina King, their work on canceled series makes this season do or die. Then there are the ensemble-comedy queens — Amy Poehler, Sofia Vergara, Kaley Cuoco — whose work has been overshadowed by the volume of great performances on their series. Showbiz veterans Katey Sagal and Jessica Walter might seem like repeat contenders, but neither has received an Emmy nomination despite careers that span decades. Then there’s Christina Hendricks, whose three previous nominations should make her a lock for a win — if only the drama actress race weren’t so darn crowded. Here’s hoping voters take notice before it’s too late.
It ain’t easy spending five seasons going toe-to-toe with Emmy winner Glenn Close, whose cold-blooded Patty Hewes single-handedly reinvented the scary-lawyer archetype. But Byrne, a two-time nominee and Aussie who has broken out in both comedy (Bridesmaids) and drama features (The Place Beyond the Pines) since Damages‘ 2007 debut, nailed it as Ellen Parsons, Patty’s protege-turned-nemesis. From episode one through the series’ gripping finale last year, Ellen was Patty’s most delicious adversary.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Originally positioned as the hot chick in a sea of nerds, Cuoco’s Penny easily could have devolved into the ditzy-blond neighbor character whose perceived sex appeal overshadowed her comedic value. The never-nominated Cuoco has exceeded expectations with sitcom-ready aptitude alongside one of the strongest multicamera ensembles in recent memory. Yes, fans call her one of TV’s hottest chicks (see the recent FHM cover), but that shouldn’t preclude her from entering Emmy’s canon.
Mad Men (AMC)
The 2012 season of Mad Men forever will be remembered as the one in which Joan slept with the ugly fat guy to get ahead in business. One of the series’ most shocking plot twists, the storyline gave the three-time nominee her best material yet, but gold proved elusive. Luckily, the new season hasn’t disappointed: Joan’s brilliant (and wonderfully self-serving) acquisition of the Avon account has been another buzzy milestone, thanks to Hendricks’ subtle mastery.
King was so engaging and raw as L.A. detective Lydia Adams, it was easy to forget her humble beginnings as a child star on the 1980s sitcom 227. Her Southland run ended this year when TNT canceled its ratings-challenged cop drama, which is why this Emmy season is critical for the never-lauded King to earn a long-overdue nomination. She no doubt will continue her thriving film career (Jerry Maguire and Ray are among her best), but King ruled on Southland.
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Has ever a more lovable nerd graced the small screen than Leslie Knope? (Nope.) Poehler’s effortless embodiment of Pawnee’s most devoted public servant has been so consistently good, many Emmy trackers forget the SNL alum hasn’t won a statuette. The seven-time nominee (yes, seven) delivered her sweetest season to date as a newlywed. Perhaps her Golden Globes hosting gig will propel Poehler, finally, to the head of the pack after five seasons of impeccable work.
Sons of Anarchy (FX)
Many thought the never-Emmy-nominated Sagal was a lock for gold in 2010 following a season in which her Gemma Teller Morrow was gang-raped in one of TV’s most disturbing scenes ever. Not so (despite a Globe win), but her motorcycle-mama matriarch has only become more intriguing, especially alongside last year’s guest star Jimmy Smits, with whom her alter ego engaged in a steamy-sweet love affair. It’s a crime that Sagal didn’t win for her endearing Peg on Married… With Children; let’s hope voters don’t let Sons ride away for good without lauding the series’ most valuable asset.
Modern Family (ABC)
The downside of the gracious Modern Family cast submitting themselves in the supporting categories is that they’ve become their own worst enemies. Fortunately for Vergara, her co-star Julie Bowen has won two years in a row, which means the race is ripe for the Colombian comedienne finally to be recognized for portraying one of the most original and funny women in TV history. Her heavily accented Gloria wasn’t overshadowed by the birth of her baby, usually a jump-the-shark moment on other shows. If you forgive the surreality of her famous figure returning after two episodes, Gloria remains Modern‘s most consistently funny family member.
Arrested Development (Netflix)
The boozy matriarch of the Bluth clan is back! Walter didn’t receive Emmy love during Arrested Development‘s three-year tenure on Fox, but the series’ reinvention on Netflix offers the veteran film, stage and voice (Archer) performer a deserved second round for consideration. She’s either the worst or best TV mom of all time — but who cares? In her fourth season, Walter offers a master class in comedy, and luckily for us, Lucille is crazier than ever before.
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