If I had my druthers (and don’t we all wish to hold our druthers firmly in our grasps?), then this year would feature an unprecedented victory the likes of which the Emmys have never seen: a six-way tie! Hurray! Wouldn’t that be grand? #WereAllWinners
Seriously, this is one tough category to judge with shows like Shameless and Orange is the New Black straddling the the line arbitrarily dividing drama and comedy. But whichever way you slice it, the six women below deliver some of the best comedic performances on television–male or female.
Without further adieu, here we go!
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep Amy Poehler, Parks and Rec
Emmy Rossum, Shameless Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black
Honorable Mentions: Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope; Kerry Godliman, Derek; Aisha Tyler, Archer
“Show your work…”
I’m going to flout convention on this one and toss the names of two repeat nominees/winners into the ring, though I usually detest the Emmys for doing just that. Edie Falco should hear her name called for her turn as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus needs a nod for hers as VP/POTUS(!) Selina Meyer in HBO’s hilarious Veep. Both deserve to keep their streaks of nominations alive, though for markedly different reasons: Falco has taken Jackie to some dark, manipulative places this year while Selina has soared to new heights of neurotic self-aggrandizement. I’d be flummoxed if both of these exceptionally talented women don’t find their names on the ballot come July.
Meanwhile, Emmy Rossum and Taylor Schilling of the “comedies” Shameless and Orange is the New Black deserve to hear their names called. Schilling transformed Piper from a cloyingly obnoxious and privileged women to a one beaten down by a system, stripped of her identity. It’s a powerful performance; in the closing minutes of season one, you can feel the impotence and rage radiating off her as she unleashes her aggression on her erstwhile aggressor. Great stuff. Rossum’s Fiona Gallagher faced a similar downward trajectory this year, a path paved with infidelity, drug use, and negligence that ultimately landed her in prison. But what made Rossum so compelling this year was that, for each frustrating misstep Fiona took (and they were myriad), she still managed to retain her character’s pathos. We couldn’t help but feel that Fiona, like Piper, has been crushed by her circumstances and therefore overwhelmed and out of her depth in the face of even marginal success. Sounds hilarious, doesn’t it? Oh wait a minute, it’s actually a soul-crushing performance beautifully depicted! I always get those two confused. #EmmyforEmmy Yup, that happened.
Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler might serve as the centerpieces to the two most “traditional” sitcoms on this list–not that there’s anything remotely pedestrian about these two fantastic, original network comedies–but that in no way diminishes the quality of their performances on The Mindy Project and Parks and Recreation. Both actresses are considerably adroit at jumping from drama to comedy. Kaling mastered it over the duration of season two’s arc that ultimately landed Dr. L in the arms of Dr. C. The scene where she breaks up with Dr. C (the first time) could have been welcomed on the screen of any major drama, but Kaling can also crack us up as we watch her collapse into an exhausted heap at the top of the Empire State Building after running up the stairs to the man of her dreams. Amy Poehler captures every glimmer of Leslie Knope’s optimism and every note of idealistic resolve, but Leslie had some trying times this season: first, the departure of new mom/beautiful land mermaid/best friend Anne Perkins, next the bitter disappointment of her removal from office, and finally, the ongoing decision whether or not to take a federal dream job that will force her to leave Pawnee in her rearview. What’s most impressive about these two performances is that they leave us longing for more. What’s next for Leslie after that unexpected time jump? Will Dr. L maneuver a romantic life with Dr. C? Stellar performances both in dire need of some recognition.
Well that about does it! Until next time, friends, when I’ll present my dream ballot for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series!