With the 65th annual Primetime Emmys right around the corner, four of our editors go to bat for a few of this year’s underdogs, weighing in why they should take home the gold.
Nominee: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, “Enlightened”
During Oscar season in 2006, David Lynch took to the streets of Hollywood with a large, black and white cow (it’s Lynch, just go with it) and an even larger sign that read: “For Your Consideration: Laura Dern.” His public plea was for Dern to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for Inland Empire— a campaign that ultimately failed—but I can see how Dern’s talent would compel a director to move mountains (or cattle) to get her the attention she deserves. Consider the fact she is credited with coaxing Enlightened co-creator and writer Mike White to the HBO series, then imagine any other actress attempting to play the role of Amy Jellicoe, a fragile naif in post-nuclear emotional meltdown. Dern’s Jellicoe was a Fabergé time bomb that ticked, then tocked, and then quickly exploded within the first episode, drawing viewers into a series dedicated to tracking every nugget of character shrapnel as she rebuilds her life (and searches, comically and tragically, for truth).
Dern somehow manages to be as plucky as Amy Poehler on Parks & Rec, and as dark and volatile as Edie Falco on Nurse Jackie. Great actresses—all of them—but Dern, whose legacy of TV work includes bringing Ellen out of the closet nearly 15 years ago, made an impossible woman totally credible. She has already won a Golden Globe for this role, sure, but she deserves this Emmy, for this character, for this show. Hey, I accept the fact that Enlightened is canceled, but Dern raised an already high-bar for TV. So let’s give the woman her due, no bovine theatrics necessary. -Nancy Miller, deputy editor
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, “Downton Abbey”
The Dowager Countess of Grantham is in a race to rival Downton’s annual summer flower show, but I’m fairly certain that neither her Damely status (nor biting wit) will help her clinch this award. A pity, to be sure—like every project Smith attaches herself to, the heart-rending drama of Downton (is anyone else still mourning the loss of Lady Sybil?) is only elevated by years of crafting and perfecting her acting expertise—the nuance she breathes into supporting roles (Harry Potter’s Professor McGonagall, Hook’s Granny Wendy) is unparalleled. For a show where everything seems to go wrong, Smith’s Lady Violet, who is all at once respectfully honest (“You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do”), adorably ignorant (“What on earth is a ‘week-end’?”), and tirelessly proper (“Don’t be defeatist, dear, it’s very middle class”) is a breath of fresh country air. Plus, she’s been turned into a meme—meaning she has reached the pinnacle of cultural relevance. She may not snag the Emmy this year, but she’ll always have the Grantham Cup. -Marielle Wakim, associate editor
Nominee: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, “Girls”
As its name implies, Girls is a show about members of the female gender, but in season two, the men were far more interesting than the ladies (except for Shoshanna). While Hannah, Marnie, and Jessa mostly treaded water (Hannah and Marnie's friendship continued to fray as their professional ambitions were stymied; Jessa's spur-of-the-moment marriage predictably flamed out), we watched Adam grow obsessed with Hannah, nurture then destroy a friendship with Ray, and finally develop enough social skills to date a normal girl only to ruin that relationship. It's a testament to Adam Driver's tic-filled acting style and oddball physicality—as well as the writing—that he has transformed one of Girls' most callow, unlikeable characters into its most interesting. He won't win for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, not against Ed O’Neill and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family or Veep’s Tony Hale or even SNL funnyman Bill Hader, but it's great that he's getting recognition for what might have been a thankless role. -Elina Shatkin, senior editor
Nominee: Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries or A Movie, “Parade’s End”
He should be up there for Sherlock (he was nominated last year), but he's made it to the show this year courtesy of the HBO/BBC collab Parade's End. Written by Tom Stoppard, the five-part miniseries was not for the faint of heart (or short of time), but as per usual Cumberbatch, who plays stoic aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, stole the show. But it’s not like I think he should win because I picked him forever ago as someone to watch (and now here we are, watching him)—nope. That’s not why at all. Scorsese him. -Kari Mozena, associate editor
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