It has been over a year since COVID-19 halted the world and made people isolate from one another, from family and friends, in an attempt to lower the impact of the virus on the population. In that time, some have turned to baking, others have pivoted to engaging with new trends in quarantine, but something that bonds most people is television. The past year has often been isolating, yet the presence of these fictional characters from TV could be found soothing amongst the loneliness of quarantine.
Amongst these characters have been some women that have brought us belly-laughs and even a few tears. The women in comedy of the past year in television have been a force to be reckoned with, constantly raising the bar on each of their shows, old and new. When looking at the number of nominees in the leading actress in a comedy category, five doesn’t seem like enough! With so many new series and notable ineligibilities in the category – Marvelous Mrs. Maisel hasn’t aired a new season so no Rachel Brosnahan and Schitt’s Creek ended its run last season so no Catherine O’Hara – it seems there could be a new winner this year.
Leading the pack is Jean Smart for her portrayal of an older comedian that hires a young writer (Hannah Einbinder) to help fresher up her act in Hacks. Smart is electrifying as Vance, chewing up every line of dialogue as if it were a meal, making even the most egregious insults sound thoughtful and pointed. The series benefits from being fresh in the minds of Emmy voters, as it just finished its ten-episode season in May. Smart is a three-time Emmy winner, but this would be her first win in this category. The network also made the shrewd decision to submit co-lead Einbinder in supporting in order to not siphon votes. Close behind Smart is Kaley Cuoco for her performance in another HBO Max original series, The Flight Attendant, a dark comedy following the titular stewardess after she wakes up in a bed with a dead man and suffering memory-loss from the night before. Cuoco was once thought to be the frontrunner before Hacks premiered, so it’ll be interesting to see if the newer series draws in more votes now.
Tracee Ellis Ross is someone else to watch in this category. Having already been nominated for her role in black-ish four times already, Ross seeks her fifth Emmy nomination for the show’s seventh season. Ross is always reliable as Rainbow Johnson, the mother to three kids and wife to Anthony Anderson’s Dre, sometimes getting the biggest laughs from her delivery of lines. While Ross is a veteran Emmy nominee for her show at this point, there will be others who are brand new to the Emmys. One such actress is Jane Levy, the titular lead in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on NBC (recently cancelled-too-soon). While she didn’t receive a nomination for the show’s first season, the second season gained traction with critics and audiences, providing a deft examination of grief and one’s response to death while giving audiences new musical numbers weekly. Levy flourished in the second season, providing her with a chance to be one of the women nominated for leading actress in a comedy series this year.
The four previously mentioned women all seem like they could garner a nomination, with the fifth slot being somewhat up in the air. Who will take the last slot? Who all is competing for it? For starters, there’s Pen15, which brings two actresses to this category: Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine. Konkle and Erskine did wonders in the hilarious and heartbreaking series’ second season playing teenage girls, bringing the darker side of growing up to the forefront as the two girls find out more about embarrassment, friendships, divorce, and liking someone. Another series that brings two actresses to the category is Girls5Eva, the two actresses being Sara Bareilles and Renée Elise Goldsberry. The hilarious show centers around a girl group finding themselves on the cusp of popularity again as one of their old singles is sampled for an up-and-coming rapper. Either has a chance of nabbing the fifth spot, it all just boils down to who Emmy voters relate to most.
Allison Janney is also vying for a nomination for Mom’s final season, a role that has previously won her an Emmy in the supporting actress in a comedy category. She’s also been nominated twice in the leading actress category for her performance, but has yet to win in the category. Cristin Milioti could swing in and grab a nomination for her performance in the first season of Made for Love, playing a woman attempting to get away from the life she’s been living. Hailee Steinfeld has garnered much praise for her work in Dickinson where she plays famed poet Emily Dickinson, and her performance in season two proved why. Could it gain her a nomination at the Emmys? It doesn’t seem the most likely this year given the many actresses submitted for the category, but it’s sure be a good fight.
Here are my predictions for Leading Actress in a Comedy Series:
- Jean Smart – Hacks (HBO Max)
- Kaley Cuoco – The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
- Tracee Ellis Ross – black-ish (ABC)
- Jane Levy – Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)
- Maya Erskine – Pen15 (Hulu)
Then: Renée Elise Goldsberry, Girls5Eva; Allison Janney, Mom; Sara Bareilles, Girls5Eva; Anna Konkle, Pen15; Cristin Milioti, Made for Love; Hailee Steinfeld, Dickinson; Aidy Bryant, Shrill; Charlotte Nicdao, Mythic Quest; Jana Schmieding, Rutherford Falls; Lena Waithe, Master of None
The nominations for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards are Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC/Lionsgate