Happy to get back to this tradition of watching the Emmy submitted episodes for Best Actress – Drama and Best Actress – Comedy. :)
Just like a regular voter, I watched the episode submission for each nominee, and I tried to make an objective assessment of their tape. Do remember: unlike the Oscars, for example, the VOTING in Emmys Acting categories goes by ranking: the voter ranks from 1 to 6 or 7, from most to least deserving.
So, after watching the episodes, here are my rankings (based only on episodes submitted):
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
The episode: “Chapter 10” – It was the first time watching anything related to House of Cards. The episode was fine, but the series seems to be quite depressing (not necessarily in a bad way).
The performance: She gets only 3 big scenes, with the first 2 being pure gold. She is mysterious, sexy, cool in a Devil Wears Prada kind of way. I wanted MORE (with capital letters). She intrigued me, as she nailed the bitchiness of the character, and also the anxiety of the frustrated wife. There’s high-society coolness in the performance that you just can’t buy.
The episode: “The Better Half” – Man Men is one of the 2 shows in this category I watch regularly, so I knew the episode. I watched it again. The episode was good, but not a season best.
The performance: Again, it’s a great performance, that doesn’t have enough screentime. However, she gets a couple of key scenes, some with her boyfriend and others with her future lover. The biggest asset of the performance here is how natural the acting felt, how real she can act, how it feels subtle, but excellent at the same time – her disappointment in the last scene is played to perfection.
The episode: “Q&A” – this much talked about episode was a bit underwhelming for me. I don’t watch Homeland, having previously seen only the pilot episode.
The performance: If someone asks me about the best acting in the episode, I’ll point to Damian Lewis. Sure, Claire Danes is good at doing what Claire Danes does – taking a pile of vulnerability and throwing it to my (the viewer’s) face, adding some hysteria, some anger, some desperation and some mad ambition. I won’t say it doesn’t work – it does, but I can only take Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison in small doses.
The episode: The pilot episode. I don’t follow the series, nor will I, since it didn’t convince me it’s any good. It felt long.
The performance: I should like this more than I actually do. I really should. The performance has tears, it has glamour, it has big moments, subtle moments, plenty of screentime... but something is not clicking for me. Do I like my acting more natural? She’s better than the material, that’s for sure. And her acting in the rape scene – it was very emotional. It’s a good one.
The episode: Since apparently the first 2 episodes of the season premiered together in the States, she got to submit both. That means 2 hours. I constantly watch Downton Abbey, so it was a delight to see this again, especially for Maggie & Shirley MacLaine.
The performance: Her performance in Episode 2 is quite ignorable, so the first one is the one that counts. She was better than I remembered: she gets one important screaming scene when she cancels the wedding and she plays it REALLY well. She’s constantly good. Why only 5th on my ranking? Probably because Lady Mary still feels like a dislikeable character to me, and she’s so arrogant in this tape.
The episode: The pilot episode. It was better than I expected – by that I mean watchable. Nothing more to add.
The performance: Listen, she’s fine. I’m not a big Connie Britton fan, but she does the job. Could she have been more charming, more likeable, more dramatic in the dramatic scenes, less angry in others? Of course. But it’s an ok performance.
The episode: “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” - My first encounter with Scandal and I could barely watch it. Let me correct that: It’s unwatchable, cheap looking, terrible writing. Ugh, Emmys, please don’t make me watch this again.
The performance: Poor Kerry. And I should stop there. I mean: she cries, she cries, she acts surprised, she’s worried, she cries, she cries, she screams – I didn’t care. Her lines were so poorly written. Of course she’s not terrible, but at that point I could hardly care.
Who do I think WILL win: Claire Danes, probably. Vera Farmiga is a strong 2nd. Kerry Washington (please, no) is in 3rd because of the politics of having an African-American winner. I don’t see any of the others winning, although of course I’d really want Robin or Elisabeth to.
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
The episode: “Running” – I watch Veep regularly, and the whole second season was very funny. This was a great episode, especially towards the end.
The performance: Julia has such a distinctive acting style and it’s served best here – where she gets to go a bit crazy because of a pill cocktail. What sealed the deal was that ridiculous marathon at the end of the episode, the banana line, and her overall charm throughout. She’s really funny in it, so it would be a worthy win.
The episode: The series finale. She got to submit 2 episodes, because they played together. 30 Rock was the only other show I watched regularly, and this was a mostly-ok finale for a good TV show.
The performance: The performance is nothing different from what she’s played over the years (maybe the crying scene), but she’s doing a good job: there’s heart to it, and there’s plenty of humour. It’s a likeable performance, a likeable character and a good end to the character arc.
The episode: “Emergency Response/Leslie and Ben” - Due to some weird Emmy rule, she got to submit both episodes. In the past I had only seen one Parks & Rec episode, I have mixed feelings towards the series, and I didn’t find these episodes to be funny.
The performance: Amy is usually great, but here she’s just good. I would blame that on the screenplay, as I didn’t find myself laughing. It was just... there. The fact that I dislike EVERY OTHER CHARACTER on this show (and in these episodes) might hurt Amy’s performance in my view, since I feel they drag her down. As I said, she’s good, trying to bring the funny & everything – I’m just not crazy about it.
The episode: “Luck of the Drawing”. Some boring Nurse Jackie episode. I had previously only seen the pilot.
The performance: Well, it sure is more on the drama side than on the comedy one. Nothing bad about it, nothing that good. It’s just the type of solid performance Edie Falco could deliver in her sleep. With the episode being as boring, I almost forgot it all by the time it was over.
The episode: “All I Ever Wanted” – my first encounter with Enlightened, and a terrible one it was.
The performance: Talk about episodes more on the drama side... This episode/performance was the most unexpected disappointment. Not only was the episode boring, but it felt like Laura had nothing to bring to the table – not on the drama side, and definitely not on the comedy side. It was just boring, and as a first-time watcher (like most viewers voting in this category), the emotional journey of the character left me cold.
The episode: “Bad Friend” – if my first encounter with Enlightened was terrible, this was a complete disaster. HATED IT. HATED IT. Would’ve given up after 5 minutes.
The performance: But I didn’t give up... so I had to witness the most poorly written dialogue (in my humble opinion) and a pretentious, bullshit-filled performance from Lena Dunham. This show is not for me. The performance, just like everything else, screamed fony and annoying.
Who do I think WILL win: Well... the overall line-up of nominees is rather underwhelming. Here’s hoping for better years, as this category used to kill it in the past. Anyway, I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus is repeating last year’s win. It’s a very close race between her, Tina Fey (quite possible) and Amy Poehler. The other 3 don’t stand a chance.