Even with a sixth spot in the category this year, only two new faces have broken through: Toni Collette for playing a woman juggling multiple personalities on Showtime’s “United States of Tara” and Sarah Silverman for playing a childishly delusional narcissist on Comedy Central’s “The Sarah Silverman Program.”
Aside from those two, the category is nearly identical to last year’s race, minus past winner America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”).
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who took the trophy home in 2006, nabbed her fourth consecutive nom for “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” while last year’s winner, Tina Fey, and Mary-Louise Parker are three-time noms for their roles on “30 Rock” and “Weeds,” respectively. Christina Applegate is back this year, too, for the final season of “Samantha Who?”
Like Louis-Dreyfus and Fey, both Parker and Applegate already have Emmys: Parker for her supporting work in “Angels in America” in 2004 and Applegate in 2003 for a guest stint on “Friends.” Collette, yet to receive an Emmy, and Silverman, whose Emmy win last year was for songwriting, are in a very competitive group.
The past two years, Parker was the only nom from cable, but with Collette and Silverman in the mix now, she’s no longer in the minority. With major wins by some of cable’s dramatic thesps, perhaps this year one of their comedic counterparts will follow suit. Whether Collette or Silverman makes a major impact remains to be seen, but with six nominees splitting the vote, almost anything could happen.
Show: “Samantha Who?”
Emmy pedigree: One win plus two other noms
Best scene: Even after realizing she’s not the naturally gifted dancer seen in old home movies, Samantha joins her mother (Jean Smart) in a memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons performance in a dance competition.
Why she might win: Applegate is a deft comedian with an innate ability to blend verbal and physical comedy without sacrificing natural charm. Plus, she’ll do anything for a laugh.
Maybe not: The canceled series was moved around enough for viewers and voters to forget it was still on the air.
Show: “United States of Tara”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: Max and Tara plan a romantic night only to have her male alter, Buck, show up instead. The guys talk, hang out and check out Buck’s porn collection.
Why she might win: Collette successfully takes on a quadruple workload creating four distinct characters within one body: Tara, domestic goddess Alice, teenage party girl T and beer-swilling Buck.
Maybe not: Despite it being a tour de force performance, the storylines involve heavy, often dramatic, subject matter not common in the traditional half-hour TV comedy.
Show: “30 Rock”
Emmy pedigree: Five wins plus five other noms
Best scene: While suspended from work for sexual harassment, Liz encounters neighbors who are women of leisure and is lured into the life of luxury, suddenly realizing it’s really a wealthy women’s fight club.
Why she might win: Removing Liz from the comfort zone of her harried office gave Fey the chance to broaden her appeal.
Maybe not: After two years of “30 Rock” dominating the awards, voters may be ready for a change.
Show: “The New Adventures of Old Christine”
Emmy pedigree: Two wins plus eight other noms
Best scene: Christine and Barb throw an impromptu bachelorette party for new Christine in Vegas.
Why she might win: Louis-Dreyfus is sitcom royalty, always commanding the screen with note-perfect comedic timing.
Maybe not: With Louis-Dreyfus having already won playing this character, it might be time to spread the wealth.
Emmy pedigree: One win plus four other noms
Best scene: After covering for snoopy Celia and saving her neck, Nancy takes her for a memorable ride to the border.
Why she might win: “Weeds” continues to be one of cable’s most critically acclaimed series, and Parker’s ability to balance drama and comedy simultaneously is the main reason critics love the show.
Maybe not: Parker’s comedy is quite subtle and not nearly as broad as some of the other nominees.
Show: “The Sarah Silverman Program”
Emmy pedigree: One win plus two other noms
Best scene: Sarah tricks her sister Laura into appearing on a daytime talkshow as an over-the-top way to let Laura know their long-dead father isn’t really dead. He’s there, being serenaded by Sarah.
Why she might win: Silverman has made an art form of taking bold comedic risks.
Maybe not: Those same risks often verge on bad taste, and sometimes exceed it.