Supporting Actress: Comedy

'SNL' has players on primetime platform

Emmy surprises happen most often in supporting categories, and this year there’s plenty of diversity in not only the nominees but the shows themselves.

Voters have thought outside the box, choosing two 30-minute single-camera sitcoms (“30 Rock,” “Weeds”), hourlong dramedies (“Ugly Betty,” “Pushing Daisies”) and a latenight staple (“Saturday Night Live”).

The race may be determined by what genre voters are most enamored with right now. If they’re into sketch comedy that also influences pop culture — and “SNL” played a high-profile role in last year’s presidential race — Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig may have a leg up on the competition.

Both Poehler and Wiig face other nominees who incorporate music and sketch characters. Jane Krakowski’s role as actress-singer Jenna Maroney on the fictional “The Tracy Jordan Show” — the program within “30 Rock” — allows her to play a variety of parts including Janis Joplin.

Meanwhile, Kristin Chenoweth’s Olive Snook of “Pushing Daisies” often breaks into song, allowing her to touch viewers with her four-octave range as well as her acting.

The final two — Vanessa Williams of “Ugly Betty” and Elizabeth Perkins of “Weeds” — each has a pair of prior nominations in support of their current characters and have been on voters’ radar.

One thing’s for sure: There won’t be a repeat winner. Jean Smart of recently canceled “Samantha Who?” didn’t make the cut.

Show: “Pushing Daisies”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: Chenoweth’s Olive skewering the mountain scene to “The Sound of Music” in the season opener.
Why she might win: Chenoweth’s capacity for joy is enormous. Emmy voters may want to reward the critical hit with a farewell gift.
Maybe not: The show’s early death may have allowed it to slip from memory.

Show: “30 Rock”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: Jenna’s narcissistic plan to win an Oscar playing late singer Janis Joplin generated many laughs, especially when Jenna tried to convince Jack that she’d time-traveled from 1969 and had never seen an “iron bird” (airplane) before.
Why she might win: Like Wiig and Poehler, Krakowski has the benefit of playing an array of characters; unlike them, she works in a more traditional sitcom format. Also, Emmy voters love “30 Rock.”
Maybe not: “30 Rock” has already been honored so many times, there might be a backing-off period.

Show: “Weeds”
Emmy pedigree: Two noms
Best scene: A jailed Celia (Perkins) both fearfully and calmly explains to her loved ones that she doesn’t want to be her fellow prisoner’s “special girl.”
Why she might win: Perkins combines being self-righteous and lovable with ease. Maybe the third time’s the charm?
Maybe not: “Weeds” has no problems receiving Emmy noms, but when it comes to wins it has yet to break through.

Show: “Saturday Night Live”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: Portraying Hillary Clinton opposite Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin in several sketches; her Republican rap while nine months pregnant was awfully impressive as well.
Why she might win: As a departing “SNL” cast member, Poehler’s a sentimental favorite. Plus, Hillary supporters might want to get her — or at least a representation of her — to the winner’s podium for a change.
Maybe not: Reading the news on “Weekend Update” may look easy to some voters and not on the level of some of the other nominees.

Show: “Saturday Night Live”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: Almost too many to choose from, but her spoofs of Kathie Lee Gifford, Suzie Orman and the Target cashier are all pitch-perfect.
Why she might win: Wiig has emerged as the breakout star of the franchise and true versatile “SNL” star in the vein of Jan Hooks, Maya Rudolph and Emmy winner Dana Carvey.
Maybe not: Will voters watch screeners if they don’t stay up to midnight on Saturday?

Show: “Ugly Betty”
Emmy pedigree: Two noms
Best scene: Wilhelmina callously ousts Claire, who tells Wilhelmina she’d never met anyone so lacking in humanity. Wilhelmina responds, “Why, Claire, you flatter me!”
Why she might win: Williams displays deft comedic timing and brings surprising vulnerability to Wilhelmina while never making viewers forget the fact that her character thrives in the cutthroat business world. Maybe the third time’s the charm?
Maybe not: “Betty” has lost its mojo from the first few seasons and now feels like it’s running on fumes.

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