New performers vie for Emmy laughs

Michele, Falco topline in freshman shows

Lead Actress – Comedy | Lead Actress – Drama | Supporting Actress – Comedy | Supporting Actress – Drama | Lead Actress – Mini/Movie
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It’s an even split between previous winners and newcomers in this category, which means either someone’s adding to their collection or winning for their first at-bat.

If previous years are any indication, though, fortune may favor the newcomer. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”) each won this trophy for the debut seasons of their respective shows, as did prior winners Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) and America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”), even though the latter two didn’t make the cut this year.

Meanwhile, Tina Fey, who won in 2008, has earned her fourth consecutive nom for “30 Rock,” a show for which she has Emmys in three different categories (the other two are for writing and comedy series). Louis-Dreyfus is five for five with “Christine” noms, although this was the CBS sitcom’s final season.

Of the three debut appearances, two come with pedigrees in other categories. Edie Falco, nominated for her caustic, empathetic, pill-popping hospital worker on Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” took home three drama lead statuettes for “The Sopranos,” while Amy Poehler’s last two years on “Saturday Night Live” earned her supporting noms (but no win). Poehler’s being recognized here for her go-getter civil servant on NBC’s “Parks & Recreation.”

The greenest member of this sextet is Lea Michele, as golden-throated high school chorister Rachel on Fox’s musical hit “Glee.” Hers is the only hourlong show of the six, which could bode well for the breakout performer. Just ask Huffman and Ferrera.

Toni Collette
“United States of Tara”
Emmy pedigree: One win, plus one previous nom
Best scene: Trapped in a basement while a tornado approaches, Tara’s newest alter ego — therapist Shoshana — materializes and confronts Tara’s sister about a dark family secret.Why she might win: Tara is a perfect character for showcasing Collette’s gift for comic timing and chameleon-like virtuosity.
Maybe not: Having won last year, voters may feel it’s time for new blood.

Edie Falco
“Nurse Jackie”
Emmy pedigree: Three wins, plus four previous noms
Best scene: After telling off an arrogant young doctor, Jackie (Falco) must then tamp down an overfriendly nervous new nursing student: “Quiet and mean. Those are my people.”
Why she might win: Falco’s deftly funny, world-weary and fascinatingly flawed character only enriched this cable icon’s acting stature.
Maybe not: Having once dominated the drama Emmys as Carmela Soprano, she may find resistance to being recognized right off the bat for a new show.

Tina Fey
“30 Rock”
Emmy pedigree: One win, plus two previous noms (acting only)
Best scene: Cracking up over her imminent debut as a talkshow host, Liz Lemon splits into two personalities: her regularly neurotic behind-the-scenes self and a petulant narcissist.
Why she might win: An Acad favorite is sometimes the hardest kind to beat, and Fey had another banner year as a harried showbiz creative balancing work and a struggling social life.
Maybe not: With three new entrants in the category, this Acad favorite isn’t necessarily a frontrunner.

Julia Louise-Dreyfus
“The New Adventures of Old Christine”
Emmy pedigree: Two wins, plus nine previous noms
Best scene: After rudely rejecting a marriage proposal from her psychologist boyfriend (Eric McCormack), then having a midlife crisis change of heart, Christine tries to coax the proposal out of him again.
Why she might win: Voters now know this was the last season for “Christine,” which could earn the comically versatile performer a swan-song Emmy for a richly funny character.
Maybe not: Diminished viewership might mean less attention from voters, in which case Louis-Dreyfus’ previous win may feel like prize enough.

Lea Michele
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: Tasked with helping the New Directions choir group pull out a sectionals victory, Rachel uncorks a thrilling performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
Why she might win: Michele’s fresh face, bold singing talent and formidable comedy chops have helped make her a new star this season. A “Glee” sweep could easily include her.
Maybe not: With as much drama and heartfelt musical performance as laugh-getting moments, voters could be drawn to more purely comedic turns from other nominees.

Amy Poeler
“Parks and Recreation”
Emmy pedigree:Two previous noms
Best scene: Nervous about an upcoming first date, Leslie Knope (Poehler) runs through crazily unrealistic scenarios for potential pitfalls, then tries out a practice date on Ann (Rashida Jones).
Why she might win: Having not won for her hilarious sketch turns on “Saturday Night Live,” her spiritedly funny Leslie showed a keen adjustment to the demands of sitcom storytelling and character building.
Maybe not: If Steve Carell hasn’t won yet for brilliantly playing a clueless team leader, can Poehler?

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