“The Good Wife”
Blessed with two solid continuing storylines last season — her potential ouster and a running flirtation with a ballistics expert (Gary Cole) — Baranski helped cement her portrayal of senior partner Diane Lockhart as one of this show’s standouts.
The delicate balance of drill sergeant mom, eye-rolling wife and yet unquestionably loving family member that Bowen pulls off continued to flourish, most notably in an episode in which she strained to be the “fun” parent for once, against her better instincts.
“Friday Night Lights”
Rarely was there a TV wife who was so utterly authentic as Tami Taylor, devoted mom wife and champion of turning teens into productive adults. Britton was one of many who shone brightly on NBC and DirecTV’s spectacular “Lights.”
“United States of Tara”
Collette won her first time out in the role of multiple personality housewife Tara, and returned with a nom last year. Showtime has just axed the series, so there might be support for what will be her final hurrah.
The moralistic yet pill-popping healthcare worker Falco memorably took to Emmy glory last year is still her pill-popping, moralistic self. That’s the kind of thing that could very well appeal to Emmy voters who prefer consistency to growth, and Falco has always been a favorite with the TV Academy.
Harried, lovelorn and neurotic TV showrunner Liz Lemon has become an icon of sharply observed humiliation comedy in Fey’s hands. Fey’s routinely funny line-readings and lovably loony reactions to the craziness around her continue to anchor the show.
With a more emotionally resonant role than the jokier figure of earlier seasons, Gless’s meddling mom lends a more complicated mixture of wit and worry to the explosive situations on this popular USA show.
“Law & Order: SVU”
Hargitay’s empathetic cop had a brief fling with parenthood as the foster guardian of a victim’s child, with emotionally wrenching results. Well-regarded thesp has long been a worthy fixture in the lead actress drama category.
More than just office eye candy, Joan is an essential component of the new firm, and Hendricks’ storylines have gotten richer, including last season’s rekindling of her affair with Roger Sterling.
The separation of Don and Betty Draper kept Jones away from a lot of the action last season. The show’s popularity with Emmy voters, though, shouldn’t be counted out. Also of note: She will be contending against another “Mad Men” femme in the lead actress drama category as Elisabeth Moss moves up from supporting.
For two years running Krakowski’s turn as the spotlight-hogging Jenna Maroney has been Emmy-nominated. Kudos-loving Jenna would do anything for another, including cross-dressing for boyfriend (Will Forte).
Sue Sylvester has her own wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s, which should indicate how much Lynch’s Emmy-winning portrayal has penetrated pop culture. Lynch and her eccentric ways with underhanded villainy remain an integral part of the Fox dramedy.
“The Good Wife”
In its second season, Alicia Florrick had as much personal tension, family drama and courtroom savvy as in the first. CBS’ hit drama seems only to grow in estimation, and there’s little reason to believe Emmy voters won’t continue showing their appreciation of it.
While “Glee” might have suffered some second-season brushback, it’s rare that any critic would pick a bone with Michele’s turn as Rachel, who continues to be both committedly narcissistic and strangely sympathetic.
Watching Peggy Olson move from mousy secretary to forthright, accomplished and forward-thinking ad copywriter has been one of the most enjoyable arcs of “Mad Men.” Moss will be moving back to lead actress this year, and it’s a wise move considering how much attention her character received.
“The Good Wife”
The coolly sexy British actress was a surprise winner last year. But to fans of the show, it was no surprise. And this year, when her Kalinda’s twists and revelations are taken into account, there could be just as much support.
“Parks and Recreation”
Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin brought the Mary Richards-Lou Grant dynamic back to television, but Poehler carries the charmingly competent optimism of Mary Tyler Moore to an even brighter level. No matter what life brings Poehler’s Leslie Knope, she’s gonna make it after all.
After a handful of at-bats, Sedgwick finally nabbed an Emmy for her fierce and funny Southern crimesolver. Last season’s arc included a few eyebrow-raisers, including an uncharacteristically vigilante move for Brenda Johnson, that could keep Sedgwick in voters’ minds.
“Two and a Half Men”
It’s been a turbulent year for the CBS sitcom that employs Taylor and it’s difficult to say how that will affect those not named Sheen on “Men.” But there’s no reason the veteran sitcom actress can’t rise above a shortened season and her co-star’s antics to land a fifth nomination as the show’s overbearing matriarch.
Vergara’s sporting cocktail of sex, accent comedy and enduring maternal instinct kept this exuberant Colombian native a “Family” favorite. If anything, appreciation for Vergara’s comic timing has grown and that could keep her firmly in voters’ sights.
“Saturday Night Live”
Nothing helps ensure a repeat nomination than seeing your star rise with auds and critics, and Wiig is enjoying a banner year with her hit film comedy “Bridesmaids.” Her “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels also recently called her one of the show’s top three or four all-time performers, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
Minority actresses still face issues | Procedurals favor the femmes | Actresses ready to do it again | Actresses in contention
Laura Linney | Martha Plimpton | Kathy Bates | Mireille Enos | Alexander & Harmon | Emmy Rossum | Sarah Shahi | Melissa McCarthy