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Actresses in Emmy contention

These ladies had stellar seasons

A mix of newcomers and established thesps who’ve toiled on their show for years, these women have had outstanding seasons and are in the kudos conversation.

GALLERY: Actresses in Contention

Julie Bowen
“Modern Family”
Bowen was a TV sweetheart in “Ed,” but who knew she had such great comedy chops? Her relationship with onscreen husband Ty Burrell is the heart of the wonderful ABC sitcom that has the rare attribute of being not only one of the best comedies on air, but a ratings winner as well.

Alison Brie
Brie shifted brightly and flawlessly (and simultaneously) from Trudy Campbell of “Mad Men” into one of 2009-10’s breakout TV comic performances on “Community.” Her performance became a key part of that show’s momentum-building ride into a second season.

Connie Britton
“Friday Night Lights”
Emmy might constantly ignore the genius of this Austin, Texas gem, but that doesn’t mean it should continue to be overlooked. Britton was genius again this season, preparing daughter Julie for college while taking on the maelstrom of an abortion debate.

Kaley Cuoco
“The Big Bang Theory”
While Jim Parsons and the fellas receive much of the credit for the success of “Big Bang,” Cuoco’s appreciable contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. She not only played a sympathetic girlfriend to Johnny Galecki’s Leonard but also a perfect conversation complement to Parsons’ Sheldon.

Brooke Elliott
“Drop Dead Diva”
The breakout thesp on Lifetime, ‘Diva’ star Elliott received plenty of accolades during the first season as a laser-thin model who is reincarnated as an overweight lawyer following a fatal car accident. With season two just beginning, the show’s good buzz may catch on with others.

Calista Flockhart
“Brothers & Sisters”
There are plenty of hard-earned tears from Flockhart this season. Not surprising considering her character faces and defeats a lethal illness, and she adopts a baby. Now she’s running for the senate seat abandoned by Rob Lowe. That’s more than enough to capture TV Academy attention.

Anna Gunn
“Breaking Bad”
After two seasons of standing in Walt’s imposing shadow, Skyler isn’t one to be pushed around anymore. Although her gut tells her that her husband’s newfound career is morally unacceptable, Gunn’s finely tuned performance articulates how hard the financial rewards are to turn down.

January Jones
“Mad Men”
Opening Don’s dresser drawer and finding out his long-hidden secret informed Betty with the same info viewers have had for three seasons. Jones always holds back more emotion than she lets on, and now the actress has the arsenal to really let loose — if Matt Weiner so pleases.

Regina King
No matter the network, King brings a can-do spirit to “Southland” as a detective in search of a partner. After Tom Everett Scott was shot in the season-one finale, King spent the second season trying to determine which cop she should put her faith in.

Julianna Margulies
“The Good Wife”
Margulies’ strong-willed Alicia continually tried to balance priorities: her children, cheating husband and demands of the job. The actress, coming off an iconic role on “ER,” has found another part she should be able to sink her teeth into for years to come.

S. Epatha Merkerson
“Law and Order”
Even before the iconic skein got pulled off the NBC sked, Merkerson had announced this past season would be her last. Showcasing her character’s valiant struggle with cancer, Merkerson impressed once again in season 20, and a first-time Emmy nom for Lt. Van Buren feels long past due.

Lea Michele
Jane Lynch absorbs plenty of the kudos attention for “Glee,” but Michele is symbolic of what the show is all about. Her popularity at McKinley High is barely appreciable, but in taking pride for all she can accomplish, Rachel can stand tall and sing loud.

Archie Panjabi
“The Good Wife”
As sexually elusive Kalinda, Panjabi is a Brit who has made a huge impression with Stateside viewers. The mysterious Kalinda always manages to help win cases for the firm, with an array of sources that would make any police detective insanely jealous.

Amy Poehler
“Parks and Recreation”
Poelher’s ability was never an issue on “Parks and Recreation,” but it wasn’t until the show got a handle on her character between seasons that she could realize her full potential as the earnestly plucky Leslie Knope. Now, there might be no more appealing half-hour comedy lead performer on the air.

Katey Sagal
“Sons of Anarchy”
The physical and mental abuse Gemma went through in season two of FX’s high-octane winner is nothing short of horrific, and Sagal has proven that the testosterone levels of the “Sons” set not only haven’t intimidated the veteran thesp, they’ve made her stronger.

Merritt Wever
“Nurse Jackie”
While auds knew what they were getting in Edie Falco, relatively unknown Wever has been just as entertaining. A newbie nurse who never quite knows how much personal information to share, Wever’s Zoey is feeling more comfortable on the job.

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