Spare a thought for the Emmy voter who has to choose among the queen, the handmaid, the spy, the detective, the clone(s) and the robot host.
It is a telling sign of the times that there is no more heated contest in this year’s Emmy derby than the category of drama actress. The wealth of material available for women in television is well represented among the six nominees. Viewers are the beneficiaries of this largess, but Television Academy members deserve overtime pay for the hours they’ll spend trying to decide who brought that little something extra to win the gold in that, and a couple of other key categories.
LEAD DRAMA ACTRESS
Sandra Oh was a surprise pick for “Killing Eve,” making Emmy history as the first Asian-American actress to be nommed in the category. Voters also gave a nom to the star of another BBC America drama — 2016 winner Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black” — showing they surveyed the landscape in the initial round of balloting.
The other four are repeat nominees from 2017: Claire Foy (“The Crown”), Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”).
As the reigning champ from 2017, Moss is the frontrunner. So much of the show rides on her red robe.
But Foy and Russell are right at Moss’ boot heels. Voters may be swayed because this year marks the last chance for both actresses to be recognized for these roles: “Crown” is moving on to a new Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) in season three as the show moves ahead in time, and “The Americans” ended its six-season run in May, which much of its critical praise revolving around Russell.
“Orphan Black” has also wrapped its run after five seasons. But Maslany was honored just two years ago. Emmy voters realize that peak TV demands that they spread the wealth. And it’s clear that “Westworld’s” Wood has more Emmy at-bats to come in future seasons.
For all of these factors, the hunt for the lead drama actress trophy is shaping up as a three-way battle among Moss, Foy and Russell.
SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS
The field of eight nominees says it all. There’s a lot of great work out there from which to choose.
Reigning champ Kate McKinnon of “Saturday Night Live” had another strong year on the show — who else could limn Hillary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway in practically the same breath on live TV? But the presence of two other “SNL” troupers — Aidy Bryant and Leslie Jones — in the category will likely have a vote-splitting effect for all three actresses.
Alex Borstein of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” may well ride the show’s awards momentum to victory, especially for a role that was so out of character for the veteran comedy player.
Zazie Beetz came into her own in “Atlanta’s” second season. Her work as a frustrated single mother is just the kind of offbeat role Emmy voters like to recognize. (Think Louie Anderson’s win for “Baskets.”) The same could be said for Betty Gilpin of “GLOW.”
Laurie Metcalf of the now-departed “Roseanne” revival won for the original show three times (1992-94), before its titular star became radioactive. Megan Mullally also has two past wins for “Will & Grace” (2000, 2006). With so many shows worthy of the Emmy spotlight, the win for these revivals was landing the nomination.
Look for this category to wind up as a three-legged race of Beetz, Borstein and Gilpin against McKinnon.
DRAMA SERIES WRITING
This category is also overflowing with good options.
Emmy voters may decide to finally recognize the wordsmithing of “The Americans” executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (up for the series finale “START”), or a writing win for “Killing Eve” could be a path to giving series creator Phoebe-Waller Bridge (nommed for the pilot episode “Nice Face”) some respect.
Bruce Miller of “Handmaid’s Tale” is the reigning winner and he’s up again for the second season opener, “June.”
But “Game of Thrones” has also been Emmy bait when it comes to writing awards, meaning that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (up for “The Dragon and the Wolf”) are tough competitors.
Peter Morgan, the king of “The Crown,” brings a regal air to the race for the season two finale “Mystery Man.”
On the other end of the tonal spectrum is “Stranger Things,” which landed a nom in the category for the second straight year, for creators Matt and Ross Duffer for the season two finale “Chapter Nine: The Gate.”
Of all the contenders, “The Americans” seems the frontrunner, given the critical praise showered on the series finale. Emmy voters may endorse this kind of Russian interference to give the beloved FX drama is its due.