Emmy Episode Analysis #1: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Welcome to part 1 of my Emmy episode analysis! Over the next month or two, I’ll be watching the submitted episodes from Emmy nominated actors, and analysing each category, saying whether their episodes help, or hinder, their chances of taking the top prize at the Emmys in September. I’m starting off with a category which is seemingly pretty straightforward to predict: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Ellie Kemper- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (“Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!”)

A first time nominee,  is undoubtedly a real talent, and as the title character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, she’s a real delight. While I think she was better in this season of the show than its first season, the show became not as fun, or as funny, in its sophomore season. In her episode submission, Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!, Kemper is obviously allowed to have fun, opposite Ki Hong Lee, as Kimmy and Dong spend the day together in an abandoned hotel. However, my issue with this submission is that she isn’t particularly the stand out of the episode as she’s in only 1 of the three subplots, and the show is stolen by Tituss Burgess in a Scrooge-like role during Fake Christmas. Also, Kemper isn’t as innocent and lovable as she normally is in this episode, as Kimmy has to engage in more flirty behaviour, which loses her innocence a tad. A fun episode, and a decent stand alone submission, but far from a winning one.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus- Veep (“Mother”)

A 4-time winner for her role on Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is looking unstoppable in this category, and it looks like she won’t be stopped any time soon as, with this episode, she proves why she always wins accolades for this performance. In “Mother”, Louis-Dreyfus gives a tour-de-force performance, showing her comedic chops and dramatic chops in equal balance. The episode, in which Louis-Dreyfus’ President Selina Meyer visits her dying mother in the hospital, and has to later deal with her passing. It’s a scenario that allows Louis-Dreyfus to show a lot of emotions, shown mostly in the episode’s penultimate scene in which she breaks down during a funeral after hearing some bad political news, but the episode still features a lot of the show’s trademark quick dialogue, which Louis-Dreyfus pulls off with aplomb. A stand out scene is the one just after her mother dies, and she has to switch from sadness to elation in minutes after receiving good news, before tracking back after Selina’s daughter walks in. It’s a brilliant episode, and will see Louis-Dreyfus winning yet another Emmy.

Laurie Metcalf- Getting On (“Am I Still Me?”)

Despite being an Emmy favourite, including receiving 3 acting nominations this year alone, this is Metcalf’s first nomination for playing Dr. Jenna James in HBO’s medical comedy-drama Getting On. In this episode, Metcalf gives a very dramatic performance, as she suffers a very bad day, in which, like in Louis-Dreyfus’ episode, her mother dies, and she loses a prestigious accolade to Vicki Pepperdine’s Pippa Moore, with Pepperdine reprising her role from the British original version of the show. While she’s not particularly funny, she still gives a good performance, as she portrays Dr. James as a strong, yet tragic, character. Her performance is dampened a tad by the forcing of some crude moments towards the closing of the episode, but it’s still a solid tape, even if the show itself is rather boring.

Tracee Ellis Ross- Black-ish (“Sink or Swim”)

As Black-ish broke through to receive its first Comedy Series nomination, so did Tracee Ellis Ross in the Comedy Actress category, her first ever Emmy nod. Of all the episodes submitted in this category, this is the one that evokes a classic sitcom performance more than any other, as it’s the funniest, and allows for some physical humour from Ross, even though she is clearly the straight woman to Anthony Anderson’s outlandish Dre. The episodes see the Johnsons finally invited to their neighbour’s weekly pool party, and Dre makes it his mission to prove to everyone that he can swim, overcoming a stereotype that black people can’t swim. Ross, as Dre’s wife Rainbow, gets her own subplot as she tries to keep the reins on Dre, as well as keeping her reputation from the other kids’ mums, while balancing her work life. It’s a great showcase for Ross, and she delivers a great scene with her kids near the end of the episode, showing her real strength of having really good chemistry with her co-stars.

Amy Schumer- Inside Amy Schumer (“Welcome to the Gun Show”)

A second consecutive nomination in this category for Amy Schumer, but judging on this episode, it’s a surprise, as it’s hard to know why she’s competing with these actresses, as there is very little acting going on here, as it’s really a showcase of writing, rather than her acting. The episode, focussed on gun crime in America, starts off with a cold open in which Schumer plays a home shopping channel presenter, which hit the headlines for it’s sharp satire, but failed to deliver sufficient laughs. Then Schumer does some short stand up, and it’s on to a sketch that she’s not in, and is cringe-inducingly unfunny, and is followed by a sketch in which Amy gets a guest role on Game of Thrones, which allows her to show off her obvious acting chops as she freaks out after going on a horse during a scene. Then Liam Neeson guest stars in a very funny sketch that Schumer briefly appears, and the episode ends in Schumer interviewing an anti-gun crime volunteer, and members of the general public. It’s a disappointing episode, as Schumer is a lot better than this, and may cost her a chance to be in contention.

Lily Tomlin- Grace and Frankie (“The Test”)

Veteran actress Tomlin returns to TV in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, and has already earned 2 nominations for her performance on the show, despite the show getting very minimal attraction anywhere else, including for her co-star Jane Fonda. In this episode, Tomlin’s hippie Frankie is aiming to pass her driving test, and her sons start to get concerned as she keeps forgetting which signs are which, despite hours of revision. Then she decides that, if she were to pass the test, she’d need to get into the state of mind that she is when she revises, so she gets high, and that makes her finally gets her to pass her test. It’s a silly episode, and a boring one at that, providing very little laughs. The sections with Tomlin are much better than the ones with Fonda, in which her character plays Wii Sports with her friends, but it’s still a pretty weak submission, but I think that’s because the show isn’t very good. Her chemistry with Fonda is pretty strong, and gives a good speech about her health, but it’s seemingly a name-check nomination.

Ranking of Episode Submissions:

  1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  2. Tracee Ellis Ross
  3. Ellie Kemper
  4. Laurie Metcalf
  5. Lily Tomlin
  6. Amy Schumer

Likelihood of Winning

  1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  2. Amy Schumer
  3. Laurie Metcalf
  4. Ellie Kemper
  5. Lily Tomlin
  6. Tracee Ellis Ross
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