Emmy Predictions: Can A ‘Marvelous’ Newcomer Knock Off Category Regulars On Her First Try?

Deadline Awards Columnist and Chief Film Critic Pete Hammond gives his take on the top acting contenders for the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards. Here, he breaks down the categories of Outstanding Lead and Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The big news here is that the record-breaking run of six consecutive wins in this category for Julia Louis-Dreyfus has finally come to an end, for the time being at least—Veep is on hiatus this year and won’t be back for its final run until next season. That leaves an opening here that hasn’t appeared in some time. If you listen to most pundits, first-time nominee Rachel Brosnahan has it in the bag as a ’50s era comedienne in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Can anyone beat her? Here’s the rundown…

Pamela Adlon
Better Things

Adlon pulled off a surprise nod last year in the first season of the funny and real FX series, and that is proof-positive that voters respond to her character, single mom Sam Fox. Still, it is the only real recognition the show receives, and that means it will still be a real long shot for a win. Adlon isn’t a novice at the Emmys, by any means. But while the actress is a past winner for voice-over work in King of the Hill and a multiple nominee for Louie, this doesn’t look like her year.

Rachel Brosnahan
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

As the foul-mouthed housewife-turned-stand-up-comic Brosnahan leaps from an Emmy-nominated guest star turn in House of Cards to the scene-stealing and thoroughly talented star of her own show, which has 14 nominations, giving her a further boost. Brosnahan has emerged as the one to beat, even if Louis-Dreyfus were still in the game this year.

Allison Janney

No one seems to have a better track record at awards shows than Janney, who has won a phenomenal seven Emmys for three series including The West Wing, Masters of Sex, and Mom, and this year picked up an Oscar for I, Tonya. She also has the distinction of winning Emmys in both Supporting and Lead Actress categories for The West Wing, and she’s trying to do the same for Mom. After winning two Supporting Comedy Emmys, she has switched to Lead Actress and is hoping to repeat the feat.

Issa Rae

Many were disappointed when the irrepressible Rae failed to make the cut with the first season of HBO’s Insecure, and may have thought Emmy would just completely overlook this innovative comedy series second time round. They just about did, but at least this time they’ve given recognition where it is deserved to a gifted actress whose very presence in the category just may persuade voters to give the series a shot and watch it. Anything can happen if they do.

Tracee Ellis Ross

After a Golden Globe win for Black-ish in 2017, Tracee Ellis Ross has grabbed her third Emmy nomination for this pertinent and funny series, which has become the top comedy on ABC and continues to grow.It’s not inconceivable that she might be left at the altar again, but with Louis-Dreyfus out of the picture, her real Emmy strength is about to be tested—and we could be in for a surprise.

Lily Tomlin
Grace and Frankie

A 25-time nominee and six-time winner, she has now grabbed her fourth consecutive nomination for Netflix’s smart and sophisticated sitcom about what it’s like to grow older in a society that isn’t always kind to its elders. Tomlin and co-star Jane Fonda (not nominated this time) prove that they have unbeatable chemistry together, and perhaps voters will want to acknowledge that by honoring Tomlin once again—but it doesn’t seem likely. Anyway, where would she find room for yet another Emmy?

PETE’S PICK: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This category sets Emmy records this year just for the sheer number of nominees, which, due to ties, has led to eight contenders—three of them from Saturday Night Live alone. The SNL trio of double winner and reigning champ Kate McKinnon, plus Leslie Jones and Aidy Bryant might, again, split the vote, although McKinnon seems to have the winning touch no matter what the competition is, inside or outside of SNL. 

Who can beat her this time? I’d probably put my money on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Alex Borstein to pull off a coup, but it’s no sure thing. Zazie Beetz of Atlanta, and Betty Gilpin of GLOW (that show’s only acting nominee) are formidable but not likely to win. Laurie Metcalf, a previous three-time winner here for the original Roseanne series, somehow survived the debacle of this season and emerged with a nomination that might yet turn into gold out of pure sympathy. The other classic reboot, Will & Grace, also garnered a single acting nomination for Megan Mullally, who had a killer episode in which she mourned the death of her maid. If Emmys were handed it out for single episodes, she’d win, but that’s an Emmy practice of the past.

WINNER: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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