Last year, Kyra Sedgwick surprised many by winning Best Drama Actress on her fifth attempt, besting a field of strong contenders. This year, Sedgwick was snubbed which was good news for Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife") who had been expected to win last year following her victories at the SAG and Golden Globe awards.-INSERTS:25-
Margulies is the frontrunner this year for the sophomore season of her hit legal drama and her entry, "In Sickness," is full of raw emotion. Her character, the very repressed Alicia Florrick, is forced to deal with the fallout after she discovers her politico husband (Chris Noth) had a fling with her closest friend and confidante (Archie Panjabi). Alicia confrontings both of them head on and this, coupled with a heartbreaking scene with her children, is a strong showcase for Margulies.
After dropping down to supporting last year, Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men") is back in the lead race, where she contended in 2009, for her portrayal of secretary turned copywriter Peggy Olson. In her well-chosen episode "The Suitcase," Peggy is forced to cancel her birthday plans as she works through the night to meet a looming deadline. But then her boss, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) turns to her for support after he learns of the death of someone to whom he had once been close.
As Detective Linden on the freshman series "The Killing," Mireille Enos is usually very reserved. However, in "Missing," she embarks on a frantic search for her missing teenage son. All of her pent-up emotion is released towards the end of the episode and shows a completely different side to this character that could go over well with voters.
Connie Britton is nominated for a second consecutive time for her role as Tami Taylor on "Friday Night Lights." She has submitted the series finale in which her character gets an opportunity for a better position in Philadelphia. She and her husband, a high school football coach (Kyle Chandler), say a sad farewell to small-town Texas in this emotional episode.
Oscar champ Kathy Bates ("Misery") stars in her first TV series, "Harry's Law, as a recently fired patent lawyer who starts up her own firm in a shoe store. In "Innocent Man," Bates' character, Harriet Korn, is at her smooth-talking best.
2004 champ Mariska Hargitay picked up her eighth consecutive bid for playing NYPD Detective Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." In "Rescue," Benson searches for a drug-addicted mother (Maria Bello) and is drawn into a rape investigation that reopens old wounds.
Gold Derby founder Tom O'Neil dishes this competitive race with senior editors Chris Beachumand Rob Licuria below.
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Earliest Oscars Predictions Ever
Our Oscarologists are busy updating their predictions as they see more and more contenders. Make your early picks now -- click here -- and change them later as the derby heats up.