Emmy Episode Analysis: Can Joan Cusack finally win with fourth guest acting bid for ‘Shameless’?

Joan Cusack just reaped her fourth consecutive Emmy nomination for playing Sheila Jackson on “Shameless.” However, this year she’s contending in Best Comedy Guest Actress, instead of the equivalent drama race, thanks to a savvy category switch by Showtime.

Belowe, we break down the pros and cons of her episode submission “Liver, I Hardly Know Her.” 

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SYNOPSIS: Sheila is desperate to get married to somebody, anybody — including bed-ridden ex-lover Frank (William H. Macy) — in order to obtain a marriage license that will allow her to adopt a group of Native American children and put an end to her loneliness.

After Frank’s health takes a turn for the worse, Sheila pushes up the wedding and she and Sammi (Emily Bergl) arrange a black market liver transplant that ends with disastrous results.

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When Cusack first pops up at the five minute mark (of the 51 minute submission), she’s on her knees on the floor wearing an oversized wedding dress. And at episode’s end there’s an instant-classic image of her running down the hospital corridor in the dress, giving a memorable visual that should stick with voters long after they’ve viewed the episode.

Cusack shows a wide range of emotions, from excitement (getting married), to outrage (when she thinks Frank is dead), to fear (when the transplant doesn’t work). Having a lot of range within an episode is one of the great keys to winning an Emmy.

It helps that in this submission she’s part of the season’s main storyline — getting Frank a liver — instead of being tossed aside within her own wacky subplots like in years past.


Shameless” has never won an Emmy award, so do voters actually like the show or are they just name-checking Cusack year after year because of her star status?

Not having the benefit of laugh-out-loud hilarity (like “Saturday Night Live‘s” Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy) or being in a hot new show with multiple category nominees (like “Orange is the New Black‘s” Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox and Natasha Lyonne) could put Cusack at a slight disadvantage.

For the fourth year in a row, Cusack is nominated in the guest acting category for playing a truly supporting character. Could voters penalize her for committing category fraud?

According to Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users, Cusack is currently in third place to win the category with 33/1 odds. Personally, I think she should be higher. If there are any judges on the panel that have an appreciation for Cusack’s quirky acting style and wide range of emotions, there’s no way they won’t put her in first place.

Predict Best Comedy Guest Actress below using our easy drag-and-drop menu, then discuss all the episodes in our Emmy forums.

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