Gold Derby Emmy MVP: Emily Bergl steals scenes and hearts on ‘Shameless’

It all but seemed “Shameless” was about to “jump the shark” this season when Frank (William H. Macy) said about needing to find a donor for a liver transplant: “If Fiona won’t do it, I’ll get my other daughter to … my oldest daughter, Samantha.” This was the first we ever heard of Samantha. 

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Usually the addition of a new character — like cousin Oliver in “The Brady Bunch” — or a far-fetched scenario — such as the Conners winning the lottery in “Roseanne” — are desperate attempts to improve ratings. Rarely can such changes be worked in seamlessly. It happened with the addition of Buffy’s sister Dawn in season five of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

And now we have it with Sammi on “Shameless.” While much of the credit should go to the writers — Emmy voters pay attention to this part — most of it deserves to go to the superb performance of Broadway veteran Emily Bergl.

Emmys shocker: ‘Shameless’ allowed to switch
to comedy AFTER three years

She first appears in the third episode (“Like Father, Like Daughter”) when we see her pick a doughnut off the ground in front of her trailer home, clean it and give back to her son, Chuckie. Our first thought: Just another crazy Gallagher, but this time with a “trailer-park” kinda vibe. Then Frank eyes her and makes an observation that soon has us concurring: “So that’s my daughter. Wow, she’s kinda beautiful.”

That we see what Frank does in their very first scene together is a testament to Bergl. She could have played the part as the clichéd girl from the wrong side of the tracks. However, she became the heart of the show and, in many ways, the heart of Frank as well.

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She expresses and feels what Frank is too stubborn to admit to himself or others. She fights to save his life to finally have that father figure, and Frank fights along with her because he enjoys having a daughter around who cares.

In Sammi’s short time on the show, she’s made as much of an impact as such long-standing recurring characters as Karen and Jimmy/Steve. Indeed, Bergl has already been upped to a series regular for season five. Now all that’s left is for Emmy voters to take notice as well, or it’d be a damn shame.

Does Bergl actually have a shot at earning an Emmy nomination for Guest Comedy Actress? Let’s analyze the pros and cons of this Gold Derby Emmy MVP.

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The switch to comedy categories. As there really hasn’t been much to laugh at this season, those comedic moments and situations Sammi shared with both Frank and Sheila (Joan Cusack) may be a blessing in disguise for Bergl.

The reception to Sammi has been great. Not only is she a fan favorite, she’s also set to become a series regular. 

This is the highest-rated and most critically acclaimed season of “Shameless” to date. Buzz is always a good thing, and this Showtime series has got it.

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That switch to comedy! There have been grumbles about this, even a hint of controversy. Some of it is warranted as this has, arguably, been the show’s most dramatic season. “Shameless” is not a typical comedy or “SNL,” whose guest-stars usually win this race. 

“Shameless” is not an Emmy darling. In its first three seasons, the show has only been able to squeeze out three total nominations from the stingy TV academy. Will the genre switch help? Hopefully.

Uh, oh. Those three nominations we just mentioned were all for Cusack in the Guest Actress (Drama) category. Will voters make room for another “Shameless” guest-star? They didn’t even when Oscar champ Louise Fletcher (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) featured on the show.

Do you think “Shameless” will break into the Comedy Series category? Make your predictions below using our easy drag-and-drop menu.

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