Emmy episode analysis: Christine Baranski shows softer side on ‘The Big Bang Theory’

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Could third time be the Emmy charm for Christine Baranski as she contends again in Best Comedy Guest Actress for her recurring role on “The Big Bang Theory“? On the CBS laffer, this two-time Tony champ plays Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) psychiatrist mother who has never been too keen on showering her son with affection. Baranski lost this race in 2009 to Tina Fey and in 2010 to Betty White, both for “Saturday Night Live.” She returns to the race this year with the stand-out episode “The Maternal Combustion.”

Click here to see the updated list of all 2015 Emmy episode submissions

SYNOPSIS: Both Leonard’s and Sheldon’s mothers are in town to see their sons receive an award. When Beverly arrives she begins asking Leonard about his sex life with Penny and is disgusted at the thought that Sheldon’s mother Mary (Laurie Metcalf) is from Texas. After Beverly compliments Sheldon on the paper and Leonard asks why she never said that to him, she replies that it’s “a mother’s job to make sure her child’s self-esteem is not dependent on anyone’s approval.” In addition to Mary bragging about Sheldon as a child, Beverly also unloads praise upon Sheldon, much to Leonard’s dismay.

When Mary begins going back into her religious beliefs, Beverly finds herself unable to stifle her contempt for Mary’s “superstitions.” Sheldon takes Beverly out of the apartment for some space and Beverly begins to question for method of parenting. She concludes that if constant affection and praise made Sheldon what he is today, then the same technique would be one she could start applying to Leonard. Beverly returns to the apartment and reconciles with Mary. She also tells Leonard that she will be much more loving toward him. She then invites him to hug her in a very awkward manner while she says, “Oh my son.”

Can Baranski, who won an Emmy for Comedy Supporting Actress in 1995 for “Cybill,” finally get that bookend trophy on her 14th nomination? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:


Baranski is an acting veteran and this category has a reputation for going to those kinds of actresses: Melissa Leo, Kathy Bates, Betty White, Kathryn Joosten, Elaine Stritch, Cloris Leachman and Jean Smart.

No one from “Saturday Night Live” is in this year’s mix, which is a good thing since both of Baranski’s losses for this performance came from “SNL” hosts.

If the voters aren’t keen to reward her in the Drama Supporting Actress race for “The Good Wife,” this could be a place for them to give her an Emmy hug.


The love for “The Big Bang Theory” is not as strong as it once was with the TV academy. It only received six noms this year (compared to seven last year and eight the previous year), plus the program lost out on bids for Best Comedy Series and Best Comedy Actor for four-time winner Jim Parsons.

The humor of Baranski’s performance comes from her character’s very restrained nature and those performances don’t usually win in this category. Over the top performances usually prevail, like Uzo Aduba, Gwyneth Paltrow and White.

She’s often upstaged by Laurie Metcalf, who is much showier with her performance.

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Photo: Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Christine Baranski and Jim Parsons. Credit: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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