Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won four Emmys in a row for Best Comedy Actress for “Veep” (2012-2015), and she won a fifth last year as a producer when the show was also awarded Best Comedy Series. That’s a lot for any performer for one show, and after that many wins the TV academy often moves on to new contenders, but then the 2016 nominations were announced on July 14 and “Veep” racked up an astounding 17 nominations, almost double the nine bids it had last year when it won Best Comedy. So it doesn’t look like the Emmys are ready to move on just yet.
But five consecutive Comedy Actress titles is still unprecedented. Only Candice Bergen (“Murphy Brown”) claimed this award that many times and she did not do it five years running. So if Emmy voters really do decide they’re ready for new blood, who might it be?
It could be Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”), who is nominated for the second time in this category. Last year she won as a producer of “Inside Amy” when it was the recipient of the inaugural award for Best Variety Sketch Series, but this year she’s an even bigger Emmy presence. She herself is nominated six times this year: for writing, producing and acting in “Inside Amy”; writing and producing her stand-up special “Live at the Apollo”; and guest-hosting “Saturday Night Live.” But all that love from Emmy voters could as easily backfire against her in the Best Comedy Actress race; with so many nominations, voters may feel she’ll be well taken care of in other categories and not be compelled to award her here against the incumbent.
The only other returning Comedy Actress nominee from last year’s Emmys is Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”). She’s beloved by the TV academy, a member of the board of governors representing performers and a 23-time Emmy nominee (with six wins). So we mustn’t count her out of any Emmy race, but she is one of only two nominations for “Grace and Frankie” (the other is Best Contemporary Costumes) so limited academy support for the show overall may nevertheless put her at a disadvantage.
New to this category, though not new to the Emmys by any means, is Laurie Metcalf for the medical comedy “Getting On,” which concluded last December after three seasons on HBO. The academy likes her so much they nominated her three times this year — also for her guest turns in “The Big Bang Theory” and “Horace and Pete” — which brings her career total to 10 bids. She previously won Best Comedy Supporting Actress three years running for “Roseanne” (1992-1994), but this is her first nomination in a lead category. However, like “Grace and Frankie,” “Getting On” only has one other nomination (Best Comedy Supporting Actress for Niecy Nash), so she may also have a difficult time challenging the Julia juggernaut.
Rounding out the category are two first-time nominees, but both are featured in contenders for Best Comedy Series. Ellie Kemper made the cut for playing the title character in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”; the show was also nominated for Best Comedy last year, but its star was inexplicably absent. And Tracee Ellis Ross is up for her role in “Black-ish,” which earned only one nomination last year (Best Comedy Actor for her co-star Anthony Anderson), but this year Ross joined the Emmy roster and the show entered the top race for the first time, but is that enough of a surge to overcome Louis-Dreyfus?
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