Comedy Actress Emmy preview: Can anyone stop Julia Louis-Dreyfus (‘Veep’) from historic sixth win?

The TV academy never been shy about repeat winners, but even by those standards Julia Louis-Dreyfus has gone on an unprecedented run in the Best Comedy Actress race. For playing inept politico Selina Meyer in HBO’s “Veep,” she has won five years in a row (2012-2016). That ties “Murphy Brown” star Candice Bergen‘s all-time record for the most victories in that category for a single role, but Louis-Dreyfus stands alone as the only actor to win five consecutively. And when you count her 2006 Best Comedy Actress victory for “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” that gives Louis-Dreyfus the record for the most total wins in the category — period.

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The Emmys usually move on after a certain point, and other Emmy faves like Helen Hunt (“Mad About You”), Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”) and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) couldn’t even get past four wins in their respective categories — shed a tear for those poor unfortunate souls. But Louis-Dreyfus could be different. She could just keep on winning. That’s because the voting system has changed in the last two years in ways that could benefit her.

Emmy winners in acting categories used to be decided by small judging panels viewing sample episodes. There were usually fewer than 100 voters on each panel, and their composition would change year after year, so you couldn’t always count on voters checking the same name every time. The system of episode submissions is still in place, but now the small judging panels are gone and all eligible academy peer group members are eligible to vote. And where winners used to be decided by ranking the nominees in order of preference, now it’s just a straight plurality vote where voters just pick one winner.

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A straight plurality vote of a larger membership — that’s a lot like how the SAG Awards decide their winners, and as we’ve seen at the SAG Awards, when voters like you, they really like you. Alec Baldwin won SAG for Best Comedy Actor a remarkable seven times in a row for “30 Rock” (2006-2012), so if Emmy voting looks more like that now, we could see Louis-Dreyfus keep winning ad infinitum.

That said, Emmy trends are often cyclical.  Bergen and  Hunt dominated Best Comedy Actress in the 1990s, and then Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) won twice (2000-2001). But after that the television academy picked a different winner in the category every year from 2002 to 2012, when Louis-Dreyfus started her record-breaking run. This year her Emmy rivals are hoping for a similar changing of the guard. So if someone defeats her, who could it be?

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Emmy voters often pick breakout performances on first-year shows, like America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty,” 2007), Toni Collette (“United States of Tara,” 2009) and Melissa McCarthy (“Mike and Molly,” 2011). Some of the performers looking to break through this year for freshman shows include Golden Globe nominee Issa Rae (“Insecure”), past “Sex and the City” Emmy winner Sarah Jessica Parker (“Divorce”), multiple Emmy winner Tracey Ullman (“Tracey Ullman’s Show”), multiple Emmy nominee Minnie Driver (“Speechless”), Emmy nominee Drew Barrymore (“Santa Clarita Diet”), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), Kristen Bell (“The Good Place”), Emmy winner Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”), Justina Machado (“One Day at a Time”), Kathryn Hahn (“I Love Dick”), Katy Mixon (“American Housewife”) and Emmy writing nominee Tig Notaro (“One Mississippi”), among others.

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Other times it takes Emmy voters a few years to catch up to a performer who’s due. That’s what happened to Heaton, Parker, Jennifer Aniston (“Friends,” 2002) and Debra Messing (“Will and Grace,” 2003) in years past. Three of last year’s nominees — reigning Golden Globe champ Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”), multiple Emmy winner Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”) and Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — are all hoping to finally take home the gold.

Looking for their first bids for their current series are Tomlin’s co-star Jane Fonda, Constance Wu (“Fresh Off the Boat”), Golden Globe winning CW stars Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), Emmy writing nominee Sharon Horgan (“Catastrophe”), Ferrera (“Superstore”), Rashida Jones (“Angie Tribeca”), Emmy winner Martha Plimpton (“The Real O’Neals”), Critics’ Choice nominees Emmy Rossum (“Shameless”) and Aya Cash (“You’re the Worst”), Julie Klausner (“Difficult People”) and Tony winner Sutton Foster (“Younger”)

Predict the Emmy nominees now; change them until July 13

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on July 13. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums.

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