Emmy spotlight: Natalie Zea keeps delivering the laughs on ‘The Detour’

The Detour” flipped the switch in Season 2 from a sitcom about a road trip gone wrong to a family comedy taking place in New York. Front and center in its second season was Natalie Zea as wife and bad-mom Robin who has more secrets than her husband Nate (Jason Jones) can comprehend. After a long career in television from “Dirty Sexy Money” and “The Following” to “Justified,” Zea deserves to be recognized at the Emmys with her first career nomination.

Unfortunately, Zea and “The Detour” were ignored by the TV academy last year. But this season, which focuses on the mystery surrounding Zea’s character, has given her even more of an opportunity to shine. The fifth episode, aptly titled “The Birth,” is a flashback to when Robin goes into labor with the twins and delivers the funny in a series of phone calls to Nate, each one more unhinged than the next. Waiting for the unreliable Nate to get to the hospital on Halloween after he’s snuck out to go drinking, Robin refuses to push to the extent that she puts her unborn son Jareb at risk of not getting enough oxygen.

The critics have praised Season 2 and Zea’s further foray into comedy. Ben Travers (IndieWire) praises, “This is Robin’s season, just as Season 1 was Nate’s, and watching Mrs. Parker get a chance to tell her side of a new story is enticing for more than just Zea’s magnetic turn.” And Caroline Franke (Vox) points out, “In ‘The Detour,’ she not only proves her comic timing bona fides opposite Jones but steals almost every scene she’s in by delivering Robin’s jokes with a casual shrug.”

Natalie Zea (‘The Detour’) on the ‘ridiculous, disgusting, wonderful, horrible’ moments of season 2 [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

Last year Zea competed for Best Comedy Supporting Actress at the Emmys, but this year she’ll try her luck in the Best Comedy Actress category. Working in her favor for a nomination is the fact that there’s two open slots this year as both Laurie Metcalf (“Getting On”) and Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”) are no longer eligible. But five-time reigning champ Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) will try and hold on to her title. The other likely returning nominees include recent Golden Globe champ Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) and Netflix stars Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”).

The competition to fill those two spots is going to be tough as Allison Janney (“Mom”) has also recently been promoted to the Best Comedy Actress race. Those looking to get in from new shows include 2004 “Sex and the City” winner Sarah Jessica Parker (“Divorce”), Golden Globe contender Issa Rae (“Insecure”) and Tomlin’s co-star and recent SAG Award nominee Jane Fonda. Looking to also gain their first nomination from the CW are 2016 Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice champ Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and 2015 Globe winner Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”).

Should Zea be able to gain an Emmy nomination, she could pull off a shocking win. Giving birth on a sitcom has long proved to be a winning strategy at the Emmys. Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”) won one of her three Emmys for Best Comedy Supporting Actress (1994) for the birth episode “Labor Day.” And Jennifer Aniston (“Friends”) used the same strategy when she won Best Comedy Actress (2002) for the episode “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby.”

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