Last year, Christina Applegate earned a surprise Best Comedy Actress Emmy nomination for her then-new show “Dead to Me,” while her leading lady co-star Linda Cardellini was left out in a cold. But the pair may have double to celebrate this year as Cardellini has just entered the top six in sixth place in our odds, setting the stage for just the 13th time for co-stars to be nominated in the category.
Since the Emmys established genre-specific categories in 1966, these are the only times co-stars have been nominated for Best Comedy Actress in the same year:
1. Elizabeth Montgomery and Agnes Moorehead, “Bewitched” (1967)
2. Cathryn Damon and Katherine Helmond, “Soap” (1978)
3. Cathryn Damon and Katherine Helmond, “Soap” (1980) (Damon won)
4. Cathryn Damon and Katherine Helmond, “Soap” (1981)
5. Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James, “Kate & Allie” (1984) (Curtin won)
6. Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James, “Kate & Allie” (1985) (Curtin won)
7. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, “The Golden Girls” (1986) (White won)
8. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, “The Golden Girls” (1987) (McClanahan won)
9. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, “The Golden Girls” (1988) (Arthur won)
10. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, “The Golden Girls” (1989)
11. Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman, “Desperate Housewives” (2005) (Huffman won)
12. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie” (2017)
SEE Here’s why Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini’s Emmy hopes for ‘Dead to Me’ are very much alive
The ’80s were a prime time (no pun intended) for co-nominees not just in comedy, but in drama too. That decade saw “Cagney & Lacey” (Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless) and “L.A. Law” (Susan Dey and Jill Eikenberry) dominated, but others included “Dallas” (Barbara Bel Geddes and Linda Gray), “Hill Street Blues” (Barbara Babcock and Veronica Hamel), “Family” (Kristy MacNichol and Sada Thompson) and “The Rockford Files” (Lauren Bacall and Mariette Hartley) produce multiple Best Drama Actress nominees.
But in general, most shows, especially comedies, don’t feature multiple female leads; it’s typically just one leading lady or a leading lady and a leading man. All of the comedy actress champs in the ’90s fall into one of these two columns: “Murphy Brown’s” Candice Bergen (1990, ’92, ’94-95; she also defeated all three Golden Girls in ’89); 1991 winner Kirstie Alley, who replaced Shelley Long as the female lead on “Cheers”; Roseanne Barr for her eponymous show “Roseanne” (1993); and four-time champ Helen Hunt for “Mad About You” (1996-99).
The Emmys has had some opportunities this century to nominate co-star actresses. In 2002, the entire “Friends” cast submitted themselves in lead instead of supporting, but it only yielded three straight bids and one win for Jennifer Aniston (2002-04), while Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry scored nominations on the actor side that year. And though “Desperate Housewives” ran for eight seasons, but it never replicated that first-year success, with only Huffman managing to snag another bid, in 2007.
Three years ago, Fonda made it in for “Grace and Frankie” for the first time, but hasn’t been nominated since. Until last year, Tomlin had bagged four consecutive nominations for the show. Maybe now it’s time for another pair of Netflix reps in the category.
SEE Every Best Comedy Series Emmy winner ever
A five-time nominee and one-time winner, for her guest turn on “Friends” in 2003, Applegate, who’s in third place in our odds, singlehandedly put “Dead to Me” on the awards map last year, as the series premiered in May, and Netflix already had a few other comedy contenders on its plate (“Grace and Frankie,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” both of which have received multiple bids this category, and Natasha Lyonne‘s acclaimed “Russian Doll”). Since then, Applegate has hit everything — Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, Screen Actors Guild Awards — for her turn as Jen Harding, a real estate agent coping with her husband’s still-raw hit-and-run death.
Applegate’s nomination was the only one for “Dead to Me” last year. We’ll never know, but had it premiered earlier, perhaps it could’ve netted a few more, including for Cardellini, who, while she’s been in the business for more than 20 years and headlined a beloved short-lived series, is not as big of a name as Applegate or as big of an Emmy favorite (her only bid was for her guest appearance on “Mad Men” in 2013). Fortunately for her, the category has cleared out this year, with only Applegate, Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”) eligible to return from last year’s lineup. “Dead to Me” is also expected to get a Best Comedy Series nomination, chilling in fifth place in our odds, on the heels of a Television Critics Association Awards nomination for Best New Program and a Writers Guild of America Awards win for its pilot.
Season 2 drops on May 8, but the late premiere shouldn’t hurt it this time since it’s an established show with a fan base and the Emmy deadlines have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first season ended with Jen killing Steve (James Marsden), Judy’s (Cardellini) ex-fiancé — a flip of Judy being the hit-and-run drive who killed Jen’s husband, and the two women standing over his body. The sophomore installment will offer more opportunities for the duo to work off of each other as they deal with the aftermath of this pickle and have a new shared secret they definitely cannot let anyone else know.
O’Hara and Brosnahan are neck and neck at the top of our odds at the moment, with Merritt Wever (“Run”) in fourth place and Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”) in fifth.
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