For Your Consideration: Lead Actresses – Connie Britton and Marcia Cross

[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our fifth and final set of candidates. For complete listings for all Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actress in a Drama

Connie Britton (Tami Taylor)

Friday Night Lights

There is something about Friday Night Lights that needs to be made extremely clear, if it wasn’t already: this is not just a show about football, and it is not just a show about teenagers being teenagers. Although it contains both of those elements, one of its most heartfelt dynamics is that of family. While there are plenty of examples of this theme throughout the show, none is more powerful than the trio of Taylors. Being the Coach’s family is not easy, and this is most abundantly clear for Tami Taylor, his less-than-doting wife. She loves him with all of her heart, don’t get me wrong, but she will not take any of his shit and will not back down when he wants her to. What Connie Britton brings to this role is that sense of Southern toughness combined with an absolutely charming exterior. Watching her put on the charm (begrudgingly) is like watching a real woman dealing with real nutjobs like Buddy Garrity on a regular basis. Whether as the school’s guidance counselor, or as a mother and wife, Tami Taylor exists as one of the most realistic and relevant women on television today. Connie Britton brings her to life with grace, and her performance is deserving of Emmy consideration.

Tami’s life changed forever when her husband became coach of the Dillon Panthers. Suddenly, she was expected to host parties, deal with the townsfolk, and get swept up in all of the madness that high school football in Dillon entails. This was a strain on her relationship with her husband, sure, but it was more of a surface tension than anything else. Tami found her own passion by assisting the students of Dillon as their guidance counselor, and she had to deal with raising her blossoming daughter in the process. There has been some talk that she perhaps belongs in supporting categories, but I think this is a mistake: Briton’s performance, much like Tami’s, cannot be overlooked or marginalized because of her more feature co-star/husband. Much as the wives of likely many coaches and other professionals are often left behind, so too was Tami often forgotten.

But how can she be forgotten when people see her relationship with her husband, perhaps the season’s finest. As the season ended, and she presented her husband with an ultimatum that would have been a moment of betrayal for any other relationship…but here it was different, loving if perhaps contrary. While Chandler certain held up to his end of the bargain at all times, I think that a lot of his performance was made that much better by Britton’s reactions, quips and charm. Without her, Friday Night Lights would not be the same: and although not as “featured” as other Leads, she more than deserves to be considered in this category.

Episode Selection: “I Think We Should Have Sex” (Aired February 21st, 2007)

There were episodes that featured Britton giving more lead-style performances, but this episode was selected because it features Britton dealing with her daughter, Julie, deciding that she is ready to have sex with her boyfriend. Tami’s reaction is both natural and more intense than I could possibly imagine. I remember watching this episode and realizing how important Connie Britton was to this show. In dealing with what could be an after school special, producers and performers need to keep things simple while maintaining the dramatic elements. Britton could have just been an overprotective mother in this episode, but she was something more: she was a scared mother, a shaken mother, and a strong mother all at the same time. And it is an Emmy worthy performance.

YouTube: “I Think We Should Have Sex”

Lead Actress in a Comedy

Marcia Cross (Bree)

Desperate Housewives

I didn’t want to include two housewives here, and tried desperately to find a fifth candidate…but there was nothing to be had. Now, this is not to say that there aren’t contenders (Julia-Louis Dreyfus won last year, after all), but I just haven’t seen enough of their work. The thing about Marcia Cross is that there wasn’t much of her work this season: her pregnancy-based hiatus from Desperate Housewives made her a non-entity, out of the country in storyline terms for a large part of the season. However, Emmy voters won’t know this, and I think that it actually might benefit her: you see, we missed her. I only sporadically tuned into Desperate Housewives this season, but Bree was always still a highlight. Her humour is of a different brand from the wacky Susan or the frantic Lynette: her dignified ways are everything to her, and when they are questioned or challenged the results are both dramatic and comic. She has been shut out from major awards in past years by Hatcher and Huffman, but perhaps she might finally get her time to shine. And so, despite being absent for much of it, I can’t help but consider Marcia Cross an Emmy contender for her work on Desperate Housewives this season.

Storyline wise, Bree didn’t get much to do this year. She married Orson, who was supposed to have killed someone but actually didn’t…or something like that. I admittedly skipped out on a lot of that drivel, so I basically only saw the beginning of Bree’s arc. However, I think the writers need to get new material for Bree on a large scale: she once again had to deal with a delinquent child (Her daughter got knocked up by a neighbourhood hunk), and once again is sacrificing herself by faking a pregnancy to keep her family’s respectability intact. That end of season conclusion was neither interesting nor surprising, and the tragedy is that Cross has nailed all of it. She’s never been allowed to break free with this character and turn her into something that can be a centerpiece on this show. I can only hope that Season Four brings consistently great material to her doorstep, because she knocked everything she received out of the park the best she could this year. And that, in my books, is more worthy of Emmy consideration than that blasted Teri Hatcher. Grrr.

Episode Selection: “Listen to the Rain on the Roof” (Aired September 27th, 2006)

This is the perfect selection for Cross because it was before all the drama and covers some strong comic material. Bree is proposed to by her beau of six months, Orson, who also happened to run over Mike in Season Two (Go Orson!). She accepts, and the engagement part commences. However, things start to go downhill as Orson is accused of murder, putting a bit of a damper on their party. That fulfills the drama quotient, but the comedy comes from Bree having her very first orgasm without knowing what it was. This uptight woman coming to terms with her sexual reality is perhaps a bit contrived, but it makes for some great reactions from Bree and is a showy performance that could just get her nominated for an Emmy.

YouTube“Listen to the Rain on the Roof”

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Filed under ABC, Award Shows, Desperate Housewives, Emmy Awards, Friday Night Lights, NBC, Television

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