In the Emmy Awards’ smallest acting category, there’s not much in the way of wiggle room. The small numbers should mean more of a chance of grabbing a nomination for newcomers, like Pushing Daisies’ Anna Friel or Miss/Guided’s Judy Greer, but it’s also one of the most tightly contested of the major categories. This is because there’s a lot of forces at play here: you’ve got the power of the four Housewives, the heritage of Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond and Married…with Children, and the credibility of awards-show favourites like Mary-Louise Parker or Tina Fey.
Combine all of this with last year’s winner America Ferrera, and you have a category where making the Top 10 isn’t enough; you need to have something special that’s going to make you overcome the logjam that could lead to the category’s five nominees. On the one hand, this shuts out a lot of good candidates who probably deserve a shot, as they won’t rank highly enough in the popular vote to have a chance.
However, the one good spinoff is that for the candidates who do have that name recognition, it’s going to be a race that is decided by who has the best tape. The seven or so candidates who have a chance of cracking that Top 5 will have to put forward their best material of the season, and the result is a race that’s going to be very close even if there’s so many “real” contenders.