TNRLM Shortlist: Lead Actor/Drama
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment: It’s a shame this show doesn’t attract more viewers, because those who aren’t watching are missing a master class in acting from all involved. It takes special talent to make watching two people sitting on a single set talking for 30 minutes riveting television, but that’s what In Treatment is. Byrne, given more to play with this year than last, was spectacular, and made “listening” into an art form.
Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice: Several shows featured charismatic leads anchoring enjoyable procedurals (including Nathan Fillion on Castle and Simon Baker on The Mentalist), but Burn Notice really upped its game in the second season, and went from popcorn munching summer fun to must watch, thanks mainly to Donovan’s portrayal of outcast spy Michael Weston (good scripts and a fabulous supporting cast also helped). Donovan was also great in USA’s little seen and underappreciated remake of Touching Evil several years ago, so how about a little overdue recognition?
Michael C. Hall, Dexter: Hall has created one of TV’s most enjoyable and fascinating characters, a sympathetic serial killer. Though he can propel the show all on his own, it was great watching him in a cat and mouse game with Jimmy Smits in season three.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men: Season two of Mad Men gave us lots of Don Draper to appreciate. From his professional machinations with the Sterling Cooper crowd and obnoxious comic Jimmy Barrett (and his wife) to his existential time on the west coast, Hamm gave subtle shadings to a character who shows little on the outside, but has everything going on on the inside.
Josh Holloway, Lost: With his nicknames and bad boy behavior, Sawyer has long been one of the best things about Lost. Last season, however, Holloway got to play another side of everyone’s favorite conman, as “Jim LaFleur” attempted to build a new life for himself back in the 1970s era Dharma Initiative. His doomed relationship with the equally Emmy-worthy Elizabeth Mitchell was a highlight of a terrific season five.
Hugh Laurie, House: Yeah, the overall show has slipped a bit, but Laurie continues to bring the brilliance week after week, and it’s inconceivable that he hasn’t taken home a gold statue yet.
Denis Leary, Rescue Me: No show benefited from a break more than Rescue Me, which had fallen into a serious ditch, quality wise. But this year, it’s come roaring back with better scripts and inspired casting (including Michael J. Fox as Janet’s antagonistic new boyfriend), and fantastic lead performance from Leary. He handles the laugh out loud comedy and trips to the dramatic dark side with equal aplomb, and should be recognized for helping rescue Rescue Me.
TNRLM Shortlist: Lead Actress/Drama
Ginnifer Goodwin, Big Love: Big Love enjoyed its best season yet, and much of the credit has to go to the actresses who played the Henrickson wives, all of whom I’ve put on this list. Goodwin’s Margene dealt with the death of her mother, and the youngest sister-wife began to blossom as she started her own home shopping network career. Denial and ambition made an adorable package this year for Margene.
January Jones, Mad Men: Betty Draper took an interesting voyage on the second season of Mad Men, as she experimented with the power of her own allure and independence. Jones was up to the challenge, giving the audience a compelling view of a woman trapped in a difficult situation in a very different era.
Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica: How is it even possible that McDonnell has never been nominated for one of the most iconic female roles in all of science fiction? Oh yeah, it’s “science fiction.” Despite the disturbing lack of attention given to extraordinary performances in “genre” programming, McDonnell deserves kudos for breathing life into a complicated character, and I could watch her “I’m coming for all of you!” scene over and over.
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men: It was tough to be an ambitious career gal in the Mad Men era, as Moss’s nuanced and intelligent performance constantly reminds us. While she was great all year long, Moss should be on the Emmy list if only for her scene with Pete in the season finale. Great stuff.
Chloe Sevigny, Big Love: All the sister wives got compelling storylines this past year, and Sevigny was no exception. Nicki lived a double life, spied for her treacherous father, got caught taking birth control pills, reconciled with her slimy brother Alby and had to deal with the return of her abusive first husband and little seen daughter. Amazingly enough, Sevigny created sympathy for a character that on the surface would seem to engender little.
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love: Concluding the Big Love troika is Tripplehorn, who masterfully took Barb Henrickson through a monumental crisis of faith and questionable commitment to “living the principle” in her plural marriage. Her performance was delicate, true and heartbreaking.