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Drama divas in Emmy smackdown: Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Mary McDonnell

July 10, 2008 |  9:03 pm

To predict who'll be nominated on July 17 for best lead drama actress, we must first review how Emmy voting works. Accountants combine how contenders performed during a popular vote of the academy's actors (which determined the Top 10 lists) with the scores that judges gave to their sample episode submissions.

Based upon their A-list rank and the strength of the performances they gave in their sample episodes, Holly Hunter ("Saving Grace"), Glenn Close ("Damages") and Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer") will be nominated. However, Hunter and Close may have trouble winning because their characters can be unsympathetic.


It's easy to predict that Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men") will not make the Emmy cut. Being an unknown in a new TV series portraying a role that probably belongs in the supporting category, not lead, suggests that she probably landed in the bottom half of the popular vote. That means she needs a strong episode entry to compensate and she didn't submit it.

But the fates of the other six gals in this category is befuddling. Jeanne Tripplehorn ("Big Love") and Mary McDonnell ("Battlestar Galactica") probably scored low in the popular vote, but their episode entries are fantastic. Will their latter scores be sufficient to pull them up into one of those two remaining open slots, assuming that Hunter, Close and Sedgwick get in?

Just as they handicapped the race for lead actors in a drama series, our forum moderators and special Emmy seers now track the fillies: Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria ( — read Hollywood Reporter's profile of Rob HERE).

Rob and Boomer mirror the actual voting process to rank these women. First, they calculate the order of the top 10 semifinalists as determined by the popular vote by the TV academy's actors' branch. Then they predict how the panel judges scored the sample episode entries. They combine these two results on a 50-50 basis, just like the accountants do, to determine the final ranking of the nominees.

For example, both Boomer and Rob thought Glenn came in first with both the popular vote and the judges so her total score is two. Remember, just like in golf, the lower the score the better the result.

How Rob ranks the popular vote outcome — 1.) Glenn Close 2.) Kyra Sedgwick 3.) Sally Field 4.) Holly Hunter 5.) Minnie Driver 6.) Mariska Hargitay 7.) Patricia Arquette 8.) Jeanne Tripplehorn 9.) Elisabeth Moss 10.) Mary McDonnell

Here's how Boomer thinks the pop vote went down — 1.) Glenn Close 2.) Kyra Sedgwick 3.) Sally Field 4.) Holly Hunter 5.) Mariska Hargitay 6.) Minnie Driver 7.) Patricia Arquette 8.) Elisabeth Moss 9.) Jeanne Tripplehorn 10.) Mary McDonnell

My opinion: I think Rob and Boomer rank Kyra Sedgwick too high.

How Rob thinks the judges ranked episode entries — 1.) Glenn Close 2.) Jeanne Tripplehorn 3.) Mary McDonnell 4.) Kyra Sedgwick 5.) Holly Hunter 6.) Sally Field 7.) Minnie Driver 8.) Mariska Hargitay 9.) Patricia Arquette 10.) Elisabeth Moss

Here's how Boomer ranks the judges' views of the episodes — 1.) Glenn Close 2.) Kyra Sedgwick 3.) Mary McDonnell 4.) Sally Field 5.) Mariska Hargitay 6.) Jeanne Tripplehorn 7.) Elisabeth Moss 8.) Holly Hunter 9.) Patricia Arquette 10.) Minnie Driver

My opinion: Both of our gurus rank Sally Field's episode way too high. Compared to last year, Field hands in a rather lightweight turn now. Certainly, Hargitay's perf is superior and maybe Driver's too. Boomer's wrong and Rob's right about Tripplehorn's eppy — it gets a high rank.

For specific info and excellent analysis of the sample TV episodes, I recommend that you CLICK HERE to read what our post RyanB wrote in our forums. (Well done, Ryan!)

(Top five = nominees)
1.) Glenn Close, "Damages" ("Pilot") — 2 points
2.) Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer" ("Manhunt") — 6 points
3.) Sally Field, "Brothers & Sisters" ("History Repeating") — 9 points
3.) Holly Hunter, "Saving Grace" ("Tacos, Tulips, Duck & Spices") — 9 points
5.) Jeanne Tripplehorn, "Big Love" ("Take Me As I Am") — 10 points
6. Minnie Driver, "The Riches" ("Dead Calm") — 12 points
7.) Mary McDonnell, "Battlestar Galactica" ("Faith") — 13 points
8.) Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU" ("Undercover") — 14 points
9.) Patricia Arquette, "Medium" ("Aftertaste") — 16 points
9.) Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men" ("The Hobo Code") — 16 points


(Top five = nominees)
1.) Glenn Close, "Damages" ("Pilot") — 2 points
2.) Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer" ("Manhunt") — 4 points
3.) Sally Field, "Brothers & Sisters" ("History Repeating") — 7 points
4.) Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU" ("Undercover") — 10 points
5.) Holly Hunter, "Saving Grace" ("Tacos, Tulips, Duck & Spices") — 12 points
6.) Mary McDonnell, "Battlestar Galactica" ("Faith") — 13 points
7.) Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men" ("The Hobo Code") — 15 points
7.) Jeanne Tripplehorn, "Big Love" ("Take Me As I Am") — 15 points
9.) Patricia Arquette, "Medium" ("Aftertaste") — 16 points
9.) Minnie Driver, "The Riches ("Dead Calm") — 16 points

Rob's commentary: Unfortunately for Mary McDonnell, who I believe would have just sneaked into the top 10 popular vote, she would probably need a No. 1 placing in the panel vote to make it into the top five, which I suspect will not happen, although it will be close, as her episode submission is that good. On the flip side, although Jeanne Tripplehorn will probably score towards the end of the top 10 in the popular vote, her panel vote will be very high –- she would have been viewed either last or first, and her performance in her chosen episode, opposite Ellen Burstyn, is absolutely brilliant. I think she'll surprise a few people. The rest of the field are where they should be expected to fall, unless more surprises are in store. At this stage, it's the Glenn Close Award.

Photos: FX, ATAS, TNT