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Emmy battle over best supporting comedy actress: Kristin Chenoweth vs. Amy Poehler

August 11, 2009 |  2:39 pm

Our feisty Emmy pundits Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria have crossed swords while predicting the races for comedy actor, lead actress and supporting actor so far. Now they come out swinging to forecast who'll prevail as supporting actress in a comedy series on Sept. 20. And, of course, they disagree. But at least they have an edge on all other Emmy pundits. They actually watch the same episodes submitted by nominees to Emmy judges as examples of their best work from the past TV season.

Emmy Kristin Chenoweth Amy Poehler

1.) Kristin Chenoweth, "Pushing Daisies" ("Bad Habits")
2.) Kristen Wiig, "Saturday Night Live" ("Neil Patrick Harris")
3.) Amy Poehler, "Saturday Night Live" ("Josh Brolin")
4.) Jane Krakowski, "30 Rock" ("The Ones")
5.) Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds" ("No Man Is Pudding")
6.) Vanessa Williams, "Ugly Betty" ("The Fall Issue")

ROB'S COMMENTARY: As with most of the other categories, predicting a winner can be very difficult because much depends on whether voters look to the episode submission or are more influenced by outside factors when ultimately checking off their ballots.

Based upon episode alone, Kristin Chenoweth is so far out in front that they might as well announce this category now. Seriously. Her scenes in "Bad Habits" are perfect – lovable, funny, lots of range, lots of screen time, not to mention great writing and production values, all combining to elevate her performance into comedy gold. However, will voters want to award a performance in a little-seen and canceled show that has been off the Emmy radar for a while? The "other factors" really do hurt her chances and lessen the impact of her top-notch submission.

Amy Poehler's submission is a bit of a dud, save for one really exceptional scene (that might tip her over the edge). Amy is in three main sketches in her "Saturday Night Live" episode submission: "Sue and the Engagement," in which she doesn't do much at all while Kristen Wiig outshines everybody and completely owns the spotlight; "I'm No Angel," which is kinda funny and features Amy as a very pregnant trailer-trash mama; and, of course, "Weekend Update" in which she is reliably funny, and which features her infamous and really hilarious rap about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Not to mention that voters might get all sentimental because it was her final season at "SNL." But are these reasons enough for Amy to win? Maybe it might have helped her to submit an episode featuring one of her brilliant Hillary Clinton impersonations. Perhaps, however, her “Palin Rap” is all that voters will need to tick off her name in an otherwise less-than-competitive category.

I really welcomed Kristen Wiig's nomination. For me, she was the standout of the "SNL" cast last season. Having the benefit of one of the sketches in Amy Poehler's episode, Kristen has submitted wisely here. In her episode, Kristen is featured as a nutcase Kathie Lee Gifford in the "Today Show," which is probably a "love it" or "hate it" kind of performance (I'm in the "love it" camp); one of her best and most adored characters finally got a sketch last season in "Penelope in Group Therapy," which is brilliant and delivers major laughs; and although she doesn't do very much in "Curtains for Broadway?" she is at least mildly amusing in the "Whopper Virgins" pretaped skit. The main question about this performance is whether voters are ready to honor sketch comedy players in the acting categories. If they are, and they aren't too impressed with Amy Poehler's swan song submission, then Kristen Wiig would be a deserving winner.

Jane Krakowski, finally nominated, is, unfortunately, a little hamstrung by her episode, which is crazy, fun and even a little charming, but probably not enough for a win. Being the only performer from what is obviously Emmy's favorite comedy right now will help her, though, so it is still possible for Krakowski to triumph with an episode that is not too terrible.

I was disappointed that Elizabeth Perkins submitted "No Man is Pudding" – it does feature some laughs, and makes you feel for her character, but Mary-Louise Parker owns this episode, and I just don't think it is enough to get Perkins over the line. But I would still love to see Perkins accomplish a surprise upset win. Many winners in the past have been able to overcome less than perfect material to triumph (just ask Blythe Danner about her second win for her work in "Huff").

Vanessa Williams is not as bad in the "Ugly Betty" finale as some might make out. She schemes, she sneers, she pouts and she sashays across the room as she usually does so well. But I can't really remember laughing much when I viewed her scenes. I think it was nice of voters to nominate Vanessa, and it would be great to see her win one day, but I think she will sit this one out.

Over the past decade, winners in this category tended to deliver the most balanced episodes (Doris Roberts x 4, Jaime Pressly, Megan Mullally x 2, Cynthia Nixon and Jean Smart) with range, screen time and especially laughs. Last year Jean Smart arguably had one of the better episode submissions and won over Amy Poehler, who most commentators thought had the funniest and most winning submission. If Amy Poehler can't win for a killer episode last year, then maybe she will sit this one out as well.

All of that being said, I am really going out on a limb here and betting on Kristin Chenoweth to surprise a few.

1.) Amy Poehler, "Saturday Night Live" ("Josh Brolin")
2.) Kristin Chenoweth, "Pushing Daisies" ("Bad Habits")
3.) Kristen Wiig, "Saturday Night Live" ("Neil Patrick Harris")
4.) Jane Krakowski, "30 Rock" ("The Ones")
5.) Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds" ("No Man Is Pudding")
6.) Vanessa Williams, "Ugly Betty" ("The Fall Issue")

BOOMER'S COMMENTARY: Wow! This category is very confusing for anyone predicting it!  First of all, let's rule out Vanessa Williams for not only submitting poorly, but also for the show taking a steep downturn in quality and ratings this season. 

Elizabeth Perkins finally has an episode with decent screen time (a problem with her past efforts), but just hardly any humor at all (IMO).

Beyond those two ladies, a case can be made for everyone else with none of them being a certainty to win.  I really enjoyed Jane Krakowski's performance on her episode, but screen time is probably not enough (along with this showcasing more than usual her character's selfishness and almost killing Kenneth a few times).

Kristen Wiig has tons of sketches (including great impersonations of Kathie Lee Gifford and Jamie Lee Curtis, her Penelope character, etc.) but is beyond annoying with some of the characters (especially in the engagement sketch on Poehler's episode).  She is an incredible performer and is doing exactly what is needed for the show, but I just wonder if these annoying traits will get on voters' nerves.

Kristin Chenoweth easily gives the best overall acting performance and has so many wonderful moments while as a nun involved in that week's murder mystery. The show hasn't done too well with Emmy wins, and the cancelation doesn't do her any favors either.  I just don't think she can overcome those outer factors. 

And that brings me to Amy Poehler.  While Poehler only has a couple of sketches plus her typically great work on "Weekend Update," it is the unbelievable "Palin Rap" performance that is one of the single most memorable moments from the past season on any show.  I think voters are aware of the outstanding job she has done on "SNL" over the past few years and will be tempted to reward her with an Emmy, not only for this episode, but for everything else as well. This happens from time to time with these judging panels (in fact, many of us feel that Alec Baldwin won last year for one single amazing scene last year -- plus for co-anchoring a favorite Emmy show and for never having won an Emmy until then).


Emmy clawfest over best comedy actress: Tina Fey vs. Toni Collette (and watch out for Christina Applegate! Meow!)

Dueling Emmy predix: Alec Baldwin vs. Steve Carell

Best supporting comedy actor: Neil Patrick Harris, Rainn Wilson or Jon Cryer?

Photos: ABC, NBC

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