There's a curious trend in category placement at the Emmys this year. Lots of female stars who were formerly competing in the supporting slot have promoted themselves — wisely or foolishly — to lead. Lots of the moves, let's just say, aren't wise and are probably being made for ego reasons. One star, Tracey Ullman ("State of the Union"), is being forced to switch due to rule changes. Others are making the move freely: Connie Britton ("Friday Night Lights"), Anna Gunn ("Breaking Bad"), Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"). Hmmm … why is only Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men") moving in the opposite direction, humbly dropping from lead to supporting?
NOTE: There's a mistake on the HBO DVD campaign box shipped to Emmy voters. Jane Adams ("Hung") is listed in lead, but she's actually been entered in the supporting category.
I asked our resident Emmy sages Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria (AwardsHeaven) to give us their opinions:
BOOMER: One interesting aspect of television is that certain actors and actresses can become more important or less important to the story line from season to season. That is why it is smart to consider switching from lead to supporting (or vice versa) based on the material. An actor or actress also has to be aware of the competition, though. I don't believe in the notion of "category fraud" for the most part. For a person on the borderline between lead and supporting, the final category decision should always be weighted toward the one that gives that person the best chance to be nominated and win.
ROB L: My general view on category switcheroos is that it's a good thing; an actor's role in a series should move organically between lead, supporting and guest as the case may be from season to season. Recent examples include Julianna Margulies ("ER"), Allison Janney ("The West Wing") and Ted Danson ("Damages").
Sometimes actors do this to give other cast members a better shot, but more likely they try to slot themselves in the category that gives them the clearest path to Emmy glory.
That is why many will wonder: What was Cheryl Hines thinking? A probable nominee is now quite unlikely. I'm not so negative on Anna Gunn's and Connie Britton's chances, and Tracey Ullman being allowed to move to lead is a good thing. I applaud Elisabeth Moss. Smart move!