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Emmy predix: Lily Tomlin will win best guest drama actress for 'Damages'

July 26, 2010 |  8:24 am

Our Emmy experts Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria ( agree that Lily Tomlin will win her first performance Emmy for her guest turn as a mean mama on the drama series "Damages." In 1996, Tomlin contended in this same category for "Homicide: Life on the Street" losing to Amanda Plummer for "The Outer Limits." This versatile talent -- who earned her first Emmy nomination in 1972 for her character roles on "Laugh-In" -- won three writing Emmys in the 1970s as well as one for her special "Lily: Sold Out" in 1981.

Among the other actresses in contention are two Oscar winners -- Sissy Spacek ("Coal Miner's Daughter") for "Big Love" and Shirley Jones ("Elmer Gantry") for "The Cleaner" -- as well as Emmy champ Mary Kay Place for her recurring role on "Big Love." After losing lead actress in a movie or miniseries four times and supporting once, Ann-Margret is looking for her first Emmy win for a turn on "Law & Order: SVU." Rounding out the roster is Elizabeth Mitchell, who picked up her first Emmy nom for reprising her regular role on "Lost."

1. Lily Tomlin, "Damages" ("Your Secrets Are Safe")
2. Sissy Spacek, "Big Love" ("End of Days")
3. Ann-Margret, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" ("Bedtime")
4. Mary Kay Place, "Big Love" ("The Mighty & the Strong")
5. Shirley Jones, "The Cleaner" ("Does Everybody Have a Drink?")
6. Elizabeth Mitchell, "Lost" ("The End, Parts 1 & 2")

ROB'S COMMENTARY: This category was difficult to judge. Not one of the six episodes I viewed really knocked my socks off. I would love nothing more than to say that Elizabeth Mitchell will win this Emmy. Beloved by fans of the show for a few seasons now, I suspect this nomination is more about honoring her for that rather than for her two or three main scenes in the "Lost" finale. She just isn't given enough to do, and, if we are basing opinions on episodes alone, then she is at a real disadvantage.

Same goes for Shirley Jones, who is given much more to do (a drunk, a worried mother, a cabaret performer), but, frankly, the quality of the writing lets her down. I can't imagine a win for her here. Mary Kay Place has been excellent on "Big Love" over the years, so her inclusion in this category was a welcome surprise for me. She essentially has two great scenes to work with, but I still have the feeling that it will not be enough to get her over the line.

Ann-Margret on the other hand is just way over the top, almost ridiculous in her episode, and yet she is given much more to do (i.e. screen time) and even though her performance may be seen as a little too hammy, this hasn't stopped voters from rewarding "SVU" guest actresses before (hello, Cynthia Nixon). Plus, it's Ann-Margret, and that might just count for something.

The reality is the two front-runners in this category are the two biggest names (not a surprise, as the guest acting categories have always been a celebrity prize). Sissy Spacek has an outstanding opening scene with Bill Paxton and third scene in the Paxton family home. She also gets to say the best line of the category, comparing Bill Henrickson to a piñata: "Every time I give you a whack, more goodies fall out."

Lily Tomlin was absolutely brilliant in her run as the Tobin matriarch in "Damages" and, if she was able to include a few scenes from later episodes, she would be the shoo-in front-runner. That she has chosen the season premiere disadvantages her slightly, as she is given three main scenes in which she plays it cool,  unlike later in the season when everything appears to unravel for her character. That being said, the extended interview scene with Glenn Close and Martin Short is fantastic and memorable, and I think may be enough to get her over the line.

1. Lily Tomlin, "Damages" ("Your Secrets Are Safe")
2. Sissy Spacek, "Big Love" ("End of Days")
3. Mary Kay Place, "Big Love" ("The Mighty & the Strong")
4. Shirley Jones, "The Cleaner" ("Does Everybody Have a Drink?")
5. Ann-Margret, "Law & Order: SVU" ("Bedtime")
6. Elizabeth Mitchell, "Lost" ("The End")

BOOMER'S COMMENTARY: This category appears to be a three-way battle between Lily Tomlin, Sissy Spacek and Mary Kay Place, but nobody knocks it out of the park to take command of the race. I am predicting Tomlin to win based on her past Emmy success and the fact that she plays against type with a dramatic role. She is very good in basically two scenes (one with Glenn Close and one with Campbell Scott) and is actually mesmerizing through her time on screen.

Spacek and Place also have some good moments within their episodes, but I just have seen no evidence so far that Emmy voters like "Big Love" very much. That also helps Tomlin with some extra points in my prediction analysis. Shirley Jones does the best she can with the weak material on a deservedly canceled program. She also gets to play against the "good mom" typecasting she has suffered through for decades.

Many "SVU" guest actresses have been nominated (and a few have won) over the years, but Ann-Margret is almost laughably bad in this soapy, muddled episode. I would love to see Elizabeth Mitchell with an Emmy (she deserved nominations several times for supporting actress), but she had limited time and scenes on the series finale.


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Photos, from top: Lily Tomlin in "Damages." Credit: FX. Tomlin as Ernestine on "Laugh-In." Credit: NBC.

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