Unless you’re an entertainment journalist, TV nerd or awards geek, most people don’t realize that, come Emmy time, the members of the television academy don’t judge an acting nominee based on the body of work he or she put forth on their show during a particular season.
No, the procedure has basically been the same since time immemorial: The actor submits an episode that he or she feels represents his or her best work, the academy members get a screener of that episode, and the winner is determined on that basis.
In a way, it evens the playing field a bit, since each actor is judged just based on what he or she thinks is their best work. So the season full of emotionally wrenching scenes from Michelle Forbes of “The Killing”, for instance, won’t be judged against Christine Baranski‘s more straightforward body of work in “The Good Wife.”
But it also leads to episodes that look like “awards bait.” For instance, even though Jane Lynch‘s character of Sue Sylvester had a very spotty second season on “Glee,” Lynch could very well win again because she submitted her excellent work in “Funeral,” the episode where Sue loses her sister. Savvy TV watchers can spot these episodes right away: In fact, as we watched that episode, the thought running through our head was, “Dammit, she just won herself another Emmy with that one.”
Our friends at Gold Derby always do a very good job of ferreting out the episodes that each actor (and series… they submit a strip of episodes, which we’ll discuss at another time) submits, and based on the lists the site recently released, there are some intriguing selections there:
Jane Lynch, “Glee”: It wasn’t a big surprise that Lynch submitted “Funeral,” because it was a rare chance for Lynch to show a dramatic and human side of Sue, especially in a season where the character was increasingly becoming a cartoon. But she was also able to handle what seems to be a big transition for her character — she’s stopped trying to destroy the glee club and will instead run for Congress — and make it look natural.
Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”: Considering many thought “The Suitcase” was the best episode of the show’s fourth season, it would make sense that both Hamm and Moss would submit it for Emmy consideration. It’s intriguing, though, because of the fact that it was a classic “bottle episode,” shot in few locations and featuring only those two members of the cast. Both did their best work of the season in the episode — Don Draper sobs like a baby! — but it would have been interesting if either submitted a different episode.
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”: Poehler submitted “Flu Season,” and for a good reason: She played what could have been a slapsticky episode just right. Her character, Leslie Knope, was swept up in Pawnee’s flu epidemic, and Poehler managed to show Leslie in some semblance of control while hallucinating that, for instance, the wall and floor had switched places. It was Poehler’s best episode in a season full of good performances.
Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family”: The episode Vergara submitted, “Slow Down Your Neighbors,” was a bit of head-scratcher, as it’s more of a showcase for her fellow supporting actress nominee Julie Bowen (she submitted “Strangers on a Treadmill”), and the scenes where Vergara’s character Gloria tries to learn how to ride a bike where funny but silly. We can think of at least three episodes where Vergara showed a broader range than she did in this one.
Mireille Enos, “The Killing”: Enos’ submission of “Missing” is interesting since it was the only episode in the entire series that had little to do with the ongoing storyline involving the murder of Rosie Larsen. Her character, Det. Sarah Linden, and her partner, Det. Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), spend most of the episode looking for Linden’s missing son. While we found out a lot about Linden in this episode — one that was a refreshing break from the relentless storyline, albeit a break that came too late in the season — the fact that she didn’t submit something from an episode that was Larsen-case-centric tells you all you need to know about why this show went downhill from a very promising start.
Which episode submissions have you intrigued?