A polarizing title and ABC’s inexplicable refusal to test it in the post-Modern Family time slot doomed Trophy Wife to a one-season run. But for those who lucky enough to discover the hidden sitcom gem, the mixture of warmth, silliness and mischief that Akerman brought to the title role of Kate Harrison — third wife and inexperienced stepmom — made the show a can’t-miss proposition. Can Emmy really ignore an actress who can transform an absinthe-fueled Christmas eve blackout into a heartwarming holiday episode?
Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project
You could call Kaling’s Dr. Mindy Lahiri shallow and self-absorbed and a little ridiculous, and nobody would argue otherwise. But the star (and executive producer) of Fox’s brilliant Tuesday-night comedy balances those sharp notes with enough sweetness and vulnerability that her character actually winds up being far more loveable (not to mention infinitely more interesting) than your average rom-com heroine. Add to the equation Kaling’s unparalleled ability to toss off brilliant non-sequiturs (“I actually zero out my fridge every night before I go to bed”) as casually as she breathes in the air, and you’ve got a must-nominate situation in Emmyland.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
We were never quite able to look away from the screen as Selina Meyer spiraled downward each week, and it’s all because of Louis-Dreyfus’ hysterical performance as the sharp-tongued vice president. As Selina’s presidential campaign got underway in Season 3 of the HBO comedy, Louis-Dreyfus made her character cattier, brattier and more selfish than ever — and we loved every second. Bonus points for the actress’ unparalleled ability to turn an f-bomb into a guaranteed guffaw.
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Between saying an emotional goodbye to her best friend, finding out she was pregnant with triplets (!), being recalled as City Councilwoman (before getting her dream job) and freaking out over meeting Michelle Obama, Leslie Knope had quite the year. And through it all, the incomparable Poehler made her driven-yet-kind, flustered-but-in-control and unrelentingly optimistic performance look effortless.
Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Fiona’s struggles in Season 4 — drug abuse, going to prison, almost losing her family — were no laughing matter. But it would be a crime to ignore Rossum’s stellar performance, which somehow topped her already terrific work in past seasons, just because the show’s producers have chosen to compete in the comedy category this year.
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Maybe it was her spot-on parodies of The Newsroom and Chopped. Maybe it was the way she mocked everything from pole dancing classes to health spas to celebrity diet fads. Regardless of why or how, Schumer returned to Comedy Central this season with an even sharper eye for the absurdities of everyday life. And while her arsenal of facial expressions and Valley Girl accents is reason enough for an Emmy nod, Schumer is most deserving for the clever observational humor that had us in stitches every week.