If Bridesmaids did not turn out to be the surprise hit of the summer, I would have told you that Melissa McCarthy had zero chance of winning the Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress in a Comedy Series. However, that is not the case. Bridesmaids had serious legs and most reviews singled out McCarthy as the standout performer in the film. Her sitcom, Mike & Molly, gets decent enough ratings. The writing is a little thin and hasn't expanded much beyond the "two fat people at Overeater's Anonymous fall in love" gimmick, but it's not offensively bland or stale. A bit dated in its audio editing (drop the laugh track), but good enough. However, good enough is not good enough when you're up against some of the most acclaimed comedic and dramatic actresses working on television. Amy Poehler is doing amazing things on Parks and Recreation as the neurotic and naive civil servant Leslie Knope. Tina Fey is 30 Rock and is willing to humiliate herself every week for laughs. Edie Falco is an incredibly talented actress that happens to be playing into a popular Emmy type--the gruff and snarky medical professional. Martha Plimpton is killing it in the breakout sitcom of the past season (and I love her for her theater work, so bonus points awarded by the bucketful for me). And Laura Linney is three-time Academy Award nominee Laura Linney for a reason. This is not a light field in any sense.
Yet, arguably the worst sitcom took home the glory in a field of six fine actresses. It can't just be Melissa McCarthy on Mike & Molly that decided this, right? There's no way to know for sure.
What we do know is that Melissa McCarthy is not the unknown that some might paint her as. She was, for example, a series regular on the entire run of Gilmore Girls. She played the best friend of Lorelai Gilmore (the mother, Lauren Graham's character) and appeared in all but one episode of the seven season run. While it might not have been the flashiest role, McCarthy appeared in a series that was regularly nominated for the Satellite and Screen Actors Guild awards and even broke through for a Golden Globe nomination. Most of that attention went to Lauren Graham, her regular scene partner. The voters saw McCarthy connected to a frequently recognized comedic actress.
The same situation happened with the shorter lived Christina Applegate sitcom Samantha Who?. Melissa McCarthy played a series regular, appearing in every episode. Samantha Who? led to Applegate receiving Emmmy, Satellite, and Screen Actors Guild nominations for her performance. Who did the nominators have to see in every submission to nominate Applegate? McCarthy.
The Film Experience had a great write up maybe two month ago about Melissa McCarthy's film work. She's not this nobody that popped up out of nowhere this year. She just finally got involved in projects that showcased her comedic chops like nothing else in her career until that point.
So how did she win the Emmy Award? You can't say for sure. My hypothesis is this: best part of a weaker sitcom + high profile rave reviews in a breakout film + reputation for being a strong actress + likability = Emmy win on the first nomination.
It was worth it no matter how it came about for her Miss America moment on the telecast.
Now that's comedy.
What do you think? Did the voters get this one wrong? Sound off below.