Do the Emmys have something against science fiction? For three seasons, respected veteran actors Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell have been delivering the hands-down best performances on television, on a show with a devoted critical and fan following, yet they have never been nominated. Is it because said show is titled Battlestar Galactica and was inspired by a cheesy 1970s space opera? Or maybe because it's on the basic-cable Sci Fi Channel? Regardless, in a time when everyone complains about a dearth of good roles for women, it's ridiculous to see McDonnell overlooked time and again. As President Laura Roslin, the leader of the survivors of a war that wiped out most of the human race, McDonnell has landed the role of a lifetime. This is an actor who never did much for me in films such as Dances With Wolves and Sneakers; there was always something vaguely detached about her work on the big screen. But as Roslin, McDonnell is giving the sort of bravura performance that wins Oscars. She is by turns ethereal, steely, and, yes, presidential.
McDonnell is the most obvious victim of the Emmys' shortsightedness, but Battlestar is filled with excellent actors doing consistently stellar work. All the supporting female actors on the show—Grace Park, Katee Sackhoff, and Tricia Helfer—are worthy of nomination for some of the most complex female roles on television. Sure, Edie Falco deserves her awards for playing Carmela Soprano, but let's not forget Park plays dual roles, each with a mind-boggling backstory: Sharon is the Cylon robot who yearns to fit into humanity; Boomer believed she was human and is now taking a place of power among the Cylon leaders. That Park manages to make each character so individual and distinguished is a testament to the actor's abilities.
Battlestar may be a victim of its genre, but other actors get overlooked for worse reasons. Take a show whose lead actor gets all the attention while the equally talented supporting cast goes virtually ignored. Hugh Laurie is one of the best actors on television and has earned two Golden Globe Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role as the title character on Fox's medical drama House. That he wasn't nominated for an Emmy last year is still an embarrassment to the television academy, one sure to be rectified this year. Although Laurie deserves the attention he has received, he heads up a flawless ensemble that is just as worthy of note. As House's put-upon best friend, Dr. James Wilson, Robert Sean Leonard has taken the art of annoyed exasperation to new heights. His performance after House spiked Wilson's coffee with an amphetamine should win Leonard a slot in the competition. And where would House be without his underlings—the reliably excellent Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison, and Jesse Spencer—to belittle and humiliate?
A lead actor winning all the praise seems to be the case with freshman series Ugly Betty, though it's perhaps a bit early to tell. America Ferrera is perfect as Betty Suarez in the frothy, fun comedy, but it's the colorful canvas of supporting characters that makes the show. The women alone could fill an entire category on the Emmy ballot: delicious Becki Newton's trampy receptionist Amanda, Ana Ortiz's frank sister Hilda, Ashley Jensen's witty seamstress Christina, and Rebecca Romijn's transsexual Alexis are originals. But where would Betty be without the machinations of Wilhelmina Slater, played with obvious relish by the spectacular Vanessa Williams? Whether abusing her devoted assistant Marc (Michael Urie, equally worthy of recognition) or seducing the boss in hopes of a promotion, Wilhelmina just might be the best villainess on TV. And as long as we're on the subject of Ugly Betty, how about a nod for 12-year-old Mark Indelicato, who plays Betty's show-tune-loving, wise-beyond-his-years nephew? Indelicato has comedic timing that actors twice his age haven't mastered and regularly steals scenes in a role that could have been one-note. Bonus points for his great renditions of songs from Hairspray and West Side Story.
Some ensemble shows have breakout stars who score nominations, but here's hoping the Emmys don't just look at the usual suspects this year. Last year, Grey's Anatomy actors Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh were deservingly nominated for their work. They should be recognized again this year, but why not also make room for Katherine Heigl and Kate Walsh, both of whom enjoyed juicy story lines this year? Besides, this might be the last chance to honor Walsh: She leaves the show to headline the spinoff Private Practice in the fall, and if the new series is anything like the introductory episode wedged into Grey's this season, voters may not have the impetus to recognize her work for a while.
Here's also hoping Lost becomes a player in the Emmy race again. After winning the best drama statue and nominations for Terry O'Quinn and Naveen Andrews in its first year, the show garnered a few nominations but no wins for its sophomore season. After a reinvigorated third season, it's time to fix the mistake Emmy made two years ago in passing over O'Quinn for Boston Legal's William Shatner—come on, Shatner?—and give O'Quinn the award this year. I wouldn't object to them throwing in a nomination for the wonderfully menacing Michael Emerson, who plays Henry Gale, aka Ben, aka Benry. After three seasons of talking about the ominous "Others" on the island, the show had to deliver a great villain. Emerson was all that and more: unnerving, quietly powerful, and weirdly likable.
On the comedy side, Entourage's Jeremy Piven scored the statue for supporting actor in a comedy last year, but there's another player on the show who's been giving him a run for his money. As the older but far less successful brother to Adrian Grenier's movie star, Kevin Dillon regularly endures epic humiliations on the HBO comedy. A legend in his own mind, Dillon's Johnny Chase is at his best when at his worst. From unwittingly seducing his male massage therapist to being eavesdropped on by an entire crew during his most private of moments, Dillon has been reliably hilarious in an uneven season.
We'd like to throw in our usual pleas—sure to fall on deaf ears—for the lovely Kristen Bell of the canceled Veronica Mars. And we'd love to see first-time nominations for Ethan Suplee's terrifically dense portrayal of Randy on My Name Is Earl and Judy Reyes' turn as Nurse Carla on Scrubs. How about Jack Coleman for his tour de force performance in the "Company Man" episode of Heroes? We'll also continue to make a case for William Fichtner, who was mentioned in this space last year for ABC's Invasion. Now on Fox's Prison Break, he's still delivering knockout performances in a role full of moral ambiguity. And after seven seasons, two networks, and countless fast-paced monologues, this is voters' last chance to show love for Lauren Graham. Gilmore Girls won't be returning in the fall, and her nod is long overdue.