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Emmy contenders: Jane Lynch has a secret advantage

August 9, 2011 | 12:51 pm

Glee Jane LynchAs the Emmys approach, Jane Lynch may look like the inevitable winner of best supporting comedy actress. Not only did she bag the category last year, but now she's hosting the Emmycast. But beware: She doesn't have the advantage she had last year -– she doesn't have that single powerhouse episode of "Glee" to submit to Emmy judges.

Last year, Lynch won for "The Power of Madonna," which was an impressive showcase for her skills as an actress, comedian, singer and dancer. She may have been competing in the supporting category, but she had so much screen time in that segment she seemed like a lead star.

The episode Lynch submitted this year isn't a blockbuster. "Funeral" is much more quiet and subdued as Lynch's character, Sue, mourns the loss of her sister, who had Down's Syndrome. Lynch shows a sadder and angrier side of her character and she doesn't get a chance to show off comedic skills. And she has much less screen time than she did in "The Power of Madonna."

Lynch does have another advantage this year though. She appears extensively in the episode submitted to Emmy judges by rival nominee Kristen Wiig. For some unknown reason, Wiig entered the episode of "Saturday Night Live" hosted by Lynch last fall. It's a perfect showcase for Lynch to show off her chops as a singer and comedian as she appears in a wide range of skits. It's a great complement to the dramatic performance Lynch gives on her own "Glee" submission, thus showing off her range as a performer.

Often this phenomenon helps a star to win. Felicity Huffman won for comedy actress in 2005 when her "Desperate Housewives" castmates Marcia Cross and Teri Hatcher submitted episodes that assisted Huffman in showing off her range. The same crossover aided Eric Stonestreet in 2010 (up against Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family"), Cynthia Nixon in 2004 (up against Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis, "Sex and the City"), and all throughout Emmy history ("The West Wing" supporting actors, "The Golden Girls" lead actresses, etc.).

Lynch has two competitors again this year who might also have a little bit of residual effect from double submissions: Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara are both nominated for "Modern Family." Bowen submitted "Strangers on a Treadmill," which doesn't offer any extra boost for Vergara. Vergara chose "Slow Down Your Neighbors," which does provide a good-sized plotline for Bowen to gain a few more votes. It is probably not enough, however, to counter the nearly two hours of comedy and drama that Lynch has.

The final obstacle for Lynch to overcome this year: Emmy queen Betty White. With five prime-time Emmys already on her mantle, White might receive some votes just for being a legendary comedy veteran. If voters are watching the actual "Hot in Cleveland" episode she submitted, "Free Elka," she has a great opening scene in the jail cell with her former boss Mary Tyler Moore, but after that has little more to do than provide a punchline here and there. The final race is probably a tight one between Lynch and White, with the extra range and screentime most likely helping Lynch to a photo finish.

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-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Jane Lynch, right, and Lauren Potter in the "Funeral" episode of "Glee." Credit: Fox

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