Friday, August 26, 2005

Women on Top! But Who Lands the Prime Position?

The ladies are certainly giving the men a run for their money. It used to be rare to find well-rounded, balanced roles for women in television, so the ladies didn't always get to show off their incredible talent. Now, women are commanding one hour dramas, and writers are writing more dimensional and dynamic roles for women. So, it is the time of the woman in television, and these incredible ladies prove it every week. As was the case with the men, there are far too many deserving females on primetime television, so we once again have a tie. Here are my favorite female television actresses.

5. Emily Vancamp (Amy Abbott, Everwood) - Amy Abbott hasn't had the easiest three years, and Emily has navigated through all of the ups and downs like a pro. She makes Amy real and very relatable. With just an expression or a look on her face, you know what Amy is thinking. With Rose's cancer this season, Emily showed us how strong Amy has become these last three seasons. Perhaps in was the death of her boyfriend and the depression that followed from it, or just the normal teenage perils, but Amy has become a strong, able woman and Emily has shown us the transformation. She manages to make us feel bad for Amy even when we don't agree with her actions. And when it came time for Amy to be there for Ephram after he had been there for her for so long, Amy stepped up. Emily showed us the complexity of the issue, though, because it involved a child Ephram had with someone else. Emily makes Amy the most realistic and relatable teen on TV while also taking us through Amy's difficult times earning her a spot on the list.

5. Yunjin Kim (Sun Kwon, Lost) - Yunjin blew me away this season on Lost! Like most of the cast, she was a relative unknown before the show premiered, but she made a huge impression right off. Part of the credit definitely goes to the incredible writing staff on Lost because they have given their actors so much brilliant material. But, a lot of the credit also goes to the magnificent cast, and Yunjin stands out against the other talents. She gives Sun heart, and we literally see the conflict between her and husband Jin (the excellent Daniel Dae Kim) with each delivery of her lines and every expression on her face. The season finale left me with tears in my eyes as I watched the poignant scene between the two of them as Jin leaves on the raft. Yunjin played that scene so well because we could see just how hurt Sun was and how much she was longing to reconcile with Jin. Just one of many well played scenes from Yunjin, and the reason she landed on my list.

4. Mariska Hargitay (Det. Olivia Benson, Law & Order: SVU) - Like her partner in crime Christopher Meloni, Mariska has the difficulty of showing us her acting chops on a show that allows for very little character development. But, for anyone who saw the episode "Charisma" from last season, you know that Mariska certainly has them. That episode alone should earn her the Emmy win this year. When Olivia hears the gun shots from outside the home, Mariska has a look that tells us all we need to know - the children in the cult were inside. The sad scene that follows in the house is overwhelming (and presumably why the producers left the scene silent with no underscore or dialog), and these are only the opening scenes. Mariska continues to take us through the gripping story of the charismatic cult leader and his control over a young girl. Mariska brings such compassion to Olivia and yet, such toughness, especially when Olivia is interrogating her suspects. It's a nice dichotomy and the reason Mariska ranks on the list.

3. Jennifer Garner (Sydney Bristow, Alias) - Jennifer is another deserving actress of an Emmy win this year. She always manages to bring her "A game" to Alias, which is a very physically demanding show. She gives Sydney a tough edge, but she's always sure to show us Syd's softer side as well. The role of Sydney Bristow is made even more difficult by the constant transformation the super spy has to make in order to fool her enemies. Sometimes Jennifer has to put on believable accents and other times she's seducing men for information, while never going too far. Jennifer easily moves between chasing down suspects and sharing a quiet, tender moment with Vaughn (Michael Vartan). Her impeccable range as an actress is amazing, and thus, why she lands on the list.

And finally, we have a tie for first place.......drum role......

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars) - As I have stated many times before, I've only seen the four episodes that aired on CBS this summer, but I was instantly impressed with Kristen. So impressed, that I couldn't decide between her and fellow top spot holder Kathryn Morris. They are both talented actresses, and they both really showed their stuff this season. Kristen gives Veronica an edge, but still makes us want to have Veronica as our friend. Kristen could have easily played the character as the cute, popular type given the actress's cuteness, but she took the script and gave Veronica the tougher side that makes the character so appealing. She has great delivery, especially when she's giving us Veronica's more sarcastic replies. Kristen doesn't let the audience forget that Veronica has some issues from her past that she carries with her, but she also doesn't hit us over the head with it. Veronica is an extremely complex character, and Kristen's ability to play to all the complexities earns her the (shared) top spot on the list.

1. Kathryn Morris (Det. Lilly Rush, Cold Case) - Kathryn is coming off a very difficult season for Lilly Rush. She took Lilly through the sudden arrival of her troubled sister and the conflict that ensued, the realization that the team isn't going to get every murderer - some will slip through including a serial killer, the discovery that her partner and sister were sleeping together, learning that her sister is wanted in New York, and the final showdown between Lilly and serial killer George Marks. The last difficulty is what earned Kathryn the (shared) top spot on the list. In an emotional and demanding fifteen minute scene, Lilly tells George about what happened to her as a child. Kathryn handled the scene beautifully. She never let the audience feel that Lilly had lost control. Even during her sobbing scenes where she had to detail the attack that happened to Lilly when she was ten, you could tell she wasn't going to tell George everything he wanted to hear. And when push came to shove and George forced Lilly to shoot him, Kathryn told us all we needed to know about how Lilly felt with the expression on her face. It was just one of many of her amazing moments this season, and what earns her the (shared) number one spot.

So, those are my picks for my favorite television actresses. Do you agree? Disagree? What did you think about the week of favorites? Leave me a note with your thoughts and picks.


*Sean Astin is joining the cast of the Fox drama 24 this season. He's one of several new cast members including Jean Smart and Connie Britton to join the hit show's fifth season. Fox isn't saying much about Astin's role, other then that he'll be a part of the Counter Terrorism Unit per zap2it. For more information on the cast additions including spoilers, visit The Futon Critic. 24 premieres January 8th on Fox.

*TNT will air an extra ten minutes of their hit show The Closer for its first season finale. The special 70 minute episode will find Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) charged with "conduct unbecoming" an officer per zap2it. The show has already been picked up for a second season. The season finale airs September 5th on TNT.

*The people of Miami need to board up their homes and stay inside this weekend, and it's not just for hurricane Katrina. MTV's fashion challenged Video Music Awards air live from Miami Sunday night. Scheduled performers include Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Coldplay, and Kelly Clarkson. Sean "Diddy" Combs will host the show.

*Details about House's second premiere are leaking out. Fox released the episode description for the September 13th premiere. Visit The Futon Critic for all the details and spoilers.

*And finally, HBO's epic new series Rome begins its 12-episode run this Sunday. The show follows the lives of the citizens of ancient Rome back when it was the most wealthy city in the world. For a review on the show, visit

That's all for today. I hope you enjoyed the week of favorites! Be sure to tune in next week for a special "throwback" column about past great shows. And coming up Monday, the Fox show Prison Break escapes early! Also, all the latest television news all week long.


1980champs said...

Really no opinion, but kinda ironic that Kathryn Morris and Kathryn Morris, JR., aka Kristen Bell, are tied for number one. Seriously, if you haven't watched Veronica Mars, watch at least to see what Kathryn Morris the elder looked like when she was a teenager.

tati said...

Totally agree about Mariska Hargitay. She's amazing! She's one of the most talented actress in primetime nowadays. I get very happy to see her getting acknowledgement for her work. And Kathryn... what can I say? When I first saw her in Cold Case she was completely unkown to me. First scene I ever saw of CC was a personal Lilly scene on Fly Away, obviously played beautifully by Kathryn. I can't believe it took her that long to get her big break. I had the opportunity to see her on different roles and I was also impressed. She entered my list of favorites for good, even for when CC is not in the air anymore (like, 10 years from now, I hope!).
Last, I have to say I fully agree with 1980champs above. Kristen Bell would make an awesome young Kathryn. I can totally see her playing teenage Lilly on Cold Case.

Can't wait to see your picks on the past shows next week!! :)

Ranty said...

We're a slightly Cold Case-biased bunch. Anyway, couldn't agree more with everything you've said. I hadn't noticed the physical similarity between Kristen Bell and KM? Prolly wouldn't have if it had hit me on the head like a ton of bricks. I'm not familiar with Mariska Hargitay, but from what I hear, she's in a league of her own. Jennifer and the girl on Lost I really don't know. But I'll keep my eyes peeled for them.

suekola44 said...

I'm sorry tvfan but lauren Graham has to be up there with the top two ties to make it a three-way. She plays Loralea Gilmore brilliantly! I do not know when the emmys are going to wake up and give her the accolades she is so deserving of.

Instant Ignorance said...

Yeah, I gotta back up suekola44. Lauren Graham is pretty brilliant. Anyway you could put her in 2nd place.

Magnolia said...

I agree that both Kristen Bell and Kathryn Morris are great. I would give the edge to Kristen Bell, if only because Veronica Mars has to be the single most complicated and layered lead character on television right now, and one of the most complex ever, imho.

Lilly on CC is great, but Veronica has to deal with so much tragedy and angst, but also has that biting sarcasm that Kristen Bell just nails perfectly with her line delivery. There are few actors who can handle both comedy and tragic melodrama equally well, and KB does it beautifully. For an actress as young as she is, her performance is nothing short of spectacular.

I also love Jennifer Garner and Mariska Hargitay and Emily Van Camp, who are all great in their roles. But comparing Amy Abbott to Veronica Mars . . . well, I can't think of an appropriate analogy. But Amy is pretty much winsome and melancholy 99% of the time, while Veronica expresses anger, rage, pain, sarcasm, embarrassment, and more in every other episode. I can easily imagine Kristen Bell in the role of Amy, but it's impossible to imagine anyone other than KB playing Veronica.