By Andrew Rabin
Earlier in the week, we debuted our nominees for this month’s Hall of Fame. Today Rabin’s back with his statistical analysis to help you vote in this month’s race.
Back in January I introduced you to ACTOR. As we head into the comedy phase of the nominees, the equation stays the same. So how do these eight nominees stack up?
Well. They stack up very, very well. We’ll get to how they rank in the comedy lead actress sample set in a minute, but many of these picks rank high among the 300 actors and actresses whose ACTOR was calculated over the past three months. Among this month’s eight nominees, there are three of the top five, five of the top twenty, and seven of the top fifty. Five of this month’s nominees rank above the previously highest ranked inductee, James Garner as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. Even the lowest ranking of this month’s nominees ranks two spots ahead of one of last month’s inductees, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Here’s how this month’s nominee stack up against each other:
Those are some exceptionally high scores. Here are all the nominees over the past three months, with this month’s nominees in purple, inductees in blue, and rejected nominees in green:
Now on to the nominee comparisons!
Lucille Ball, Lucy Ricardo, I Love Lucy
Ball as Lucy Ricardo ranks first, not only among the 100 lead comedy actresses in this sample set, but among all 300 characters I have run the ACTOR formula on as well. Perhaps even more impressive, Ball’s less famous roles in The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy rank 17th and 53rd respectively among lead actresses in a comedy. Anyway, Lucille Ball is the benchmark for television comedy, regardless of gender. While I am sure someone will vote “no,” she deserves 100% yes votes.
Jean Stapleton, Edith Bunker, All in the Family
The Emmys and Golden Globes both loved Jean Stapleton. There is not really much to say here statistically; a legendary role is an easy yes.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Elaine Benes, Seinfeld
Awards shows also loved Julia Louis-Dreyfus (and they still do). JLD (along with fellow nominee Marilu Henner) played an unusual “lead” performance for a comedy where she was neither the clear primary character (a la Ball, Moore, Bergen, and Barr) nor a member of the central couple in the series (a la Stapleton and Rashād). Very few similar roles would be considered leading roles rather than supporting roles today (Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope is the only one I can think of), and JLD did, in fact, submit herself in the supporting category at the Emmys. But as Elaine was clearly the central female character of Seinfeld and once considered in this category, she is a slam dunk for election.
Mary Tyler Moore, Mary Richards, The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Once you get past Mary Tyler Moore ranking below Jennifer Aniston in Friends (the popular and long-running success of Friends had all three women ranking high, with Lisa Kudrow at 5 and Courteney Cox at 22), MTM is another easy yes vote. In fact, MTM joins fellow nominee Lucille Ball in domination of this list, with her performance as Laura Petrie coming in 11th. And The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a statistical powerhouse itself, the Oakland Athletics of television comedy. Along with the eponymous MTM, the spinoffs of the series produced Cloris Leachman’s 9th ranked Phyllis Lindstrom on Phyllis, Valerie Harper’s 12th ranked Rhoda Morganstern on Rhoda, and, in the men’s drama category, Ed Asner’s 18th ranked Lou Grant in Lou Grant. But this information is just trivia, another obvious yes vote.
Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown, Murphy Brown
Murphy Brown is a show that has, perhaps, not aged well, full of at-the-moment cultural references and a limited syndication presence. But Candice Bergen won FIVE Emmy Awards for Best Actress in a Comedy for this role, the most for any woman in one role. And after winning those FIVE Emmy Awards, she did not submit herself for nomination for the final three seasons of the series. Yet another clear Hall of Famer.
Roseanne Barr, Roseanne Conner, Roseanne
Roseanne ranks sixth among these nominees, which is typically the point where we talk about borderline picks. But Roseanne also ranks 13th overall. She’s ahead of Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show! Barr has the highest Ranked Points score in the sample set, showing just how impactful her character was. Another yes vote here.
Phylicia Rashād, Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show
Rashād suffers a bit because of a significant lack of award recognition. Despite being a major hit series (Rashād’s Televised Points score ranks fourth behind only the three Friends women), The Cosby Show was not an awards monster, perhaps due to Bill Cosby’s refusal to submit himself for nomination. It is difficult to find information as to whether Rashād submitted herself for nomination or not, she ended up with only two Best Actress nominations. Still, Rashād played a legendary character and in any other category would be a slam dunk with her ACTOR score, so this is yet another yes.
Marilu Henner, Elaine O’Connor Nardo, Taxi
And that leaves us with Marilu Henner. Taxi was a reasonably long lasting but low rated series, and Henner received five Golden Globe nominations for her role without ever winning. But that is about it. Not to knock Taxi, a legendary and important series (and one of the first covered by this very website), but this is not the memorable, all time great role that the other seven nominees are. In a class this strong, Henner just does not quite make the cut.
So that leaves an extraordinarily strong Hall of Fame ballot with strong “yes” recommendations for Lucille Ball, Jean Stapleton, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary Tyler Moore, Candice Bergen, Roseanne Barr, and Phylicia Rashād, and a “no” vote for Marilu Henner. Who are you voting for?