[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 3 of “Catastrophe.”]
Before her death in December, Carrie Fisher had already been recognized by the Television Academy via two previous Emmy nominations. But those nods – one in 2008, as a guest actress on “30 Rock,” and the other in 2011 for her special “Wishful Drinking” – ultimately didn’t translate to a win. Now, there’s a really good chance TV Academy voters will be moved to pay tribute to the beloved actress with an overdue posthumous statue.
While she appears on the big screen in the upcoming “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Fisher made her final TV appearance on the Amazon comedy “Catastrophe,” which recently released its third season. Fisher portrays Mia, the rather obnoxious mother of Rob (Rob Delaney), an American man who moved to London to marry his one-week fling Sharon (Sharon Horgan) after she became pregnant.
In this most recent season, Mia only appeared in the final episode, which qualifies Fisher to be submitted in the Guest Actress in a Comedy Emmy category. That might help her chances, as it’s a field that is often used to pay tribute to veteran actors.
True, it’s somewhat grim territory to consider this sort of accolade. There is a balance to be struck between honoring someone for sentimental reasons and for artistic merit. This is why posthumous nominations are numerous, but actual wins are rare. The nomination often feels like enough to acknowledge the loss of the actor – but when it comes to actual voting, sentiment doesn’t hold sway.
For example, after the tragic and sudden deaths of Phil Hartman and John Ritter, the actors each earned nods for their work on “News Radio” and “8 Simple Rules,” respectively, despite neither show being an Emmy favorite. These nominations were also the only nods in major or acting categories that the shows ever received (which is telling). Neither actor won. Only six actors have won Emmys posthumously, including Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn and Raul Julia.
Fisher earning a nod is considered very likely. As for her chances of winning, a number of factors could actually work in Fisher’s favor – starting with the guest acting category, which isn’t as glutted or competitive as the other acting categories. In comparison, Bill Paxton, who died in February, faces longer odds in landing a nomination (let alone a win) for his role on CBS’ TV adaptation of “Training Day,” because of incredibly strong competition in the leading actor category.
In addition, the new Emmy voting system allows a Television Academy member to vote in any category, even without watching the submitted episode(s), which favors the popular vote. That could lean votes more towards a sentimental favorite.
“Carrie’s rep could enter her in the competition,” said Television Academy awards senior vice president John Leverence. “If she gets nominated and wins, the Television Academy would have a discussion with the producer about whether the Academy – in the person of the Emmy presenter – would accept on her behalf, or if all interested parties – Academy, show, Carrie’s reps – would arrange to have a surrogate, on-stage acceptor.”
“Catastrophe” is a critical darling, although less recognized at the Emmys. where it has only earned one nod, for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy. Fisher’s performance on the show has always earned positive reviews, and her outing in the season finale was highly praised not only for her comedic timing and ad-libbing, but also for a surprisingly dramatic turn in which she reveals she had been battered by her late husband, an alcoholic.
Set aside Fisher’s death, and her actual performance was worthy of a genuine, non-sentimental nomination on its merit. That’s why Fisher’s chances would be good for a well-earned win no matter what.