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TeeVee Awards 2000: Best Actress, Half-Hour

Pity poor Patricia Heaton. The capable actress, blessed with an expressive face and the ability to conjure Everymom with the turn of a phrase, got passed over last year in favor of Felicity Huffman. Last year, we thought it was a good thing: Huffman brought kinetic comedy and uneasy brains to one of the best roles for women on television.

Then the space aliens took over the brain of Dana, Huffman's character on Sports Night, and she spent most of that shows final season dropping by the desk of Isaac (Robert Guillaume) to dither charmingly between scenes in the forthcoming Lifetime movie "Forgotten Competence." Patricia seemed poised to take home the coveted TeeVee award -- just desserts for turning in another year's worth of delightful performances as Debra on Everybody Loves Raymond.

Unfortunately, two things derailed Patricia. The first was a groundswell of support for Debra Jo Rupp who, as Kitty Forman on That '70s Show, provided the show with a steel-buttercup persona. Playing a deliberately blithe persona against the splenetic charms of Kurtwood Smith, Rupp gave us vidiots ample reason to agitate for a spinoff, That Red and Kitty Show. So the competition narrowed down: mom against mom, voice of reason against voice of compassion, Heaton against Rupp. It looked like it was going to be close.

Then Jane Kaczmarek of Malcolm in the Middle swept in like a force of nature and took home the best actress accolades.

Kaczmarek deserves it. She plays the kind of mother Homer would have been daunted by, someone who makes Medea look passive. Lois dispenses her brand of justice to her four boys (five if you count dad) with impunity tempered by love.

It's not an easy role to play, but Kaczmarek owns it. Her portrayal taps reserves of compassion for Lois and her entropy-generating spawn and a sort of goofy determination to grab life by the throat and throttle it for imagined wrongs. She makes maternally-generated terror look appealing.

So we had to give her the award. Besides, if we didn't, she might hunt us down and unleash Lois. Better luck next year, Patricia.

Additional contributions to this article by: Lisa Schmeiser.


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