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TeeVee Awards 2001: Best Half-Hour Actress

Owing to publications such as InStyle and Us, television actresses now have to double as models and all-around embodiments of Hollywood Glamour. This explains why half-hour stalwarts such as Debra Messing, Jennifer Aniston and Jenna Elfman are now better-known for their couture than their comedy; these are women who have become marketable brands, and their participation on their respective shows reflects that.

As a result, the half-hour actress field has thinned considerably -- and we're not just talking dress size. For a while, we were bandying about characters on animated shows; one of the wonderful things about being Daria Morgendorfer or Peggy Hill is that you're never held accountable for what you wore to the Emmys, and thus you can concentrate on being a funny, well-rounded, evolving character.

But, lucky for us, there are still live-action actresses who blow all others out of the water. We have a fond place in our hearts for Debra Jo Rupp and Laura Prepon on That '70s Show, but it's their Fox cohort Jane Kaczmarek who takes home the award as Best Half-Hour Actress for an unprecedented second time.

Kaczmarek wins in part because we really do worry that she'll hunt us all down and hurt us if she doesn't, but also because she added depth to Lois's character this year.

"How?" you're asking. "How can a character who spends most of her time dispensing casual cruelty at the top of her lungs actually grow as a character?"

Because she let us see how people handle dreams deferred. Sure, Lorraine Hansberry can write about it all poignant-like in Raisin in the Sun, but Kaczmarek made it funny. The season finale was a showcase for Kaczmarek; over the course of 22 minutes, she showed how much Lois changed in response to her growing role as a mother, and how much of herself she kept hanging on to.

This was the capstone to a season where the writers kept alluding to who Lois used to be: on her birthday, she fumed about all the things she could have done if she didn't have kids; when her parents visited, we see what kind of warped people were responsible for bringing her into the world; when her coworker Craig declared his moist and undying love for her, she looked at him for a moment with empathy, then ruthlessly destroyed his dreams.

But good writing only goes so far; it takes Kaczmarek -- whose delightful expressions and bravura delivery broadcast everything Lois is -- to breathe life into the role. So she wins again, for giving a performance that's more beautiful than any we're likely to see on the red carpet.

Additional contributions to this article by: Lisa Schmeiser.


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