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TeeVee Awards 2001: Best Hour Actress

OK, we admit it, we've got a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Unfortunately, now she's playing hard to get and wearing a ring from Freddie Prinze, Jr. This despite the fact we had already reserved the Tri-County Elks Lodge for the ceremony -- the Bull Moose Room, no less. We even booked Chip Hastings and the Hep Cats to play the reception, and you know how difficult it is to get the Hep Cats for a June wedding.

Despite our broken hearts, we here at TeeVee are responsible reporters, literally brimming over with journalistic integrity. And booze. Therefore, we have cast aside our one true hope of domestic bliss and do hereby confer upon Sarah Michelle Gellar the title of Best Actress in an Hour Series for the 2000-2001 television season.

Truth be told, it's not like Gellar had wheelbarrows full of competition. Former winner Allison Janney is still drawing breath over on The West Wing. Unfortunately, this season Janney has had to deal with the mushroom-induced paroxysms of stupidity foisted upon her by creator Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin, who manages to write a few West Wing scripts in between smuggling hallucinogens through airports, shafting co-workers out of credit, attacking unsuspecting fans on the Internet, building a rocket ship out of popsicle sticks and protecting himself from germs and mind rays, has turned Janney's C.J. character into a mere shell of her former self. It doesn't matter how good the actress is if the words coming out of her mouth were written by chimps. Suddenly Susan starring Dame Judi Dench is just a crappy sitcom with a nice accent.

Gellar's toughest foe was one of the Gilmore Girls, Alexis Bledel. Her portrayal of a high school girl dealing with her not-much-more-mature mother and rebelling by actually getting along with her upper crust grandparents was that rarest of television performances: a teenager you didn't wish dead by the first commercial.

As for our winner, Gellar is no stranger to the TeeVee Awards. She has already picked up a trophy for her portrayal of the title role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has been such a solid performer throughout the life of the series that she could have easily taken home the trophy every year of the show's five-year run. This year, however, was something special. While debate continues to rage around TeeVee World Headquarters about the quality of Buffy as a whole this season, there was never a doubt about Gellar's work.

Buffy's sudden emergence as big sister to troubled sibling Dawn gave Gellar a perfect opportunity to showcase a deeper side to the Slayer. The actress pulled viewers in with a string of performances that convinced us the toughest girl in the world was just as vulnerable as the rest of us. Buffy's boyfriend left her, her mom had a brain tumor, her mortal enemy had a crush on her and her sister was a vessel of pure energy being hunted by a full-fledged, if incredibly incompetent, god. You know, all the typical college sophomore issues.

Then came "The Body." The fact that this episode was not nominated for any Emmy awards is all the proof you need that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is comprised of a half-dozen drooling, comatose octogenarians. In what may be the best single hour of network drama in the past five years, Buffy returned home to find her mother dead from a brain aneurysm. Gellar's performance was positively searing, especially the opening ten minutes when the Slayer finds her mom splayed out on the couch. Buffy aged twenty years before the hour was over and Gellar pulled off a minor miracle in turning her snappy but weary twentysomething into a crushed soul.

"The Body" was the springboard to a new Buffy, one who now had to be a twenty-year old mother while still going through the yearly ritual of saving the world from Armageddon. Gellar attacked the new Slayer, taking advantage of every opportunity to push her dual role farther with each episode. In the hands of a lesser actress, Buffy's death in the season finale could have been a hackneyed farewell straight out of a Hallmark card. Sarah Michelle Gellar, on the other hand, had convinced viewers that not only did Buffy need to sacrifice herself, it was something of a relief as well.

We have no doubt that even with Buffy dead, Gellar will have no trouble contending for Best Actress honors in the future. As long as Buffy creator Joss Whedon can figure out a way to keep the Slayer in the show -- maybe the Scooby Gang can ask Miss Cleo for help with keeping in touch -- Sarah Michelle Gellar will continue to show the actors on so-called "serious dramas" what it means to be an actress.

Additional contributions to this article by: Gregg Wrenn.


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