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TeeVee Awards 2001: Worst Actress

Every year, when we get ready to make some actress cry, we ask ourselves this question: when we look over our candidates -- our Mariska Hargitays, our Jean Louisa Kellys, our Christine Baranskis -- are we punishing the actress or the role she plays?

The debate surrounding this year's winner was especially vigorous. Were we slamming Emily Procter because we objected to a Republican breaching the cozy liberal womb of The West Wing? Did we diss her because of the many demeaning and dimwitted scenes she performed? Or could she just not act?

We can throw out the first charge: we here at TeeVee have long thought that it wouldn't kill The West Wing to show a Republican who didn't look as though they were going to round up the Gore children and commence slurping the marrow from their freshly-hewn bones. When one looks at what Ainsley Hayes advocates -- indeed, when one reads lines like, "This White House that feels that government is better for children than parents are. That looks at 40 years of degrading and humiliating free lunches, handed out in a spectacularly failed effort to level the playing field, and says 'Let's try 40 more,'" one can see where a strong, level dissenting voice could really complement the show.

So no, we have no problem with Republicans on The West Wing.

As for the second charge -- we're picking on Emily Procter because her character devolved into a daffy blonde, and we're really just lashing out at the folks who wrote her -- we have two words for you: Donna Moss. The show's other shiksa goddess also suffered her fair share of indignities at Aaron Sorkin's hands this season, but Janel Moloney, who plays Donna, wasn't even mentioned when we began balloting. For that matter, if we wanted to throw open the field to any actress who's been the punchline to one of Sorkin's clumsy vaudevillian antics, we'd also include Allison Janney, the lucky recipient of this year's "I'm-not-wearing-any-pants" storyline. But we're not, because both Moloney and Janney have something Procter does not: presence.

This brings it back to Procter's acting. She's got a part with lines that a competent thespian should be able to hit out of the ballpark, but she consistently misses. She's been handed some marvelous moments -- every time she makes the point that she can rise above partisan politics and work toward a greater good, she's being given an Emmy-nominating scene -- and in each of them, one of three things happens:

1. The entire show screeches to a halt while she labors to deliver an interminable monologue.

2. She fades into the background while other, competent actors drive the bus.

3. She gets out-acted by Rob Lowe.

Consider that list one more time.

1. The moment she begins speechifying, we, the viewers at home, can watch Martin Sheen and John Spencer visibly age.

2. She turns into the invisible woman whenever there is more than one other participant in a scene.

3. She gets out-acted by Rob Lowe.

We rest our case.

Additional contributions to this article by: Lisa Schmeiser.


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