Same deal, but with women instead of the men. Since I've already maxed out on all the potential insights into television acting, I am unsure how to preface this list without repeating myself, so I guess I'll just get straight into the thing.
10) Julia Davis, Nighty Night
"I'm not a malicious woman and I will strike down the first person who says that I am."
I don't mean to patronize the TV output of my homeland by always giving it tenth place and giving the above nine spots to actors in American shows, but it has turned out that way. Julia Davis, who in this show that is at first glance quite crass and unfunny, but really is crass and almost genius, gives a big performance, to be sure, but its a very well pitched one. With a perfectly measured demonic passive aggression beneath the country accent, and as a performance its very under-rated, and to me is the best by any British comedienne in the 2000's.
9) Allison Janney, The West Wing
"You get my support the same way I get yours: when I agree with what you're saying or when I don't care about what you're saying."
It takes quite the actor or actress to make Aaron Sorkin's writing look anything less then suffocatingly arrogant. He's a great writer, but damn if he doesn't know it and at times, this is a quality that's less then charming. But Janney, delivering his words for seven years, managed to deliver sanctimoniousness with affability and arrogance with humility, not to mention the many times Sorkin got it right, and Janney was even better. Its a performance of greatness, that isn't shoved in your face at all times, which only makes it better.
8) Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars
"Like, why settle for something not good just cause it's something?"
Yes, its a show about a teenage private eye in high school. Yes it wasn't on HBO or Showtime, or any of the respectable networks. Yes on paper it has no real right to be taken seriously, but like Buffy was the one saving grace of the WB in the nineties, Veronica Mars justified the existence of the UPN. And Kristen Bell justified the existence of Veronica Mars, with an effortlessly cool, likeable and charming performance that gave her the movie career she is now in the process of flushing down the toilet. But she's very good in this show.
7) Chloe Sevigny, Big Love
"Understand that there is nothing I wouldn't do to be apart of my family Margene."
Its a shame that Chloe Sevigny will be remembered above all else for performing a sex act on film, because she did some very, very good work in this show. Often overlooked in lists and such, Big Love is a show I've got a lot of respect for, but Sevigny, playing the ultra-repressed, strictest of strict mormons Nicolette, steals the show. Miles better then anything she's ever done in movies, Sevigny nails the uptight, catty character perfectly, and also allows the character to become much more then the source of antagonism written on the page.
6) Mary Louise-Parker, Weeds
"You listen, you stay away from my customer base. Don't deal to kids."
Weeds has taken a lot of hits of late, whether being accused of selling out its original premise or overly objectifying its star, one things for sure, there is no other program quite like it. More then any other show I can think of, it draws both its comedy and drama from a deep-ran cynicism and nihilism. Which Parker embodies perfectly. Its such a performance of intelligence, that even the femme fatale aspects of it feel unique. Parker radiates brains, humor, sex, pathos on the rare occasion the show calls for it and she really does make land her long term character arc, which is Nancy realizing bit by bit how she really doesn't give a shit about anything. She's here to have fun, and nothing else matters.
5) Jessica Walter, Arrested Development
!Oh who knows what they were saying? It's probably because a seal ate his hand. Apparently, the army is giving out medals for being food now. "
Of the many comedic antagonistic forces that face Jason Bateman in the course of this show, Walter is the most consistently, bitingly hilarious. They're all fucking awesome don't get me wrong, but there's just something slightly ingenious about Walter in Arrested Development. As entitled as she is conniving, her two-faced and self-serving antics never fail to amuse.
4) Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica
"I'm not suggesting anything Doctor. If I want to throw a baby out an airlock I'll do it. "
There's such a gentleness and compassion to McDonnell, in anything she's in really, but it came to a head on Battlestar, in which she combines these qualities with a more pro-active and forceful character. Laura Roslin was one of the most well rounded and credible female characters of the decade, and in large part that's down to McDonnell who gives a performance that pretty much scales if emotional range of man, it goes from empowered to vulnerable to self-absorbed to compassionate, all the while she gets everything right. In a science fiction show too. What is the world coming to.
3) Rachel Griffiths, Six Feet Under
"Yes, I'm looking for clothes so expensive only an idiot would buy them. Oh, there they are... "
Griffiths performance in Six Feet Under does tend to polarize. There are as many who hate it as love it, but for me it was the single most credible and multi-layered envisioning of a deeply troubled intelligent woman I remember seeing. In almost anything. Griffiths nails the knee-jerk defensiveness, the subtle irritant at having to carry out every conversation you'll ever have with an intellectual inferior, and the almost genetic strain of self-sabotage. Often this is all communicated not in writing, but in a look, or a particular line reading. Its a performance you can go back to and find so much more. It may not have too many grand-standing moments, but I'd have no problem labeling Brenda Chenowith as the most fascinating character of female origin that television has offered up in the 'unies'. And that's largely down to Griffiths ever terrific performance.
2) Edie Falco, The Sopranos
"Okay, as your parents, we don't feel joining the army is in your best interest."
The Sopranos isn't just the James Gandolfini show, although it was at times hard to avoid, as there is one more performance of truly great worth to come out of it. And that's Edie Falco, as his long-suffering wife. And that particular cliche has had no more direct meaning then to Carmela Soprano, who takes so much shit from our hero over the years its astounding. But what makes Falco's performance so interesting is the aspect of complicity that is always there bubbling under the surface at her attempts to be a good person. She knows what a monster Tony is, but she sells her soul to accommodate her standard of living, and this thought never leaves Falco's performance. Not for one second.
1) Glenn Close, Damages
"I'm not! I'm not objective at all, and I'm going to turn my passionate, irrational anger against your office"
Glenn Close is awesome on this show. What else is there to say. Its a legal procedural that serializes its cases, which makes it better then Law and Order I guess, but its pretty much you standard Cable subversion show if it wasn't for Close. Who, no disrespect intended, was born to play this role. Its such a pitch-perfect performance, that comes from an actress who's been nothing but brilliant in anything she's ever been in. A tour de force in every respect.