Ryan Murphy's Feud: Bette and Joan -- about the infamous rivalry between actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis — might be the perfect metaphor for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. Not only are the two lead actresses from the sumptuous shadefest, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, both nominated in the Lead Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie category, the duo is just one duo from the same show pitted against one another on Emmy night. It's like Feud... Several times over!
Who else from the same show will possibly be putting on a "I'm so happy for you" face? This Is Us' Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia for starters. Sterling had long been considered a lock for a nom, given his multiple buzzworthy performances. But in one of the bigger surprises to come out of the nominations, Brown — who won a Supporting Emmy in 2016 for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story -- is in the running against his TV adopted dad Milo Ventimiglia. Of the two, Brown, he who had the entire country weeping at the same time — is the more expected (read: probable) winner. But could bearded fan favorite Milo pull an upset? Stranger things have happened.
Two others who could be faux happy-clapping for their co-star: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, both nominated for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Grace and Frankie. Netflix's low-key hit about two saucy boomers hacking life together has given Tomlin nods in 2015 and 2016. This is the first year Fonda is up alongside her, but they might take comfort in knowing neither will be caught on camera rolling her eyes at the other one's speech. Smart bets are on reliable trophy-sweeper Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep winning the award, or Black-ish's Tracee Ellis Ross — broadcast comedy's It Girl and winner of a Golden Globe earlier this year.
The Handmaid's Tale is all about sisterhood and survival, but come Emmy night, only one of its Supporting Actress nominees will be poised to holler "Praise be!" Both Ann Dowd, who played the awful overseeer Aunt Lydia, and Samira Wiley, who plays the feisty BFF of Offred (Elisabeth Moss), Moira, were exceptional in Hulu's new crown jewel. But with strong competition in the category from (likely frontrunner) Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things and Chrissy Metz of This Is Us, the Handmaid's duo could go home with four hands free.
The juiciest head-to-head matchups come from Feud: Bette and Joan and HBO's Big Little Lies — battles that, combined, rival GLOW in the number of gorgeous ladies wrestling for a trophy. Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley of Big Little Lies both got Supporting Actress nods; both were compelling, even if Dern's role as a rich, stressed-out mean Mom gave her more to play with than Woodley. Within that same category, Judy Davis who played the vindictive gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in Feud: Bette and Joan, is up against her co-star Jackie Hoffman, whose fabulous turn as put-upon servant Mamacita made her a cult favorite. It's a tough category — particularly with Regina King in the mix, since she's snatched that trophy in both 2015 and 2016, for American Crime.
But the biggest in-house face-offs of all are in the Lead Actress in a Limited Series category, where Feud and Big Little Lies may have some of the most remarkable performers of our time pushing pins in voodoo dolls. It's Nicole Kidman vs. Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies andthe aforementioned Sarandon and Jessica Lange facing off in Feud. The real fight is likely between Kidman and Lange, both of whom put in earth-shaking work as abused wife Celeste Wright and Joan Crawford, respectively. Still, the dueling duos from both camps have given us one of the most exciting races in recent history. And though reducing this dignified celebration of these artists' work to a Dynasty-level catfight is cliched and low-key sexist, we're still unapologetically giddy thinking about the bitchy one-liners any of these four might be quietly rehearsing in their heads. Bette and Joan wouldn't have had it any other way.
The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Stephen Colbert, airs Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8/7c on CBS.
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