LOS ANGELES -- How do you argue with any master list that includes Jane Lynch, Kathy Bates, Margo Martindale, Melissa McCarthy, Martha Plimpton, Kelly MacDonald, Betty White, Kristen Wiig and Joan Cusack?
There were a number of surprises, both heartening and irritating, among this year's Emmy nominations, including a lovely little leitmotif of payback among the various actress categories, with nominations going to hardworking performers whose work over the years has shone no matter how small the role. Call it the Jane Lynch Effect.
Two years ago, Lynch's debut as Sue Sylvester on "Glee" was as big a draw as the musical numbers -- critics and audiences fell all over themselves in gratitude that the much-admired performer had landed a high-profile role. This year, Lynch is up against Betty White, another hard-working, sentimental favorite, for supporting actress in a comedy, and the other categories are littered with "oh, don't you just love her" nominations.
Plimpton and McCarthy, competing for lead actress in a comedy, were among Thursday morning's biggest and most pleasant surprises; as fine as their performances are in "Raising Hope" and "Mike & Molly," respectively, it may have been the thrill of seeing two long-beloved actors (Plimpton starred in the original "Parenthood," McCarthy made her name on "Gilmore Girls" ) on TV in lead roles that gave them the extra boost. (McCarthy's huge success in "Bridesmaids" probably didn't hurt either.)
Bates is sublime in whatever she does and to have her on network TV in "Harry's Law" is a blessing. Martindale, one of the most talented character actors around, redefined gangster in "Justified" and "Boardwalk Empire's" MacDonald is so good she landed a role in the final "Harry Potter" film. "Saturday Night Live" star Wiig is finally hitting her stride on the large screen and small, and who isn't happy to see Cusack, even if all-too-briefly, as a guest star on "Shameless"?
With Amy Poehler once again being nominated and her show "Parks and Recreation" making the comedy series list this year, the only glaring omission from the Women We Love list was Patricia Heaton from "The Middle," but maybe next year.
Amid a herd of predictable nominations -- oh look, "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Modern Family" -- there were more than a few welcome developments and anomalies. "Game of Thrones" broke through the fantasy/sci-fi barrier to get a leading drama series nomination (alas, "The Walking Dead" did not), though next year maybe the recognition can extend to the fine cast -- only Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, was nominated.
"I was like, 'I hope I don't wet my pants.' " -- Melissa McCarthy, who helped announce the Emmy nominations, on learning during the early morning live telecast that she was nominated for lead actress in a comedy series for "Mike & Molly."
"I hope we decide who gets the Emmy by a series of high-pressure penalty kicks, just like the World Cup." -- Amy Poehler, nominated for lead actress in a comedy series for "Parks and Recreation."
"I'm very excited. This time I'm going to put a whole rabbit on my key chain." -- Hugh Laurie on his sixth nomination for lead actor in a drama series for "House."
"To confirm people's image of what goes on here, yes, we would have been drinking tonight no matter what. And this afternoon." -- Matthew Weiner, creator of "Mad Men," nominated for a leading 19 Emmys.
"I thought, 'Wait until I tell Pontiac.' My dog is wagging his tail." -- Seven-time Emmy winner Betty White, nominated for supporting actress in a comedy series for "Hot in Cleveland."
"My mother's in town. The phone started ringing at 5:30, and she came upstairs in her pajamas. She thought it was like an earthquake or something." -- Matt LeBlanc, nominated for lead actor in a comedy series for "Episodes."
"For a misfit like me to somehow get away with stealing an Emmy nomination, it's a strangely delicious collision between feeling honor-bound to my community to properly report the self-evident robbery that I feel my blasphemous nomination constitutes and a feeling of re-inventing the physics of flight." -- Jeremy Davies on his nomination for guest actor in a drama series for "Justified."