If I had an Emmy ballot 2011: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy

Senior Television Writer
06.24.11 33 Comments


Welcome to part eight of our journey through the Emmy ballot on HitFix. This is also the last part of the ballot we got in ahead of today’s deadline for ballots to be submitted, but if you’ve been reading these posts by now, it’s probably not hard to guess most of what we’d pick for outstanding comedy and drama series, and we’ll get to those categories eventually . Dan had to travel mid-week, and that and some other issues put the project on temporary hold.

Once again, Fienberg and I are approaching each category from two directions, with Dan as the pragmatist and me as the optimist. So as we move onto the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy category, Dan has his usual exhaustive photo gallery of potential nominees, starting with the most likely candidates before eventually moving onto a bit of wish fulfillment, while after the jump, I continue to pretend that I’m a voting member of the TV Academy and have to pick six nominees for this category. (And, again, actors determine what category to submit themselves in, or whether to submit at all. You can download the full performers list here.)

Steve Carell has never won an Emmy for playing Michael Scott. That is, frankly, ridiculous. But then, the Emmys have a long track record of somehow missing out on iconic, all-time comedy characters. Jackie Gleason never won an Emmy. Jason Alexander somehow never won an Emmy for playing George Costanza. So if Carell gets shut out from seven seasons of “The Office,” he’ll at least have good company. But “The Office” writing staff at least made the effort to give Carell one fine potential submission episode after another this season, and none better than Greg Daniels’ “Goodbye Michael,” which allowed Carell to play the many complicated, at times seemingly contradictory colors of Michael Scott and make them seem like part of one funny, sweet, incredibly memorable character.

This should be Carell’s award, but I have a feeling the trophy will go back to Alec Baldwin, who’s not only an Emmy favorite in general but will likely submit the show’s 100th episode, in which he played multiple Jack Donaghys from past, present, and alternate futures. (It’s basically the same thing Carell did in “Goodbye Michael,” but more blatantly award-baiting.) That’s not to knock Baldwin. He’s brilliant, Jack Donaghy is an incredibly funny character, that’s a fine showcase for him, etc. It just bugs me that Carell may go oh-fer.

Baldwin lost last year to Jim Parsons, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Parsons repeat. Emmy voters tend to be complacent, and Parsons’ hilarious performance as “Big Bang Theory” uber-nerd Sheldon Cooper is the sort of thing that plays incredibly well on a standalone episode submission. Though the “Big Bang” theory writers at times overuse Sheldon, it’s easy to understand why, because Parsons elevates everything they give him. He’ll absolutely be a nominee, and deservingly so.

“Monk” ended and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” took the year off, opening up at least two spots for potential new nominees. (And with any luck, Emmy voters will realize how little Matthew Morrison’s Mr. Schue adds to “Glee” and open up three spots.) Knowing/fearing Emmy voters the way I do, I could see those open spots go to the likes of David Duchovny and William Shatner, but I remain eternally hopeful that they’ll go off the beaten path and recognize somebody like Joel McHale on “Community.” Supporting players like Alison Brie and Danny Pudi (deservedly) get a lot of the attention from the show’s fans, but what McHale does shouldn’t be underestimated. He has to be the sane straight man who provides some level of reality as the show is busy doing zombie movies, conspiracy thrillers, Westerns, etc. But he also has to be a funny character in his own right, a driver of plot, and, beneath his sarcasm, the vulnerable heart of this whole sentimental shebang. And McHale pulls all of that off, splendidly.

It’s hard to differentiate the contributions that Louis C.K. as an actor brings to FX’s wonderful “Louie” – as opposed to the contributions of C.K. the writer, director, editor, stand-up comic, etc. But even though C.K. himself likes to denigrate his acting skills (see below), and even though he’s technically “playing himself,” the fictionalized Louie comes across as a fascinating, funny, sad, fully-realized character. And at least some of that comes from what C.K. is doing when the camera is on him.

Finally, I’m going to go with Rob Lowe, even as I think it’s utterly ridiculous that he submitted himself in this category. At least it’s in keeping with tradition, as Lowe has always submitted himself as a lead, apparently under the theory that the most famous person in the cast is the lead, even when he was clearly a supporting player on “West Wing,” “Brothers & Sisters” and now “Parks and Recreation.” And the funny thing is, while Lowe’s Chris Traeger is a relatively minor light in the “Parks and Rec” galaxy, it’s still a hilarious performance – I’d argue his work in the flu episode is the best thing Lowe’s ever done (and that goes beyond “Stop. Pooping.”) – and this is a category that has much less competition, both from Lowe’s co-stars and actors in general. So what the hell. He doesn’t literally belong here, but I love the guy’s work, so why the heck not?

Tough omissions: Only a slightly deeper field than comedy lead actress, but I’d have liked to find room for Zachary Levi for his usual “Chuck” versatility, Matt LeBlanc for smartly satirizing himself on (and being the only redeemable part of) “Episodes,” and Matthew Perry for his innate Matthew Perry-ness on “Mr. Sunshine” (yay).

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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