Part 4 of our journey through the Emmy ballot brings us to Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. As always, Fienberg will attempt to rank the contenders from most likely to least likely to be nominated, throwing in a bunch of preferential wild cards along the way. And, as always, I will pretend that I am an actual Academy member who has a ballot and therefore has to narrow his choices down to six people.
Same rules apply: we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can’t nominate people who didn’t submit themselves (like if I wanted to nominate Tony Hale for “Arrested Development” rather than “Veep”), and we have to consider people in the category they submitted themselves for, even if that means supporting actors submitting as leads (Rob Lowe, every year) or vice versa (Amy Schumer as supporting for a show that’s named after her).
Dan’s exhaustive analysis is here, and also embedded below (click Launch Gallery to see it), and my picks are coming right up.
You know and I know that half of this category or more will be made up of “Modern Family” actors. Heck, if the voters decide they love Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez, they could sweep the field. Though the handful of “MF” episodes I watched this year suggest Ty Burrell is still worthy, I didn’t see nearly enough of the show to comfortably consider anybody. Instead, I have two actors who were nominated last year and seem likely to return, and four guys who all seem like longshots at best to make it past Burrell, Stonestreet and friends.
Jake Johnson recategorized himself as a lead actor this year, which seems both accurate and tactically savvy, since it takes him away from having to compete with “New Girl” co-star Max Greenfield, who not only got one of this category’s coveted non-“Modern Family” slots last year, but who has the more Emmy-friendly character and performance. A lot of what’s funny about Nick Miller is funny because you’ve watched Johnson over time and know how the character ticks; you need no experience with Schmidt whatsoever to appreciate how Greenfield says “crack cocaine” or “buttons”(*), the unapologetic joy and fussiness of the performance, and the willingness to humiliate himself at all times. It’s work that should get Greenfield another nomination, and one he deserves, but I’m also glad Johnson now has a slightly more realistic shot at also being recognized. (More on him in a few days.)
(*) “Buttons” is said in “Chicago,” which could well be Johnson’s submission episode if he’s nominated; if they were in the same category, Greenfield would be getting extra credit. This used to happen to Jimmy Smits on “NYPD Blue,” where his submission episodes wound up spotlighting Dennis Franz and giving his partner bonus points for the win.
Bill Hader finally got nominated for his penultimate “Saturday Night Live” season, and it’s hard to imagine him missing out for a farewell year that not only gave us the best Stefon send-off imaginable, but one of the best overall sketches of the year in his Vietnam vet ventriloquist. Hader fits into that extremely rare Aykroyd/Hartman “SNL” niche: a brilliant impressionist and utility player who also has no problem being the funniest person in a scene if that’s what’s required. I’ll miss him on the show (Stefon is the rare underused recurring character), and would like to see him get one more shot at the hardware while he’s eligible.
Every year, I stump for Nick Offerman. Every year, Emmy voters ignore any actor on “Parks and Recreation” who is not Amy Poehler. And though this was a less prominent season for Offerman than years past, I will continue to choose him, because Ron Effing Swanson remains one of the best, most reliable comic creations anywhere on television. This year brought Ron his first healthy romantic relationship with Lucy Lawless’ Diane, forced him to care for and show interest in her two young daughters (Swanson + children = gold), briefly struck him with food poisoning, and even let him turn a sconce into wedding rings. Offerman now. Offerman forever!
If I had to pick a male comedy MVP for “Parks” season 5, it would be Offerman’s co-star Chris Pratt. His weight varied wildly throughout the season, thanks to different movie roles, but what remained consistent was the infectious childlike enthusiasm he brought to playing Andy Dwyer, whether Andy was trying to become a cop (and briefly retiring his Bert Macklin alter ego) or demonstrating actual ability as Ben’s new righthand man at the Sweetums charity. I expect Pratt’s physique to change radically again next season (and for him to take a bit of time off) as a result of his work on “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I also expect him to remain one of the funniest people on television.
What a weird and continually engaging performance Adam Driver is giving as Adam on “Girls.” I love the vocal tics, the physicality, the way in which he makes Adam seem like someone whom Hannah understandably can’t decide if he’s “the greatest person in the world or the worst.” Driver would need a major “Girls” halo effect to crack this category, when last year’s nominations suggest Emmy voters consider it a one-woman operation, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if he made the real list.
Finally, I’d give a nod to John Krasinski, who has never been nominated for his work on “The Office.” This isn’t just a career achievement-type suggestion, but recognition that Krasinski was one of the highlights of an uneven but ultimately rewarding final season. Remember, there was a period after Andy left on the boat where the show actually felt good for a while, and the last two episodes sent the series off right, and a lot of that material revolved around Jim, whether arguing with Pam, bickering with temporary roommate Daryl or finally making peace with Dwight. (I would not, for that matter, be unhappy to see Rainn Wilson return, after not being nominated since 2009.) Jim was often the straight man of “The Office,” but he and Pam were also the heart of the show, and he did some excellent work this year while surrounded by some really poor creative decisions elsewhere.
Others considered: Will Arnett (for “Arrested Development”), Brett Gelman, Tony Hale (for “Veep”), Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Chris Messina, Tracy Morgan, Rainn Wilson, Adam Pally, DJ Qualls, Damon Wayans Jr., Mike White, Rainn Wilson, Ike Barinholtz, Echo Kellum
What does everybody else think? Who would your top 6 be in this category?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com