It’s day three of Emmy Week here at HitFix, as Fienberg and I finally move on to our look at leading actors and actresses. As usual, Dan’s offering up his predictions for who will be nominated (along with a bit of wishful thinking), while I’m saying who would get my votes if I had a hypothetical Emmy ballot.
First up today is Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Dan’s gallery is already up, and if you click through this story, you can see my picks.
The comedy lead categories are unsurprisingly much thinner than the supporting ones. There are 112 actors who submitted themselves for comedy supporting, and only 27 for lead. With lead actress (which we’ll get to this afternoon), that led to me actually struggling to come up with six worthy names. Here, I got six I was happy with, and a couple of others I wouldn’t mind seeing on the real ballot, but there wasn’t any kind of agony like I had, say, leaving Chris Pratt off the supporting actor ballot.
This wasn’t a particularly strong year for “30 Rock,” but that wasn’t really the fault of Alec Baldwin, who delivered when called on in storylines like Jack’s budding bromance with Danny, or Jack trying to find a professional purpose in his life after GE decides to sell NBC to Kabletown. He’s had better years, but is still one of the best six actors eligible in the category.
One of the most interesting aspects of the “Seinfeld” reunion storyline on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was watching Larry David play a lot of scenes with Jerry Seinfeld. Here we had two old friends and colleagues, both with similarly misanthropic personalities, both playing slightly fictional versions of themselves, and it became clear that Larry the sitcom writer was a much better, more committed actor than Jerry the sitcom star. In or out of the “Seinfeld” plot, it was a strong season for Larry, who got to display some good physical comedy chops (trying to make out with his wheelchair-bound girlfriend) as well as his usual comic rage. And he even got to give his own spin on George Costanza. He’ll likely never win, but he should and will be nominated.
Zachary Levi, unfortunately, will never get within spitting distance of an Emmy nomination for his work on “Chuck,” even though what he does on that show is very much in the wheelhouse of Emmy voters. They tend to be fans of versatility, whether that’s actors playing multiple roles, comedy actors doing dramatic work, drama actors being funny, etc. Though Levi never got to play Chuck’s evil twin, he does move easily between the show’s comedy, melodrama and romance modes, making all the tonal shifts possible. This year, he added action to his CV, being convincing enough physically to make Chuck’s new kung fu powers seem plausible.
Joel McHale also had to show versatility as the first among equals in the “Community” ensemble. There are times when he has to be the Bill Murray wiseass, times when he simply has to play straight man to the lunatics around him, and then times when he has to go insane himself, like in the naked billiards episode. Given the depth of the supporting cast, it would have been very easy for McHale to have the show stolen out from under him, but I’m just as happy to watch a Jeff-centric storyline as I am one about Troy or Annie or Shirley.
“The Big Bang Theory” became The Sheldon Show more blatantly than ever before this season. That could be frustrating from a storytelling perspective, since a lot of plots were left half-formed in favor of simply showing us how Sheldon would react to them, it’s hard to blame the writers for trying to milk Jim Parsons for all he was worth. He got over the nominating hump last year, and while I still assume Baldwin will keep winning until proven otherwise, I suspect we’ll be seeing Parsons’ name on the actual nominations list for a long time to come.
More versatility for my final pick: Adam Scott from the hilarious, woefully-underwatched “Party Down.” (And perhaps a supporting actor contender a year from now for his new gig on “Parks and Recreation.”) Scott has one of the trickier jobs in sitcoms: the straight man who has to be funny without sacrificing his normality. And he pulls it off with his usual dry aplomb.
Tough omissions: Steve Carell from “The Office,” Thomas Jane from “Hung.”
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org