Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Emmy Ballot: Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Comedy

Adam Scott and Amy Poehler in "Parks and Recreation"

In my continuing series looking at the Emmy nominations ballot and laying out who I’d nominate (if I had a vote obviously), today I’m looking at the Outstanding Lead Actors and Actresses in Comedies. Most comedies today are ensemble comedies, which causes problems with these categories because a lot of actors who could submit as leads end up submitting as supporting actors.  For example, looking at my Supporting Actor/Actress ballots, I could easily see Bill Hader, Keegan-Michael Key, John Krasinski, and Jenna Fischer all submitting as leads.  As a result (and as a result of my not seeing much of a few prestige comedies this year), I only ended up with 15 people on my shortlists for both of these categories combined.  All of these actors are certainly deserving; there just ended up being fewer names compared to the supporting categories.

Again, the usual caveats apply.  First, I’m working from the actual Emmy Performer Ballot, so I can’t put leads who submitted as supporting (Amy Schumer) or supporting actors who submitted as leads (Rob Lowe) in their proper category, nor can I nominate somebody who didn’t submit themselves.  Also, I’m only including actors from shows I watch regularly, so if your favorites from Veep, The Middle, or Enlightened aren’t here, that’s why.

Lead Actor
Louis CK in "Louie"
 Alec Baldwin has been nominated for his performance as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock every year he’s been eligible and has won two Lead Actor trophies.  In other words, he’s a lock to be nominated again.  But this isn’t going to be just a momentum nomination nor a pity nomination for 30 Rock’s final season.  Jack Donaghy is a pantheon sitcom character and his work this season was well worth a return trip to the Nokia Theatre and even another trophy.  Just watch his performance with Tina Fey asthey question why their characters never got together.  The comedy world will miss Jack Donaghy and hopefully Baldwin finds another great television role soon.

Louie has been off the air for almost ten months now and won’t be back for ten more, but Louis CK’s performance still resonates as one of the best of the 2012-13 season.  Louis CK wears a lot of hats for his show, as the writer, director, producer, and star and, while it’s easy to say that he’s “just playing himself” or that he’s actually playing a dramatic role, watching Louie try to cope with a manic-depressive pixie dream girl or try to earn the role of his career shows just how well he’s able to meld both comedy and drama into one of the most fruitful roles on television.

Jake Johnson moved himself up from the supporting actor category to lead this year in what would otherwise seem like a shrewd maneuver to avoid the Modern Family men, but which actually makes sense given his increased role on New Girl.  Johnson has fallen nicely into the “30-year old who’s really a curmudgeonly old man” role of Nick but he can still pull off the part of the romantic lead.  The “will-they-won’t-they” relationship between Nick and Jess could have gotten tired easily, but it’s a testament to both the show and Johnson that the arc played out as well as it did.

The Big Bang Theory has transformed from a decently-rated, but critically panned show into a ratings behemoth that has become, if not adored, at least accepted by critics as a very good example of what it’s trying to do.  I mean, just read the AV Club’s review of the pilot.  That the show we see today could come out of that pilot owes a lot to Jim Parsons and his Emmy-winning performance as Sheldon.  Parsons actually has two wins and four nominations in five years for the role, all extremely deserving.  The Big Bang Theory has had its ups and downs as a show, but Parsons has always been a solid lead.

It may be a bit of category cheating to put Adam Scott in the Lead Actor category, but he’s certainly more of a lead than fellow Parks and Recreation cast mate Rob Lowe (who also submitted as lead) and his role was significantly beefed up this year, even before Ben’s engagement and marriage to Leslie Knope.  He spent the beginning of the season carrying the B-story as he ran a Congressional campaign in Washington DC.  Scott’s real strength is that he can just do anything.  He can play serious or zany or whatever he has to.  That versatility makes him the perfect candidate for this award.

This last spot was a tough one to fill, and while I didn’t enjoy Community as much this year as I have in the past, the reason for that was not Joel McHale.  He nailed his comedic scenes as usual and even got a pair of dramatic arcs this past season as Jeff met his father and graduated early (the season finale was meant to portray a December graduation).  I doubt he’ll be nominated, but his was probably my favorite performance from this cast last year.

Supporting Actress
Krysten Ritter in "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23"
The first four of these actresses are incredibly obvious since they’ve nabbed a total of eleven nominations in twelve seasons worth of chances but all of them are more than deserving, beginning with Zooey Deschanel in New Girl.  The comedy made The Leap in its second season and the titular girl was a big reason.  Jess was painted extremely broad for much of season one, but towards the end, and in season two, her character got more focused, less goofy, and far more consistent.  Her relationships with men (especially Dermit Mulroney and David Walton) have been much more interesting, and less infuriating, than her first with Justin Long.  And, as I wrote above, the “will-they-won’t-they” thing with Nick and Jess could have gone very wrong, but the actors were able to make it all work extremely well.

This one was hard for me, because I really don’t like Girls.  I can tell that it’s a well-produced show with great writing, directing, and acting, it just doesn’t appeal to me at all.  But Lena Dunham, especially when she’s separated from the other characters, has been very good.  I especially enjoyed her in “One Man’s Trash” and in her extended OCD arc.  It’s not a show I particularly enjoy, but I do like Dunham.

30 Rock had a fantastic final season and Tina Fey was one of the big reasons why.  She’s been nominated for this award in each of the past six years, and even has a win, so it’s doubtful she’ll be left off in her final year.  It’s been a great run for Fey and 30 Rock and she’d be more than deserving of another nomination and win.

Rounding out the returning nominees from last year is Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation.  It’s slightly surprising that, despite three nominations, Poehler hasn’t yet won for this award.  She is so versatile as Leslie Knope, able to transition from serious to zany to sweet at any time and can play opposite any member of the very diverse cast.  While the show was probably at its best in seasons two and three, Poehler’s romantic arc with Adam Scott has given her some of her best material and she’s just consistently nailed it.

Now we’re into the “new members” discussion, starting with Sutton Foster.  Is this nomination mostly out of a desire to see Bunheads nominated for something?  Maybe.  And given the show was submitted in only one other category (Hair and Makeup) this is as good as it gets.  Still, Bunheads was a fantastic surprise last year (and one whose title I relentlessly mocked before it aired) and Foster was great both in her performance and her dancing.

The last nomination is a bit out there, but I’ve recently been rewatching Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 and Krysten Ritter is absolutely phenomenal.  It’s a show I didn’t quite get a first, but watching it again (with the episodes in the proper order this time) I’m seeing a show unlike anything else I’ve seen on television ever.  And Ritter’s acerbic, absurdist performance as Chloe is something to behold.  She’s the female, comedic version of the dramatic, male anti-hero and I’ve never before found myself laughing so hard at the detestable antics of such an awful character.  The show doesn’t work at all if you don’t like the lead and Ritter is somehow endearing, despite everything Chloe does.

Others meriting consideration: Rachel Bilson, Courteney Cox, Jane Levy

If forced to choose among this group, I'd probably choose Louis CK and Amy Poehler

So thoughts? Questions?  Just want to call me an idiot or tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or hit me up on twitter @TyTalksTV

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