Monday, June 23, 2014

My Emmy Ballot - Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Parker Young can't to recite the plot to "Toy Story 3" without crying in "Enlisted"

The Emmy nominations will be announced in less than thtree weeks, so it feels like the right time to take a look at this year’s ballots and highlight what I thought were the best performances and shows on television this season.  I’m hoping to run an article every few days covering one or categories each day.  First, we’ll start with the candidates for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy.

Last year I wrote of television comedy’s recent lull (at least compared to drama), but the 2013-14 season changed all of that.  This was the year of the comedy.  It started last July when Orange Is the New Black burst out as Netflix’s first consensus hit.  It continued into the fall as a half-dozen comedies debuted to some measure of critical success.  None were breakout ratings hits like Modern Family or New Girl a few years ago, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended up shocking the pundits by winning the Golden Globe for best comedy, Mom found a niche as a weird comedy featuring a couple of amazing performances (including that of Allison Janney who, in a just world, would walk away with the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role in Masters of Sex), and Trophy Wife charmed the pants off of the few people who managed to watch it.  The comedy revival continued into the winter and spring as Enlisted and Review hit to critical adoration and minimal audiences.  I don’t know if this wave of new comedies will find their way onto Emmy ballots (especially given how many of them were canceled), but it’s nice to be able to talk about new, great comedy again.

A couple of caveats before we start.  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 put shows that probably should be in drama (Orange Is the New Black) or comedy (Key & Peele) into their appropriate categories, nor can I nominate somebody who didn’t submit themselves (like anybody on Enlisted not named Parker Young).  Also, I’m only including actors from shows I watch regularly, so if your favorites from The Middle, Nurse Jackie, Veep, or Raising Hope aren’t here, that’s why.

Supporting Actor
My 2013 Choices:
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)
Damon Wayans, Jr. (Happy Endings)
Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live)
John Krasinski (The Office)
Keegan Michael-Key (Key & Peele)

Actual 2013 Emmy Nominees:
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Adam Driver (Girls)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live)
Tony Hale (Veep) – 2013 Emmy Winner
Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)

I never said my selections were particularly predictive, as the differences between my choices and the actual nominees last year make clear, just that they’re my selections.  The Emmy voters’ continued refusal to recognize Nick Offerman’s performance as one of the all-time great comedic characters is still infuriating, but it’s tough to really argue with any of their choices last year.  Obviously, Modern Family is going to continue to rake in the nominations even if they didn’t collect any acting awards last year and despite the relative drop in quality over the last few years.  There’s no reason to think that the group of six we saw last year is going to be any different this year, with the exception of the retiring Bill Hader likely being replaced by the returning Eric Stonestreet. 

My selections, on the other hand, are going to be significantly different.  Krasinski, Wayans, and Hader are all off the ballot and the glut of new, great comedies is bringing a new wave of potential nominees to the ballot.  Unfortunately, the large number of new faces also created a problem of filling these few slots so I had to be particularly judicious in selecting the supporting nominees.  I’ve tried my best to avoid those characters who may have had a few great moments or even great episodes (I’m looking at you, Lamorne Morris and Albert Tsai) for those who really had greater impacts on their shows.

Andre Braugher is the most likely newcomer to earn a nomination in this category.  We already know the Emmy voters love him; his seven nominations and two wins prove just that.  I’m not certain that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Golden Globe win for Best Comedy means much in terms of Emmy voting, but it certainly can’t hurt.  Nine-Nine was a tough comedy for me to grab on to at first.  Andy Samberg’s man-child Jake Perrera was a bit grating.  But around midseason, the show really turned around and, throughout, Braugher was phenomenal as the straight man, Captain Ray Holt.  Braugher isn’t given the most outlandish comedic routines: those typically go to Samberg or his two fellow supporting actors Terry Crews and Joe Lo Truglio.  But when he’s asked to be funny, such as at Holt’s birthday party or when the captain becomes addicted to a Candy Crush-like game that forces Braugher to repeatedly utter the phrase “Kwazy Kupcakes,” he’s more than up to the task.

I normally try to limit myself to one nominee from any given show, but for this category it’s almost impossible, not least because Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt are so great at what they do.  Pratt had the lesser role this season, owing to his spending most of the fall shooting Guardians of the Galaxy, but as soon as he returned, he fell right back into being the Andy Dwyer we know and love.  Nick Offerman, meanwhile, was killing it as usual as pantheon comedy character Ron Swanson.  This year, Ron got to show some depth, taking on family life, marriage, and parenthood and pushing Leslie to finally move on from the parks department in Pawnee.  Their stories paralleled this season as Leslie embraced an uncertain future in the federal government and Ron did likewise, marrying Diane and thrusting himself into life as a father.  Even without such a deep, emotional storyline, Offerman would have been worthy of a nomination based solely on his discovery of the iPod.


Another pair I’m glad to have room for are the stars of Key & Peele, Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele.  Last year, I had this pair slotted in as numbers six and seven on my list and flipped a coin to choose one.  This year, with three slots vacated by actors from canceled shows, I’m more than able to fit the pair in for nominations.  Key & Peele is one of my very favorite comedies on television, though its continued listing under the variety category still boggles my mind.*  There’s also a bit of category fraud here as both actors could reasonably list themselves as leads.  No matter the categories, however both Key and Peele are more than deserving of accolades.  They manage to hit both dramatic and comedic beats while demonstrating an incredible ability to create lively characters in brief sketches.  Modern sketch comedy may be a unique beast that the Emmy voters aren’t quite ready to recognize outside of SNL, but these two are at the top of the genre.

* Sketch comedies very often nominate themselves in the variety category as you can see this year with Key & Peele, Inside Amy Schumer, Portlandia, and Saturday Night Live.  I’m wondering how long that will last, however, since the category is so often dominated by the late night shows (Leno, The Daily Show, Colbert, etc.) and no comedy series other than SNL has managed a nomination since Da Ali G Show in 2005.

No comedy surprised or infuriated audiences this year quite like Enlisted.  They were surprised by the fact that it was so good and so quickly found its comic footing and infuriated by the callous treatment it received from Fox.  Buried on Friday nights, Enlisted never had a chance to find an audience, but those few who did see the show were treated to a wonderful performance by Parker Young.  What made Young such a great presence was his ability to change gears from silly and stupid to emotional center.  Randy was such an over-the-top character that it would have been easy for Young to push him into parody, but he straddles that line perfectly, managing to be funny without becoming a cartoon.

Others meriting consideration:  Jason Biggs, Ty Burrell, Adam Driver, Max Greenfield, Taran Killam, Ryan Lee, Joe Lo Truglio, Lamorne Morris, Albert Tsai

So those are the first of my Emmy choices.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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