Sunday, July 12, 2015

If I Had an Emmy Ballot 2015: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Nick Offerman should already have multiple Emmys for playing Ron Swanson.

Emmy nominations are coming this week and, as I’ve done each of the past two years, I’ll take a look at the past year in performances and give my thoughts on the actors, actresses, and shows I thought were best.

Two notes before we begin.  First, I'm working from the actual Emmy performer ballot, so I won't make any changes like putting Keegan Michael-Key or Jordan Peele in lead actor categories or move Orange Is the New Black into the comedy category, where it was last year.  Second, I'm only going to nominate people and shows that I've seen a good chunk of this past year.  This year, for the comedy categories, that list is rather long, unfortunately, including Veep, Community, New Girl, The Mindy Project, and a few prominent others.

Digging through the list of submissions for supporting actor in a comedy made me realize just how much comedy I’ve missed this year.  I still haven’t seen any Veep, despite its being, by many accounts, the best comedy on television.  And shows that I had previously been current on – Community, New Girl, The Mindy Project, The Big Bang Theory – I fell behind on this past year, largely because of the surge of new dramas.  That said, there were still a ridiculous number of options to choose from, leaving me with a list I’m more than happy with.

Predicting the academy’s choices shouldn’t be too hard.  Tony Hale and Adam Driver have each been nominated the last two years and are bound to be back again, along with at least two Modern Family actors.  Andre Braugher, he of now eight Emmy nominations, will be an easy choice again.  The only real question, then, barring upsets, is whether Fred Armisen can hold his spot, or if a newcomer (or returning Modern Family actor) can grab it.

I’m going to eschew alphabetical order for this category because the nominees for Supporting Actor in a Comedy begin and end with Jaime Camil of Jane the Virgin.  Camil’s Rogelio was, fundamentally, a telenovela star inside of a telenovela.  As such, he had to find the perfect blend between ridiculousness and sincerity as both the narcissistic television star and the loving, unknowing father of Jane.  Camil played it perfectly.  His Rogelio is incredibly self-involved, to the point of scripting his entrance to meeting Jane, and still utterly sincere, in his absolute adoration of Jane and feelings for her mother.  It was a difficult role to portray, but Jane the Virgin couldn’t have cast it better.  Jaime Camil is my first and only, choice for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy.

That’s not to say that the other men this category were bad, especially not Andre Braugher.  Camil and Braugher actually make an interesting pairing, as it is, with Camil playing the absurdly over-the-top character and Braugher the straight man.  But it is precisely the fact that Captain Holt is the straight man that makes his comedic turns so powerful.  Whether it’s “Hot Damn!” or an elaborate ruse to beat Andy Samberg’s Jake at a Halloween prank, Braugher brings a stoic energy to every scene.  When he needs to be the boss, he’s the boss.  When he needs to be funny, he’s hilarious.

No show surprised me more this year than HBO's Togetherness which, frankly, has cheated in its Emmy nominations, submitting both Mark Duplass (who really should be a lead) and Steve Zissis as supporting actors.  Despite the submission shenanigans, both actors are more than deserving of nominations.  Togetherness is an incredibly difficult show that demands of its audience a great deal.  It requires people to understand and accept Duplass’s Brett, even in spite of his insecurities and marital difficulties.  And Zissis is both the schlubby best friend and the aspiring actor, meaning that we should get all of the clichés involved.  But his relationship with Amanda Peet’s Tina grounds him in reality and makes him relatable.  Togetherness is a difficult show because its characters aren’t perfect and because we are expected to see ourselves in their imperfections.  It was a show that certainly got to me, in no small part because of Duplass and Zissis.

Silicon Valley made The Leap in season two, not least because of the constant eccentricities and absurdities of TJ Miller.  I though his character was far too over-the-top in season one but, as it turned out, he was right in line with the sensibilities of the show.  And, as we discovered this past year, his outsized ego and personality were really just a mask for the fact that, deep down, Erlich Bachman is a failure.  He tries desperately to feign importance and talent when, the truth is, the one success he’s ever had was a fluke.  He needs Pied Piper as much, if not more, than they need him.  That conflict between bold, boastful Erlich and impotent, incompetent Erlich gave Miller a lot to work with, and he nailed it.

It’s a damn shame that seven years are going to come and go and Nick Offerman will never receive even so much as a nomination for portraying one of comedy’s iconic characters: Ron Swanson.  I’ve written time and time again, as have many other critics, about the greatness that Offerman has brought to Parks and Recreation but, for whatever reason, the television academy just hasn’t seen it.  The final season of Parks was no different, with Offerman bringing the laughs (and occasionally tears) week after week.  Parks and Rec may be gone, but the legend of Ron Swanson will live on.

Others considered: Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Adam Driver (Girls), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Taran Killam (Saturday Night Live), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live), Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), Martin Starr (Silicon Valley)

Those are my Emmy choices.  It was a very strong year for comedy that really just made me wish I had seen more of these shows.  But given what I saw, I’m still excited by this list.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.  Next time we’ll look at the drama supporting actresses.

Tyler Williams is a professional librarian and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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