For Your Consideration: Supporting Actors – Harve Presnell and John Pyper-Ferguson

[In Week One of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Supporting Actor awards in both comedy and drama. Today, we present our sixth set of candidates. For all candidates, Click Here]

Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Harve Presnell (Lew Steziak)

Andy Barker, P.I.

Not very many people watched Andy Barker P.I. It’s understandable: this midseason replacement came and went with only four airings in its timeslot on Thursday nights. Facing Grey’s Anatomy and CSI, the show failed to gain any ratings traction and never became a watercooler success. It is therefore somewhat unfortunate that the performance of Harve Presnell as Lew Steziak, a cranky old man who has long retired from the private eye business but finds himself being dragged back in. I don’t know what it is about Presnell’s performance, but he manages to capture jaded old man so very well without falling too far into senility. His performance is exactly what I’d like to become when I’m older: cantankerous, grumpy, angry, and yet aware that I could be less angry. And, while he’s certainly a long shot, I think that Presnell at least needs to be considered.

It’s not even that Presnell had a huge dramatic moment, or that he had the most hilarious line possible. He just had this way about him, this delivery, that continually brought something unique to this comedy. Although only airing for six episodes, the show created many unique characters who made up quite the team, but I think I’d most like to meet a real life Lew Steziak, in the flesh. I would put the performance up there with an acting master class by any means, but from a comic perspective I think Presnell brings just the right amount of everything to the role. And, well, I can’t really expect much better than that from a 74-year old, can I? Not likely.

Episode Selection: “The Lady Varnishes”

In this episode, perhaps the wittiest of the show’s takeoffs of old murder mystery films (The Lady Vanishes), this episode features Amy Sedaris as a one-legged (She has a wooden leg, which she varnishes) as a long lost love of Lew’s. It’s a cute episode, and Presnell is good in it with Ed Asner as his arch nemesis as well. However, Andy Barker isn’t big on the YouTube. So, head over to to watch the complete episode, and enjoy this clip of Presnell from the hit musical “Paint Your Wagon”.

YouTube“Paint Your Wagon”

Supporting Actor in a Drama

John Pyper-Ferguson (Joe Whedon)

Brothers & Sisters

Brothers & Sisters is a show about an extended family dealing with the death of its patriarch and all of its other problems. This family is a bloody mess, and they all know it. As a result, I always feel the worst for those who chose to be a part of it. They married these people, and found that they had married into a crazy house. As a result, I also feel the most for these actors who have to react in a natural fashion to the problems that this situation creates. And, as a result, I have chosen to highlight John Pyper-Ferguson, who plays Sarah Walker’s husband Joe, for Emmy consideration.

Previously divorced with a teenage son to show for it, tempted by other women, and eventually making out with his wife’s half-sister, Joe is a complicated character. However, somehow, all of Joe’s actions are never overplayed. They always seem to have the right balance of internal problems (He has womanizing issues) and the external pressures of this family. He reacts as we would, really, having to deal with the insanity that is thrown at him. His breakdown with Sarah at the end of the season felt real, not fake.

Pyper-Ferguson isn’t always even, as some moments feel almost too understated. However, it would be so easy to play Joe as either a complete womanizer or a complete victim, and he has never crossed that line. Considering that balance, I can’t help but be compelled to consider him for an Emmy award.

Episode Selection: “Bad News”

It is a sad state of affairs, but Brothers & Sisters is also low on the YouTube totem pole, it appears. As a result, I can only tell you about Pyper-Ferguson’s performance in this episode where his marriage with Sarah breaks down. I think that his character is put in some tough corners by the show, and it basically turns him into a villain. As a result, without a balanced performance, the character could spiral out of control…but he doesn’t. When he shows up an episode later in an awkward situation, he seems changed and yet still the same. It’s a powerful performance of a man trapped in a family that now despises him, and it works well.

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Filed under ABC, Andy Barker P.I., Award Shows, Brothers & Sisters, Emmy Awards, NBC, Television

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