One is a multi-camera comedy series that has a laugh track on CBS. The other is a single-camera comedy series airing on HBO. And yet, both How I Met Your Mother and Entourage share one key factor: outside of their core drama, but related to it, there is a character who becomes the real reason to watch the series. In reality, Jeremy Piven (Entourage) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) are lead actors in the eyes of many viewers, and in the episodes submitted for Emmy consideration they claim ownership to their respective series. And this makes them, in the end, the front-runner and the dark horse in this Emmy race.
Piven, who won last year for his portrayal of super-agent Ari Gold, is responsible for creating a character whose contribution to each episode often decides their quality. Ari is brash, quick, and more importantly realistic: as over the top as Ari may be, Piven never allows it to develop into caricature.
This is seen quite easily within the episode he has submitted for consideration. I earlier previewed his chances of a nomination, and this episode (“Manic Monday,” featuring Piven dealing with his split from Vince, his star client) was a large part of my decision: he has vulnerable moments, which humanizes his character, but then also has numerous outbursts that Piven does so damn well. The result is an episode that allows even new viewers to gain an understanding for his character, and his ownership of the screen (And Emmys love for repeat winners) make him the favourite.
Youtube – Jeremy Piven in “Manic Monday”
While some hearts might lie with The Office’s Rainn Wilson in this category, I think that he is a character too often overshadowed (especially in his submitted episode) by Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. Dwight is a character that often plays a substantial role, but this episode was entirely supportive and despite the name of the category that never has the same level of impact.
Instead, it is the former Doogie Howser, Neil Patrick Harris, who is waiting in the wings if voters choose to diversify their choice this year. There are multiple reasons for this, but in the end I think it comes down to the episode he submitted. “Showdown” perfectly captures just how much Barney owns this series in every way, with no other character overshadowing his performance.
Throughout most of the episode, Barney’s character is planning on heading on The Price is Right to confront Bob Barker, who he believes to be his father. The early parts of the episode merely hint at this, but the final five minutes of the episode actually shows us Barney on The Price is Right: spinning the big wheel, playing pricing games, and participating in the Showcase.
YouTube: Neil Patrick Harris in “Showdown”
Not only does this section lean heavily on the press received by Bob Barker’s recent departure from the long-running game show, but it is also both emotional and hilarious for Neil Patrick Harris’ character. It is meaningful, heartwarming, and puts his character into an entirely new light.
These two actors both share that quality: within a single episode, you get an image of their character in a moment of weakness before finding themselves again. As each episode screened for voters is edited down to just the scenes of the nominated supporting players, the best submissions are those that tell a story and show some sort of growth.
And I don’t think the other candidates achieved that in their episodes, especially not to the level of these two candidates. These two scene-stealers, when the rest of the series is removed, stand on their own. Whether Emmy voters will go with the hipster agent who they rewarded last year, or the critical favourite, legendary bachelor who has yet to be awarded, remains to be seen. Regardless, this is one Emmy race where a deserving winner is likely to be crowned…but my heart’s with Swarley.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jon Cryer – Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon – Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris – How I Met Your Mother
Jeremy Piven – Entourage
Rainn Wilson – The Office