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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Comedy Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Comedy Acting

June 2nd, 2010

In comedy this year, a lot depends on what shows make it big: we know that Glee and Modern Family are going to make a statement (as noted in my piece handicapping the Comedy Series race), but is it going to be a statement of “this is a great show” or a statement of “this is the greatest show since sliced bread?” The difference will largely be felt in the acting categories: both Modern Family and Glee have multiple Emmy contenders, but it’s unclear whether some of the less heralded performers will be able to rise along with the big “stars,” or whether the halo of series success won’t help them compete against some established names already entrenched in these categories.

Ultimately, I’m willing to say that there’s going to be some pretty big turnaround this year in some of these categories, but others feature quite a large number of former nominees who likely aren’t going anywhere, so it should be interesting to see how things shake out on July 8th. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the four major Comedy Acting Emmys and see where the chips lie.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series

June 1st, 2010

What’s weird about predicting the Emmy nominations (which are on July 8th, for the record) is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with quality: sure, a bad season can certainly hurt your chances at getting an Emmy, and a good season is sure to be of some assistance, but the objective quality of a series doesn’t really matter until they’re nominated. Until that point, it’s one big popularity contest, combining old habits, much-hyped new series, and those nominees who seem particularly newsworthy.

This is why it’s possible to predict the nominees, or at least the long-list of contenders who could logically garner a nomination on July 8th, before the eligibility period even ends (which isn’t really that big a deal this year, as any series which aired the majority of its season before the deadline [like Breaking Bad] will still be able to submit their concluding episodes). And while it may seem a bit premature, I’m pretty Emmy obsessive, and wanted to take some time this week to run down the potential nominees in each category. In the case of the series and acting categories, I’ll single out some who I believe are guaranteed nominations, while I’ll likely be less able to do so with Writing and Directing (which are often much less predictable, outside of a few exceptions).

We’ll start with Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series today, both because they’re a bit easier to handicap and because they’re the “big” races. They’re also the categories where I’m willing to put money down on a majority of the nominees, leaving only a few spots remaining for the other series to fight over in the months ahead.

And what a fight it’s going to be.

[Before we start, hats off to the great work of the Gold Derby forum members, especially moderator Chris “Boomer” Beachum, whose work continues to make projects like this a lot easier. Check out their Official 2010 Emmy Campaign Submissions thread for a full list of submitted nominees; you’ll end up there for at least a half hour before you realize how much time has elapsed.]

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2009 Emmy Nominations: And the Nominees Are…

Emmy2009Title

And the Nominees Are…

2009 Emmy Nominations

For analysis of the surprises, the snubs, and everything in between, check out:

Power to the People?: 2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis [Link]

However, in list form, the nominees for the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are…

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Big Love
  • Breaking Bad
  • Damages
  • Dexter
  • House
  • Lost
  • Mad Men

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)
  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist)

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Entourage
  • Family Guy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office
  • 30 Rock
  • Weeds

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords)
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
  • Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?)
  • Toni Colette (United States of Tara)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures…Christine)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)
  • Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Outstanding Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Outstanding Comedy Series

Predictions

There is very little chance that 30 Rock won’t be running away with this category, which means that the other nominees aren’t going to really matter at the end of the day. However, there are a few shows in a position to make a big splash should they be able to break through into the category, especially for a couple of CBS sitcoms looking for their moment in the spotlight.

One can presume, right off the bat, that 30 Rock, The Office and Two and a Half Men will be garnering nominations based on popular vote, having been clear favourites of voters over the past number of years. The other three spots, however, could go in different directions. Last year, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm rounded out the category, but with the unpredictability of the popular vote combined with Enthusiasm taking a breather, the door is open for some new faces (especially with an extra nominee).

Only one of them, of course, is actually new: Showtime’s United States of Tara was the only real buzzworthy comedy debut of the year (Parks and Recreation proving too mixed to make an impact), driven by a strong (and likely Emmy-nominated) lead performance from Toni Colette and the Hollywood swagger of Diablo Cody. The show has a shot at making the category, but it will likely have to fight it out with stablemates Weeds, which has been close in the past, and Californication. Still, it feels like there’s room in the category for a new show, and Tara might just be it.

The other two shows with a real shot are How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. HIMYM has the rising starpower of Neil Patrick Harris and four strong seasons in its favour, while The Big Bang Theory is slightly more populist and comes from the much revered Chuck Lorre. I’d say that Jim Parsons will be the latter’s breakthrough, so if one of them finds its way into the category my money’s on HIMYM. It’s a definite long shot, but this is around the time that Scrubs broke into the category and I think fears over its premature cancellation are gone, which could allow it to gain some more credibility.

HBO, meanwhile, is likely to stay in the category with stale but apparently popular Entourage, and it’s impossible to discount Family Guy, submitting into the Comedy Series category with a big campaign and trying to overcome the stigma facing animation. ABC would like to think that Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives could benefit here, but the shows have disconnected from the Emmy base for good outside of their performers. All in all, it’s really going to come down to just how popular the popular vote skews, which is a variable we can’t really predict properly at all.

Predictions for Outstanding Comedy Series

  • 30 Rock
  • Entourage
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office
  • Two and a Half Men
  • United States of Tara

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Predictions

There is no category at the Emmys that will be less contentious in terms of deciding the nominees than this one, where a number of current favourites, a few old favourites, and one newcomer are going to duke it out: there’s six slots available, and I’d tend to argue that there’s really only seven contenders, making for a disappointing wakeup call for one individual.

Returning to the category will be four of five of last year’s nominees: Lee Pace rode a lot of popular support for Pushing Daisies last year, but shows that were canceled in December aren’t going to make it to the Emmys nine months later. This leaves Charlie Sheen, Steve Carell, Tony Shalhoub and winner Alec Baldwin, a competitive group (although my money’s still on Baldwin).

The two remaining spots are really divided between three people. First, you have previous favourites Zach Braff and David Duchovony. In the latter case, Duchovony was expected to get a nomination last year but failed to make the category; if the voters were supportive of him but the panels didn’t like his morally corrupt character on Californication, he could make it in this time around. Braff, meanwhile, got a tearful sendoff on Scrubs this season, and his fame coupled with the show’s return in quality could make him a contender (if not the show itself, which was off the radar for too long).

They’re likely duking it out for one spot, however, since Jim Parsons is the talk of the category. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to beat out Carell and Baldwin, but Parsons has been delivering an absolutely amazing performance on The Big Bang Theory, equally broad and nuanced in a way that indicates a real talent. The show around him is rarely as good as his ability, but the way he manages to bring humanity to this cold and unfeeling character is noticeable even for non-fans of the show, a quality that makes him a definite dark horse and a likely nominee (he’s announcing the nominees, after all).

This all doesn’t leave much room for even any other competitors: while I could cheer for Zachary Levi, Chuck was definitely a critics’ darling more than it was an industry darling, and outside of a left-field guest star nod for Chevy Chase the show won’t connect with voters.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Comedy

  • Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
  • Steve Carell (“The Office”)
  • David Duchovony (“Californication”)
  • Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)
  • Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”)
  • Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Predictions

There are some years where you expect a lot of turnaround in categories, and this is a fine example of that: Kristin Chenoweth is unlikely to make it back for canceled Pushing Daisies, Vanessa Williams could lose her spot with Ugly Betty’s fall from cultural relevance, Amy Poehler is focusing her efforts on the Lead Actress race, and even last year’s winner Jean Smart could be in trouble with Samantha Who? being canceled. This leaves only Holland Taylor, whose role on Two and a Half Men seems to be pretty safe in terms of garnering another nomination, and thus five spots are potentially open for new entrants into the category.

Chances are that some of those faces will actually be familiar ones, just those which have been out of the category as of late. Elizabeth Perkins has made it here before for her role on Weeds, and there’s every chance that she could return. She could be joined by Conchata Ferrell of Two and a Half Men, who could return depending on the way the popular vote reacts to Two and a Half Men: was its success driven by popularity or by its traditional sitcom familiarity in the panels? Only time will tell, for now.

The one return that feels absolutely necessary is Jenna Fischer, who did some really strong work on The Office and deserves recognition for it after being snubbed last year. Similarly, Jane Krakowski is playing a tough role on 30 Rock, as Jenna is often used in ways that don’t really do the character justice and turn it into a thankless, one-note part of the show. However, when she has strong material (like when she faked her death, or had an epic battle with Tracy resulting in Jenna wearing black face), she’s absolutely fantastic, and deserves to ride the show’s momentum to a nomination.

The new contender in the field, meanwhile, is Rosemarie DeWitt, whose role on United States of Tara showed some nice evolution. While the similarity of this role to her role in Rachel Getting Married (woman jealous of her damaged and thus attention-seeking sister) was at times a detriment to understanding how good she is at it, it’ll work well for voters who know her from that film and who know that she probably deserved a shot at the Oscar with her performance, and likely deserves a shot at the Emmy here.

Predictions for Supporting Actress in a Comedy

  • Rosemarie DeWitt (“United States of Tara”)
  • Jenna Fischer (“The Office”)
  • Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”)
  • Jean Smart (“Samantha Who?”)
  • Holland Taylor (“Two and a Half Men”)
  • Vanessa Williams (“Ugly Betty”)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Predictions

Right now, Emmy’s comedy landscape is at its strongest in the supporting categories, where a number of contenders are in position to break out. The problem, however, in the Supporting Actor category is that this has been the case for a number of years, and yet Jeremy Piven has been dominating the category anyways. The big question this year is whether this will change, and chances are it will be many of the usual suspects trying to start a new trend.

Piven’s getting back into the category, and chances are he will be joined by at least three of last year’s nominees: one can expect Rainn Wilson and Jon Cryer to return, alongside my personal favourite in the category Neil Patrick Harris. Realistically, Harris should have won this award two years ago, or even last year, but the fact remains that he continues to steal entire episodes on what is a fundamentally great show, crafting in Barney a character that has managed to overcome Doogie Howser as his signature role, at least for this generation. NPH is hosting the evening’s festivities, and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The rest of the category is more than a bit up in the air, primarily because it is unclear just who has been off on the periphery in the category in past years. Kevin Dillon made it into this category the last two years, but his role on Entourage has largely been forgotten as of late so I don’t think he’s quite on the radar to the degree of someone like John Krasinski, whose work on The Office has been particularly impressive as of late (the final scene of the finale being a fine example of that).

The other real contenders here are also from an NBC sitcom, one that fascinatingly has never been nominated for any supporting statues. 30 Rock dominated every Comedy category but the supporting ones last year, as Fey and Baldwin were the only nominees. However, with the show’s status as an Emmy darling all but cemented, we might finally see one or even two of them break through. We know that Jack McBrayer has been close before (he broke into the Top 10 last year, for example), but part of me feels like Tracy Morgan is just as likely – he remains the show’s MVP when it comes to its absurdist tendencies, and you can’t overestimate the importance of his broad comedy to the show.

Predictions for Supporting Actor in a Comedy

  • Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men”)
  • John Krasinski (“The Office”)
  • Tracy Morgan (“30 Rock”)
  • Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”)
  • Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”)
  • Rainn Wilson (“The Office”)

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