Week 2, Part 2: Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy
This is a minor and major complaint simultaneously. Why are there only five nominees in this category? If the HCA could find six actors worthy of nomination in Broadcast/Cable alone, why couldn’t they go up to six? It’s not that they’re weren’t a lot of worthy talents. Ted Danson, who won Best Actor in that category, wasn’t even nominated. It’s not that the nominees here aren’t all worthy (well, four of them are) but there’s always room for more. Anyway.
Anthony Anderson, black-ish: 9–2. For Playing: Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson, the African-American patriarch of a California family. Pro: When you consider Anderson’s performance as Dre (focusing just on this season) as he dealt with not being an essential worker in a pandemic, trying to realize he’s not the kind of protester he once was, the growth of his children and his bold decision to finally walk away from the firm he’s been a part of for the entire series, its remarkable. When you consider Anderson’s entire field of work on TV, not just on black-ish but also his mind-blowing dramatic work in the final seasons of Law and Order and Antwone Mitchell on The Shield, and then realize he hasn’t won a single Emmy for all that, it’s appalling. Anderson is one of the great performers in the era of Peak TV, more than anybody nominated in this category. He deserves something before the lights go out on black-ish. Con: This has never been an easy category for any actor. Anderson has had the misfortune of being in a network series roughly the same time some of the most game-changing comic performances have been given. His luck just doesn’t seem likely to change here.
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method: 4–1. For Playing: Sandy Kominsky, the legendary acting coach. Pro: In any other year than this one, Douglas would be getting the Emmy. Hell, he should’ve gotten it at least once before. But after the final season, where he dealt with the loss of his best friend and agent, when he found himself dealing as executor to his estate (which led to comic joy) when he finally got his role of his lifetime at the same time he learned his ex-wife was dying, and especially after the incredible finale where he had a great loss, bracketed by two genuine joys there is no way that Douglas didn’t earn the Emmy. And hell, the show ended with Sandy winning an Emmy — and giving a speech that all present and future Emmy winners should try to imitate. Really, art should imitate life. Con: In fairness to the Emmys, Douglas’ magnificent work has come at a time where giants in the Lead Comic Actor category walked: Bill Hader more than earned it in 2019, Eugene Levy deserved it in 2020, and its hard to think of Jason Sudeikis not being worthy of it. So just like the character he played so well for three glorious seasons, Douglas will not receive the love he deserved. (Douglas the actor, of course, has received more than his share, so I think he can take it.)
William H. Macy, Shameless: 9–2. For Playing: Frank Gallagher, the ne-er do well patriarch of a scrappy South Side family. Pro: It’s no secret I’ve always been one of Macy’s greatest admirers. And part of the reason its been hard to appreciate his work here is the fact that he plays a character who goes out of his way to stomp on any redeeming values he might have. Frank actually doubled down on in the final season, refusing to take Corona seriously (which ended up killing him before the alcohol-based dementia he was now suffering from would have) not appreciating anything his children did, and his final act, making sure he died in such a way that they won’t even know he’s dead. (Then again, considering their reaction after they thought he was dead, they probably wouldn’t care.) But that just goes to show what an incredible performance Macy has given for more than eleven years — creating a character that people could relate too even if they could never like him. This was a brilliant portrayal on a series the Emmys spent a decade ignoring and it does deserve something. Con: Part of the reason the Emmys never gave it any real love is because not even the show’s runners could decide whether it was a comedy or a drama. (It was submitted in the latter category the first four years it was on the air.) And even those series has proven to be not only Showtime but one cable biggest successes, it examines the lives of people the TV world doesn’t give awards for. Add to this the fact that Macy is, if not directly responsible for the admission scandal that sent his wife to prison, had to at least have knowledge of it, and I’m not sure Macy will even show up Emmys night.
Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso: 3–1. For Playing: Ted Lasso, an American football coach brought to lead a struggling British football team. Pro: By now, we really don’t need to hear the arguments again, but I’ll make them anyway. The breakthrough character in this season was Ted Lasso, and considering that politicians on both sides of the aisle love this guy, that says a lot about how appealing the world finds him. So let’s do something that he wouldn’t and focus on Sudeikis’ performance: I never had much use for Sudeikis on anything he did, even when he was on SNL. And I certainly never would have considered him the type of talent who could create a character capable of being so nice, he wins over his enemies. He’s charming, he’s flawed, and almost every line out of his a gem. He’s also a lot smarter than he appears on first look, which is another reason to love him. And I honestly think that has rubbed off on Sudeikis himself. As he walked through the awards gauntlet this year, every acceptance speech he gives he actually seems more self-effacing then the character he plays. I thought Sudeikis could be funny before; I never in my wildest dreams thought he could be lovable. My hope is that this year’s Emmys is live because the one thing Sudeikis hasn’t been able to do yet is take a trophy in front of his loving peers. Con: Just like with the show, there has been some backlash against Sudeikis and his character the past few weeks. I really don’t know what critics are out there who could hate Ted. Trust me, they aren’t in the Academy.
Kenan Thompson: Kenan:9–2. For Playing: Kenan, a recently widowed dad trying to raise his kid with his father-in-law. Pro: After more than twenty years of standing in the sidelines in every project (brilliantly, I might add) it’s fitting that Thompson, one of the great undervalued comic actors in history finally get acknowledged for playing the lead in something. Con: I have to tell you, this is the most conventional comedy series NBC released this year. Much as I admire Thompson, after seeing a few minutes of his show I was thinking: “They overlooked Martin Freeman and Ted Danson for this?) I’m willing to admit the field for Lead Comic Actors was smaller than usual, but the HCA demonstrated there were better and more daring choices. Why on earth would you give a nomination to this mediocrity? It’s not like Thompson didn’t get a nomination he deserved (and actually has a better chance of winning.)
PREDICTION: Sorry Michael. Expect to see if Sudeikis can give a more modest and moving speech than you did in the final episode of The Kominsky Method.