Week 2, Part 2: Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy
Anthony Anderson, black-ish:7–1. For Playing: Dre Johnson, the patriarch of an affluent African-American family in LA. Pro: Anderson was the most pleasant surprise in this category — even five years in, black-ish is one of the freshest — and given everything going on in the world, most relevant — shows that this is on the air. Anderson has been one of the greatest performers of the new Golden Age in drama and comedy. And he’s been due an Emmy since his work on The Shield nearly fifteen years. It would do my heart good to see him win. Con: Given that right now, the series own creator is starting to move on to fresher things, it’s easy to consider black-ish passé. The fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Comedy isn’t a good sign, and many people may consider (though how is beyond me) Anderson old hat right now.
Don Cheadle, Black Monday:13–2. For Playing: Maurice ‘Mo’ Monroe, the coke snorting, fugitive from the law blamed for the stock market crash of 1987. Pro: Cheadle is one of the great actors of our time, and has the enormous ability to lift even the most mediocre material into work of solid gold. Playing the man who is such a schemer and con artist, he thinks he can con the FBI and his friends into getting out of the jams he puts himself in, Cheadle is a force of nature. Con: Cheadle wasn’t even close to the funniest performer on his own network, and considering that this is the only nomination that the series got, he has a lot to overcome in order to win. And as good as Cheadle is, the material he’s handed in the second season is well below the standards of most of the shows in this category.
Ted Danson, The Good Place: 9–2. For Playing: Michael, the Architect who has become the otherworldly being responsible for the afterlife. Pro: I think at this point it’s safe to say that there is nothing Ted Danson can’t do. His work in the final season of the series featured some of his very best performance as he tried to explain to everybody in the Bad Place why the system was flawed, started a revolution, saved the Good Place — and then realized his true ambition. It’s fitting that his character had the last word on the show, because this has been one of his greatest roles — and when you consider his work in this century alone, that’s saying something. He has earned an Emmy. Con: He has gotten his fair share of recognition from the Academy, and despite the fact he deserves it the most — and this is his last chance for this series — he just may not be able to prevail.
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method: 6–1. For Playing: Sandy Kominsky, an aging acting coach whose life just keeps getting worse. Pro: This series has reminded the world what a brilliant comic actor Douglas is, particularly when he’s allowed to be completely free of restraints. When he won the Golden Globe in 2019, I thought it would be a worthy recognition of one of the great actors playing someone he’s not that far removed from. This is a great role for a great career. Con: There are a lot of veteran actors in this category, some of whom have received far less recognition than Douglas for his career. Considering the abuse that Sandy takes throughout this series, it would be fitting if the lack of recognition from his peers kept going.
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek: 37–10. For playing: Johnny the patriarch of the Rose clan, preparing for his son’s wedding and departure from the title crown. Pro: It’s impossible to watch basically anything Levy does and not burst out laughing. He’s one of the great comic pioneers in history, both on television and in film. When he turned Schitt’s Creek into a family affair, he created one of the most beloved shows in recent memory. I’d say this is the topper of a brilliant career, but I really don’t think he has any intention of slowing down. He’s been the favorite to win the Emmy almost since the final season aired, and its really hard to come up with an argument against him. Con: This is a very tough category to win in, and for all his gifts as a performer, there’s an argument that he’s not the lead the same way most of the actors in this category are. Plus Youseff and Danson are making big gains.
Ramy Youseff, Ramy: 39–10. For Playing: Ramy, an American born Muslim struggling with his faith in New Jersey — and Egypt. Pro: When he won the Golden Globe earlier this year, even he seemed to think no one had watched his show. Having watched the first season, I can say with certainty he earned. Ramy is one of the most daring and hysterically funny shows about culture and religion I’ve seen in years — and considering all the darkness in it, that’s saying a lot. Youseff is one of the most talent new forces to emerge in decades, and though he’s by far the least famous name in this category, he’s almost certainly one of the most deserving. There’s a really good chance he’ll pull off another win, and it won’t be a shock to everybody. Con: For all the great press about the first two seasons of Ramy, the show was not nominated for Best Comedy series, and in fact did much poorer overall than several of the other series nominated. As great as Youseff is, that may be enough to keep him down.
PREDICTION: Really want to see Ted Danson prevail in this category, but momentum and history would seem to suggest Youseff or Levy will win. I pick Youseff — by an eyelash.