Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy
Anthony Anderson, black-ish: 7–1
For playing: ‘Dre’ Johnson, the patriarch of the Johnson clan. Pro: Five years into black-ish’s run, Anderson continues to show why he is one of the greatest comic actors ever working. He is long past due some recognition by the Emmys (some of whom think he should’ve gotten acknowledged for The Shield), and he may one of the best fathers in all of TV. Con: Even though the family of black-ish continues the grow, and the series has lost none of its comic edge, it may have missed its opportunity, and that will probably weigh against Anderson
Don Cheadle, Black Monday: 13–2
For playing: Maurice Monroe, the coked-up, ever-scheming broker at the center of the 1987 Stock Exchange meltdown. Pro: For all the criticism of the series — and I was one of the big ones — one can’t deny Cheadle’s incredible ability to be both the cold-blooded, utterly scheming conniver, and yet at the end of the first season, the only one with a moral compass. Cheadle is one of the greatest actors of any medium, and he deserves some recognition. Con: Black Monday was in many ways the typical Showtime comedy — emphasizing extremes and disgusts for laughs — and the Emmys has had trouble recognizing the good ones. Which, in all candor, Black Monday isn’t one.
Ted Danson, The Good Place: 9–2
For playing, Michael, the otherworldly being from the afterlife, who may be the only one who can save humanity. Pro: Danson has long since established himself as one of the true legends of television, someone who is a master of both comedy and drama. And Michael may be one of the greatest roles he’s ever played. A creature who’s spent eternity trying to torment humanity, who has somehow managed to find a way to realize that it may be worth saving, Michael stands as one of the most amazing characters to come out of TV this decade. Plus, its been a real long time since Danson was on the podium. I think he’s earned it. Con: In a perfect world, Danson would have nothing between him and the Emmy. But as The Good Place would be the first to tell you, this is far from a perfect world. Other suns may have eclipsed him.
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method: 9–2
For playing: Sandy Kominsky, aging acting legend/teacher. Pro: Douglas has been around such a long time (longer, even, than Danson) that we tend to forget just how brilliant a comic actor he is. The Kominsky Method was one of the more entertaining comedies last year, mainly because of Douglas’ superb turn as a man dealing with age and obsolescence, trying to help his best friend deal with his wife’s death, finding love with someone age-appropriate, and dealing with his prostate. It was a marvelous turn, well deserving of the Golden Globe he won earlier this year. Con: A lot of time has passed, and The Kominsky Method, which also took the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, has lost a lot of its forward momentum. It wasn’t really given the nominations it deserved, and that might end up hurting Douglas’ chances.
Bill Hader, Barry: 10–3
For playing: Barry Block/Berkman, acting student/contract killer. Pro: I really dropped the ball saying that Hader didn’t deserve the Emmy last year. And I can say with certainty, he deserves it just as much as he did last year, if not more. Dealing with the guilt of killing the detective chasing him, trying to get out of the life he was in, while being pursued by the cops, training an army, and then being betrayed by one of his closets friends. And that’s before you consider ‘ronny-lily’, where he was at the center, or the finale, in which all of his chickens came home to roost — and a level of carnage that would’ve been big for Game of Thrones unfolding. He deserves to be the favorite. Con: Will the Emmys choose to recognize someone a little older, and just as funny? There are a lot of deserving nominees in this category.
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek: 11–2
For playing: Johnny Rose, the patriarch of the family. Pro: It comes as one of the biggest shocks in my life that somehow this is Levy, one of the greatest comic actors in history, first Emmy nomination. He’s been making people laugh since SCTV and in this project — literally a family affair — he continues to demonstrate that he’s one of the greatest. If there was a sentimental favorite in this category, it’s him. Con: If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn with certainty, the Emmys are not generally sentimental. Levy may have to say: “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” Knowing him, he’ll make that funny.
I’d like to see Danson finally win, but I think the odds are that Hader will repeat. And in a rarity, I’m actually okay with that.