Week 2, Part 2: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy
There’s going to be a lot of veteran blood in the Lead Actor category with three more than likely nominees in their seventies as well two veterans from SNL — one of whom will likely have a chance to double dip. I think the winner in this category is preordained, but that doesn’t mean they’re aren’t a lot of worthy candidates.
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Dre Johnson has been one of the great fathers in sitcom history, trying to make a better life for his family even though he knows better than anyone just how layered the system is for them. Of course Dre also has an ego that is almost inevitably punctured — how hard it was for him to deal with the fact he wasn’t a essential worker or a real protestor or willing to take the same risks as his children. Anderson has always been the most brilliant asset to come out of the New Golden Age: his career in stand-up comedy shows how will he can deliver a punchline; his history in series drama shows how well he can handle serious topics without preaching. They’re running out of time to give Anderson an Emmy. I hope they get to it soon.
Ted Danson, Mr. Mayor
Despite the faith that NBC has shown in it (instead of another, better shows) I’m not convinced that Mr. Mayor will ever be a great comedy. It’s too slapdash in its humor and it hasn’t gone anything near a consistent tone. But there are a couple of things that work in its favor and the biggest of them is Ted Danson in the title role. Neil Bremer may be clueless and out-of-touch when it comes to politics, but Danson has spent pretty much his entire career making often truly hard-to-like to characters genuinely likable and amusing with often less. Danson is endearing and funny in so many ways that you find yourself rooting for the comedy. (And let’s be honest: he should’ve gotten at least one Emmy for The Good Place. So let’s just keep them coming as long as he can keep going.)
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Everyone knows that Michael Douglas is one of the greatest actors in history. But I’m willing to bet the lion’s share of today’s audience forgot what a great comic actor is when he starred in so many often terrible thrillers. Playing Sandy Kominsky a man who never lived up to his potential — as an actor, as a husband and it’s hard to tell as a father — the one thing he’s always been good at is being a friend. And seeing him without Norman, much of Sandy has been doing in this series (sob) final season has shown him try to be better at his life because of what his friend meant to him. Douglas delivers jokes and pathos nearly perfectly and he’s always wonderful to watch. Just like Sandy, though, Douglas’ timing is off: among a lesser group of nominees, he’d be a shoo-in for an Emmy. But there’s always been someone better than him out there. Douglas doesn’t need trophies to testify to his greatness. A nomination is enough.
Martin Freeman, Breeders
Martin Freeman has always been one of the more versatile actors in the past ten years. I don’t if anyone else could be capable of playing the most human version of John Watson TV’s seen yet and one of the most loathsome monsters on Fargo in the same calendar year. He never quite seems to get the credit from the Emmys that he deserved and of my seven choices, he’s the most unlikely to break through. But when you consider his work as Paul, a husband and father whose anger is so deep he utterly rejects the idea of getting rid of it no matter how much his wife and children argue against it, you see a hundred ways how this series could go wrong and how Freeman manages to avoid every single snare. Part of is because he co-created the series, but most of it is because of the humanity that lies behind all of Paul’s actions, especially in the final episode when he realize just how much he’s hurting his family with his anger and does something that few comedies would dare try. Freeman’s work may be subtle compared to some of the other nominees, but he’s earned it.
William H. Macy, Shameless
Macy is one of the greatest actors ever. Full stop. Part of the reason I really hated Shameless for so long was because it took the likeability that permeated his being and put into a character who did everything in his power to make you loathe him and who did everything throughout the series entire run to be utterly resistant to change. Is it any wonder that every year, one by one, the Gallagher children abandoned him? And to the very end, Frank was resistant to it. His last words (which in true Shameless tradition, his children will almost certainly never see) were telling each of his children how much they disappointed him. He never cared for a single human being who couldn’t do something for him; hell, that’s what ended up killing him. And it is because of that very ability that Macy deserves to get one last bite at the Emmy apple. Because I’m not sure of a single other actor who could have played this despicable human being, and yet somehow laugh at his antics for eleven years. His family won’t miss him, but the world will.
Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso
I don’t think anything can stop Sudeikis from taking the Emmy this year. He’s won every major award already and gone from outsider to odds-on favorite in just a few months. And the thing is, he deserves it. Leaving aside the comic brilliance of every aspect of Sudeikis’ performance, the way he delivers perfect and often very subtle jokes — it has been a really long time since any major series — not comedy, series — has had at its center a purely and utterly nice human being. I’m not saying Ted’s not flawed, but he’s so charming that even the people who want to hate him end up liking him anyway. In the era of the antihero, this is utterly unheard of, much less on a streaming show where it seems to be a law that no one can be entirely pleasant. (Well, maybe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.) Sudeikis doesn’t make this show wonderful by himself, but without his utterly charming persona we might not believe in it. Sudeikis has earned an Emmy, and we know he’ll be gracious when he accepts — like Ted
Keenan Thompson, Keenan
He’s been on SNL for twenty years — and that wasn’t the start of his career in comedy. Thompson has always been one of the great comic talents of the last thirty years, and I’m kind of appalled its taken him this long to finally get his own series. I wish it was a little less traditional than so many clichéd comedies, but Thompson gets to use a lot of the charm he doesn’t quite get a chance to do enough on Saturday Night Live. (Of course, the odds are good he’ll get nominated for that show too, but that’s a different story) Thompson has always been good at mining laughs at material you wouldn’t get them from and that ability will no doubt work in his favor.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Iain Armitage, Young Sheldon
I’m frankly astonished this undervalued comedy hasn’t gotten a boatload of nominations by now. Maybe that’s because as long as The Big Bang Theory was on the air, it was also going to overshadow its spinoff. But now that it’s gone, maybe attention can finally be paid to this young genius who has so many mannerisms of Jim Parsons down pat its kind of uncanny. I’ve known Armitage was an incredible actor during Big Little Lies and this series more than demonstrates his incredible comic skills. Armitage is so good in his role you almost don’t need to see who he’ll grow into being. This Sheldon deserves as many Emmys as the man he’ll grow into. But you have to nominate him first.