OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY
“Live from New York, it’s –“Well, no one may be nominated for Saturday Night Live, but this category has a distinct SNL oeuvre. Three of the actors were regulars on the series; one has hosted more times than anybody in history, and one was so funny that SNL missed the opportunity to hire him. If Larry David was nominated instead of Nicholas Hoult, we’d have a full set. So who will end up winning?
Donald Glover, Atlanta: 7–1.
For Playing: Earn, the increasingly beleaguered manager of Paperboi’s European tour. For Him: Glover remains one of the most remarkable talents in the history of — well, practically everything. As Earn went to bizarre parties held by eccentric millionaires, tours that had weird runs, chased after his boss’ cell phone and tried to figure out what was going on with Van, Glover showed his personal level of humor and humanity that makes him a great talent. Against Him: Half the episodes in Season 3 were either bottled (sort of) and many of them didn’t even feature him in a lead role. The third season of Atlanta was brilliant and divisive, which no doubt led to it receiving so few nominations. And if I’m being honest, Glover’s work was better utilized behind the camera rather than in front of it. His co-stars deserve nominations more than he does.
Bill Hader, Barry: 37–10.
For Playing: Barry Berkman, the increasingly burnt out hitman trying to be an actor. For Him: Hader’s performance this year was one of the greatest triumphs in any medium; comedy, drama, limited series, movie. Barry became far more monstrous this season, rarely more so when he tried to show signs of his humanity. He wasn’t doing a good job as being a hit man or an actor, a boyfriend or even a friend. There is only one thing he was good at being — and it eats away at him from the inside out every scene he’s in. Hader was mesmerizing every time he appeared onscreen often — as he did memorably in the penultimate episode — without having to say a single word. Throw in his work directing and writing almost every episode and you have one of the greatest works in history. His Best Actor prize from the HCA for Broadcast and Cable –one of two prizes he won — demonstrates what a force he is. Against Him: Perhaps some people will pick nits and say that Barry isn’t really a comedy and there’s very little that’s actually funny about Hader’s work. (Though to be clear, it’s when he tries to be his most monstrous that he can earn big laughs — remember how he kept Gene in the trunk of his car one episode and then rehearsed a scene with him?)
Nicholas Hoult, The Great: 7–1.
For Playing: Peter, the Czar of Russia constantly put upon by everything including his wife. For Him: It takes a real talent to play a character as stupid and sallow as Peter is, someone who is ruler of a country and the dumbest person in the room. Of course, he’s also foppish, callow and cruel without intending — or intending, depending on his mood. You have to be pretty smart to play someone this dumb. Against Him: Am I the only one who questions Hoult being nominated as a lead? Elle Fanning is the lead is the series; I’ve always considered Hoult supporting. Does he get recognition in this category because of his character’s title? (I guess it is good to be king.) More importantly, The Great has been having trouble making inroads to the comedy category and I don’t think this is it’s year.
Steve Martin, Only Murders in the Building: 9–2.
For Playing: Charles-Haden Savage, the former TV detective who finds himself investigating a real-life murder mystery in his apartment complex. For Him: I didn’t think it was possible at this point in my life to be any more amazed by Steve Martin. Then I started watching Only Murders in the Building. I knew he had the ability to be a hysterical comic, a brilliant straight man and even a moving romantic lead. But who would have thought that at seventy-five he could pull off being an action hero? Everybody in the Arconia is keeping secrets, to be sure. But Charles’ are the saddest and the most painful. We watch him become friends with Mabel and a reluctant ally to Oliver. We saw him open his heart towards love, have sweet moments and incredible pain. We saw him work his way to solving a mystery only to become a suspect in a whole new one at the end of the season. He performs, he writes the episodes, and now he’s thinking about retiring? If this doesn’t set the case for an Emmy in a whole new direction, I don’t know what will. Against Him: You got me. No doubt part of the problem is the very next nominee in the category, siphoning off votes but let’s face the facts: the Emmys are many things in Peak TV, but they aren’t sentimental.
Martin Short, Only Murders in the Building: 11–2.
For Playing: Oliver Putnam, a former Broadway producer who sees the murder of a fellow tenant as an opportunity for a business venture. For Him: Oliver is more needy and desperate than Charles is to begin this investigation, and he’s a nudge who can’t stop directing. But he’s also a man whose last Broadway flop destroyed his career, his marriage and his relationship with his son. Like his co-star, Short has always been skilled at being able to find humanity and drama in his humor and we always see the tears behind the clown. There might be signs that recognition might be coming — his upset win at the HCA for Best Actor in a Streaming Comedy on Sunday does seem to show that people are recognizing his art. And come on, he was cheated out of an Emmy for his superb work on Damages so they owe him one. Against Him: Same problems as Martin basically. Unwilling to recognize one without the other, the Emmys will likely to decide to honor neither.
Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso: 39–10.
For Playing: The title coach of Richmond, dealing with deregulation and an increasingly new set of stresses wearing into his happy-go-lucky attitude. For him: Sudeikis’ work remains as astonishing as ever. He continues to deliver some of the greatest one-liners any actor ever gives and is one of the most likable characters in the age of the antihero. In addition, as he began to face a level of stress in life and found himself unpeeling what made him who he was — often at the worst possible time — Sudeikis revealed more of the dramatic abilities he rarely got a chance to show last season. He dominated much of the Best Actor awards this winter — the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, and the Broadcast Critics and seemed to be certain to repeat until… Against Him: There has been some decided backlash to the backstory we learned about Ted this year, and the fallout may be being felt. Sudeikis lost Best Actor in a Streaming Comedy to Martin Short Sunday, and that may be a sign that momentum he had all winter may be starting to move to his fellow SNL cast-mate.
PREDICTION: Which 2000s-2010s SNL’s alum will win another Emmy? I have a strong suspicion that this year evil will triumph over good, or Stefan will beat the Devil. (Hader over Sudeikis, in other words.)
Tomorrow I cover Best Actress in a Comedy.