I decided to take a look at the full list of Emmy submissions today, because I watch a lot of television. I was also thinking I’d do periodic posts on my thoughts in certain categories, much like Alan Sepinwall does every year (and because I occasionally pretend I am a TV critic. Damn TV, ruining my imagination!).
The absolute strangest thing I noticed is that of the 107 “Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series” submissions, 16 of them were from 30 Rock. Sixteen! I can’t really complain, since 30 Rock had, in my opinion, its best season since before the Writer’s Strike, but it sure does indicate a serious reliance on guest stars and certain lack of faith in the supporting cast. But after six seasons, you can’t blame them for trying to keep things fresh, especially as funny as the season turns out to be. (For the record, my favorite guest appearances were Kelsey Grammer, Jim Carrey, Jon Hamm, and William Baldwin. Stacy Keach was pretty great too.)
Anyway, today I want to discuss a similar category, Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. This category is loaded– I drew up a dozen names on my first draft and left off some actors who would be reliable contenders in any other year.
I feel like a presenter at the Cyrus Dewey Awards for saying this, but Rob McElhenney certainly made a brave choice to put on 50 pounds for comedy’s sake on this season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. When combined with a resurgent season 7 after an uneven season 6, it’s enough for me to give the nod to Mac, who not only sacrificed his health for comedy’s sake, but resisted the temptation to go overly broad with the fat humor, instead doling it out in just the right amounts.
For the greatness that is Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman could win this award every year until Parks and Recreation left the air, and I wouldn’t complain. But in my fictional world where I am the entire committee, he already won for seasons 2 and 3, so I have no problem letting someone else win.
Happy Endings may have the best comedy ensemble on TV right now, and as a delightful surprise and one of the funniest shows of the season, it deserves multiple nominations. I considered every member of the main cast (even Zachary Knighton’s Dave, who was much improved down the stretch run of the season), but ultimately my nomination spot for this show goes to Damon Wayans Jr. Animated and expressive, he makes the slightly effeminate Brad a perfect match for Eliza Coupe’s type-A Jane without resorting to caricature or stereotype. Watch his performance in “The St. Valentine’s Day Maxssacre” and see if you don’t find a spot for him on your ballot.
Of all the supporting performances in Community this year, even though so much was made of Abed’s journey into darkness in episodes like “Virtual Systems Analysis”, my Emmy nomination is going to Donald Glover, who I think had his best season yet, as he portrayed Troy’s need to grow up and assume more mature responsibilities and direction in life with his desire to have fun with Abed and stay friends with the group. He wasn’t just funny this year; he portrayed a real character journey as well. His deadpan disbelief at the ridiculousness of the Air Conditioning School in “Introduction to Finality” were some of the funniest moments of the season, not to mention his reaction to missing all the excitement in the darkest timeline in “Remedial Chaos Theory”.
New Girl took a little while to find its footing in its rookie year, but even as the show and the ensemble rounded into form, one character always delivered the laughs– Max Greenfield‘s Schmidt, the fussy mother-cum-overcompensating douche of the bunch. In some ways even more the mother of the group than Zooey Deschanel’s Jess (as demonstrated when Schmidt turns hippie in “Control”, when his absence causes the apartment to fall apart), his particularities and his gift for strange one-liners made for terrific comedy, and he showed even more range as Schmidt and Hannah Simone’s CeCe began a relationship– sincere without being cloying or sappy, he remained funny as ever. If this award were given for the final 1/3 of the year, Jake Johnson would have a case, but Greenfield’s performance carried the show’s comedy through the shaky early episodes and deserves to be recognized.
And last, because grown men in animal suits is never not funny: Jason Gann as the titular character in Wilfred. On a strange little show not quite like anything else on TV, Gann’s anthropomorphized dog (which may or may not be the main character’s hallucination) had to both prove clever and intelligent enough that Elijah Wood’s Ryan would continue to talk to, and place his trust in, him, as well as be dog-like enough that his moments of over-the-top dog behavior were funny without breaking from the reality of the show. He did a great job, even if not too many people saw it, and he deserves mention.
I’ll admit, I went with “one nominee per show” with this ballot, not because I feel that’s a general rule to follow, but because I had a good ten or twelve finalists and it was the only way I could decide between them. Some people who just missed the cut, and might have made it on another day:
In a role that would be easy to be stupid and broad without much effort, Chris Pratt brings something special to Parks and Recreation‘s Andy Dwyer. Not only is he a gifted physical comedian, but his talents for improv have led to some of the funniest moments of the entire series (I’m thinking of the “Network Connectivity Problems” line from season 3, but Andy re-enacting his favorite 80s movies this year in “The Debate” is another example of what he brings to the role that no one else could). Andy has transformed from a lazy jerk into a lovable goofball, and Pratt’s performance has not only made the transformation seem completely natural but also has made every step of it hilarious. I’ll pump my fist if he gets a real nomination.
It was a close vote for my Happy Endings spot, but my selection of Damon Wayans Jr. means that Adam Pally just missed out. Teddy-bear-with-a-cynical-shell Max got a lot of roles to play this year, from the ridiculously comical (Bear Max in “Spring Smackdown”) to the understated and sweet (his relationship with James Wolk’s Grant). Again, it was a really close call between him and Wayans and I won’t fault anyone who prefers Pally.
With his elevation to the main cast in season 3 came a whole lot more opportunities for Community’s Jim Rash to show what a gifted performer he is as Dean Pelton. His insane/impressive series of impersonations, followed by his breakdown, in “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”, is a real tour de force. (Plus, another season full of costumes!) In real life, Rash will probably have to comfort himself with his screenwriting Oscar, but in some world out there, his performance is widely appreciated enough for a nomination.
After seven years, it’s easy for performers to become an afterthought in the nominations process in favor of fresh faces. But doing so would be a mistake in this case, as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton found new depths to plumb this season as Dennis. Though we have a pretty good sketch of Dennis’ personality and inner workings at this point (his vanity, the vague hints he might be a sexual predator), his deliveries this year more and more revealed there might be a real sociopath underneath the surface, and it was never not funny. From his tongue-tied fumbling in front of a hot reporter in “Storm of the Century” to his commitment to stalking in “The Anti-Social Network” to the tour de force of “The High School Reunion” two-parter, revealing both his preference for BDSM (“I like to bind… I like to be bound!”) and his demented take on his place in the high school pecking order (“You used to walk around muttering how you were a ‘golden god’ and we were all your minions, but no one ever actually hung out with you except Ronnie the Rat and Dirt Grub [Mac and Charlie]…”), Dennis found new depths of depravity this year, and much of the credit for the comedy in them goes to Howerton’s line readings.
Also considered: Danny Pudi, “Community”; James Van Der Beek, “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23”; Tony Hale, “Veep”; Charlie Day, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”; Brian Van Holt, “Cougar Town”; Jake Johnson, “New Girl”