Emmys 2011: The Comedies
Predicting the winners in the comedy categories is typically much easier than guessing who will go home with a trophy in either the drama or miniseries/movie fields (see last year's Emmy Awards).
This year appears to be no different, although there is a chance that a few choice upsets could occur, particularly when it comes to whether or not an overdue funnyman will finally get an honor that has eluded him since 2006. . .
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
- MODERN FAMILY
- 30 ROCK
- THE OFFICE
- PARKS AND RECREATION
- THE BIG BANG THEORY
There is little to suggest that last year's Comedy Series champ, Modern Family, won't repeat. It simply has too much going for it at the moment (specifically, high ratings and a number of quality episodes). Although some would argue it dropped slightly in excellence from its first year, this isn't enough to keep it from taking home the top prize. Unlike last year, 30 Rock was back in top form with its fifth season. The major reason it will have to settle for second best stems from Family's momentum. The Office was also better this time around, and the departure of Steve Carell only helps, but it's not strong enough to beat either of the aforementioned two. Glee may still be a hit with fans, but even many of them would agree it wasn't as consistent in its sophomore season. Both Parks and Recreation and The Big Bang Theory are worthy comedies that will have to treat their series nominations as their greatest reward.
LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY
- Steve Carell - THE OFFICE
- Jim Parsons - THE BIG BANG THEORY
- Alec Baldwin - 30 ROCK
- Louis C.K. - LOUIE
- Matt LeBlanc - EPISODES
- Johnny Galecki - THE BIG BANG THEORY
Even before the nominees were announced, early word was that this would be Steve Carell's year, given that it will be his last stint as a series regular on The Office. Carell submitted wisely with the episode "Good-Bye Michael." Although the best moment is more emotional than humorous, it leaves a lasting impact just the same. Great as it would be to see Carell officially win, however, last year's winner Jim Parsons could easily still his thunder. He's actually laugh-out-loud funny in The Big Bang Theory, although he's better in his co-star's submitted episode than his own, "The Agreement Dissection." Alec Baldwin has a couple of funny moments in "Respawn," but he doesn't stand out the way he should. "Bully" probably wasn't the best choice for Louis C.K. The episode isn't particularly funny, and although C.K. is good, he should have chosen "Heckler/Cop Movie" instead. Matt LeBlanc is funnier than one might expect in "Episode 107," although a win is pretty much out of the question. Johnny Galecki is so overshadowed by the flashier performance of his co-star, I wouldn't be surprised if a few voters forgot they were watching "The Benefactor Factor" to see him and not Parsons.
LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
- Laura Linney - THE BIG C
- Amy Poehler - PARKS AND RECREATION
- Edie Falco - NURSE JACKIE
- Tina Fey - 30 ROCK
- Melissa McCarthy - MIKE & MOLLY
- Martha Plimpton - RAISING HOPE
Laura Linney has essentially everything she needs to pull off a seemingly easy victory: playing a strong character who has several memorable moments in the pilot episode, leading a cast in a brand new series, and, of course, being Laura Linney (check out her Emmy-winning track record). Amy Poehler turns in a funny performance in "Flu Season," and she's due for a win. It actually works to her advantage that she hasn't won here, seeing as how the Lead Actress winner has been somebody different since 2001. Edie Falco still has a shot at repeating with "Rat Falls," but the love for her show has died down considerably. Tina Fey is good in "Double-Edged Sword," yet she's better in other episodes (particularly "Reaganing"). Pleasant surprise nominees Melissa McCarthy and Martha Plimpton submitted solid choices ("First Date" and "Say Cheese," respectively), but neither should expect to win.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
- Ty Burrell - MODERN FAMILY
- Chris Colfer - GLEE
- Eric Stonestreet - MODERN FAMILY
- Jesse Tyler Ferguson - MODERN FAMILY
- Jon Cryer - TWO AND A HALF MEN
- Ed O'Neill - MODERN FAMILY
In "Good Cop, Bad Dog," Ty Burrell's character Phil finally drops the nice parent act, and it's pretty funny to witness. Any time an actor is able to play against type, it works to their advantage (awards-wise), which is why Burrell is out in front now. His biggest obstacle is Chris Colfer, who, with "Grilled Cheesus," turns in a performance that may leave a few Emmy voters grabbing for tissues, even if it veers on the melodramatic at times (see the hospital scene at the end). Last year's victor Eric Stonestreet is no less funny this time around, although he doesn't have that true standout moment in "Mother's Day" like he did with "Fizbo." Jesse Tyler Ferguson is hilarious in "Halloween," the episode that's given him his best material to date. The fierceness of the competition is what's standing between him and a statue, although, honestly, it feels like any of these men could very well win. This extends to Jon Cryer, whose sitcom is starting to feel dated, although he still manages to steal a few laughs in "The Immortal Billy Joel." Last but not least, Ed O'Neill submitted wisely with "The Kiss," mostly due to the scene where Jay tries to make up for mocking Gloria's culture. Given his longevity in the industry, voters are likely to treat his very first nomination like it's a prize in itself.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
- Jane Lynch - GLEE
- Betty White - HOT IN CLEVELAND
- Sofia Vergara - MODERN FAMILY
- Jane Krakowski - 30 ROCK
- Julie Bowen - MODERN FAMILY
- Kristen Wiig - SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
Like her co-star Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch submitted an episode ("Funeral") that packs more of an emotional punch than a comedic one. Regardless, she, like Burrell, excels at playing against type here, showing the softer, more delicate side to Sue Sylvester. Betty White is still a hot commodity right now, and she delivers a few genuine laughs in "Free Elka," particularly when she's interacting with Mary Tyler Moore. However, she only has one episode for Emmy voters to consider, whereas Lynch and the other ladies have several. Speaking of which, the fact that she shines in multiple instances could see Sofia Vergara acting as a potential upset. She's okay in her own selection ("Slow Down Your Neighbors"), but she's hilarious in other episodes, particularly "Halloween" and "Caught in the Act." Jane Krakowski also has an outside shot with her submission ("Queen of Jordan"), where Jenna tries to go out of her way to get involved in an intervention. Julie Bowen has two particularly funny moments in "Strangers on a Treadmill" --- fake-laughing at Phil's jokes, and revealing how inappropriate Cameron's shorts are. She's overshadowed, however, by Vergara. Kristen Wiig should have submitted an episode where she plays contest giveaway winner Cheryl Bryant, because she's otherwise unmemorable in the Jane Lynch skits.
GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
- Justin Timberlake - SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
- Nathan Lane - MODERN FAMILY
- Matt Damon - 30 ROCK
- Zach Galifianakis - SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
- Will Arnett - 30 ROCK
- Idris Elba - THE BIG C
This one should be relatively easy to call. Justin Timberlake was arguably the best part of Saturday Night Live last season, given his entertaining monologue, his catchy songs ("3-Way") and his fortune to be a part of some actual funny skits ("What's That Name?"). When he won this award two years ago, he had some formidable competition from the likes of Alan Alda and Steve Martin, no less. So this year should be a breeze by comparison. Nathan Lane is funny in "Boys' Night," but he doesn't have as much screen time as he did in the episode he should have submitted ("Earthquake"). Matt Damon also suffers from a thin cameo appearance in "Double-Edged Sword," although he does make the most of his time (particularly when he starts arguing with Liz Lemon). Funnyman Zach Galifianakis is somewhat disappointing as an SNL host. His monologue is more of a collection of random thoughts than anything else, and his skits aren't too funny either. Still, he makes more of an appearance than some of the others, and name recognition alone will help his cause. Will Arnett has a couple of good moments in "Plan B," but Devon Banks had better material in earlier seasons of 30 Rock. Idris Elba was a welcome surprise for his guest turn in the episode "Blue-Eyed Iris," though this is not the subtle kind of performance that usually wins here.
GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
- Gwyneth Paltrow - GLEE
- Tina Fey - SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
- Cloris Leachman - RAISING HOPE
- Kristin Chenoweth - GLEE
- Elizabeth Banks - 30 ROCK
- Dot-Marie Jones - GLEE
Gwyneth Paltrow has a great introduction in "The Substitute" (essentially asking her class how crazy Lindsay Lohan is), and she only becomes more likable as the show goes on. Like Timberlake, Paltrow also sings and dances. The more multi-talented the performer is (particularly in the comedy field), the better their chances are at winning. Any time Tina Fey stops by Saturday Night Live, there's always a great possibility she'll be garnering some awards. She makes good on her now legendary Sarah Palin impersonation once again, but overall, her turn isn't the goldmine it has been in the past. The opening monologue with Maya Rudolph, for instance, is hit-or-miss. Cloris Leachman is no stranger to winning in this category, thanks to her time spent on Malcolm in the Middle. While she's funny in "Don't Vote for This Episode," she actually stands out by playing the character of Maw Maw straight, a far cry from how we normally see her on the show. Kristin Chenoweth, as April Rhodes, is her usual showy self in "Rumours," though her screen time is less substantial than it was in last year's "The Rhodes Not Taken." Elizabeth Banks is fine in "Double-Edged Sword," but the fact that she got in over the always-nominated Elaine Stritch should be reward enough. Dot-Marie Jones will likewise have to settle for just being nominated, although, with "Never Been Kissed," she's able to infuse some depth into the character of Coach Beiste.
DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY
- MODERN FAMILY ("Halloween" / Michael Alan Spiller)
- 30 ROCK ("Live Show" / Beth McCarthy-Miller)
- MODERN FAMILY ("See You Next Fall" / Steve Levitan)
- MODERN FAMILY ("Slow Down Your Neighbors" / Gail Mancuso)
- HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER ("Subway Wars" / Pamela Fryman)
Michael Alan Spiller did an excellent job managing all the craziness that arose in "Halloween." Between the Spider-Man segment and the mostly unsuccessful Dunphy haunted house, the episode had a nice flow to it. Additionally, it might have been the best thing from the second season. Beth McCarthy-Miller is likely the potential upset here since she orchestrated a live episode of 30 Rock, even if it wasn't one of the funnier submissions from last season. Steve Levitan did a terrific job with "See You Next Fall," and a win, although unlikely, wouldn't be out of the question. Gail Mancuso's "Slow Down Your Neighbors" was okay (directing-wise), although it lacked the flashiness of the other two Modern Family nominees. It's unclear why Pamela Fryman was even nominated for a How I Met Your Mother episode that was almost completely lacking in laughs or directorial creativity. Side note: three of the five nominees are women. How often has that happened?
WRITING FOR A COMEDY
- MODERN FAMILY ("Caught in the Act")
- THE OFFICE ("Good-Bye Michael")
- 30 ROCK ("Reaganing")
- EPISODES ("Episode 107")
- LOUIE ("Poker/Divorce")
Caught in the Act is one of the best products from Modern Family altogether (not just the sophomore season). The show's momentum, in addition to the quality of the nominated episode, put it way out ahead of the competition. Good-Bye Michael could act as a bit of consolation prize in the event that Carell is bested by Parsons, which is a distinct possibility. Furthermore, it's a well-written sendoff to the character of Michael Scott. Reaganing is a fun submission from 30 Rock that incorporates some great performances from many of the cast members (especially Fey, Baldwin and guest star Kelsey Grammer), but the aforementioned two may have too much going for them in this area. Episode 107 is a funny finale to the first season of Episodes, and Poker/Divorce has its moments as well, but neither of these choices is likely to win.
CASTING FOR A COMEDY
- MODERN FAMILY
- 30 ROCK
- NURSE JACKIE
- THE BIG C
Modern Family boasts the best ensemble cast in the best comedy on television right now. It would be a minor upset if it lost this category. 30 Rock has an outside chance of sneaking in here and avoiding another year where it goes home empty-handed. Casting extends to guest stars, and in that regard, this is a series that has the advantage of adding a who's who of big name stars from today and the past. Then again, three of the six nominated guest actresses came from Glee, but this still isn't good enough to pull off a win (look at the number of Modern Family cast members in the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress categories). Nurse Jackie's ensemble will be affected by the lack of love the Emmys showed the series this year, and while casting oftentimes goes to new series with an impressive set of performers, The Big C feels like it's more of a vehicle for star Laura Linney.
FINAL TALLY: 6/10 [60%]
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