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Blame Michael Scott if Steve Carell loses the Emmy again?

August 8, 2011 |  2:30 pm

Steve Carell has lost five Emmy bouts for portraying cringe-inducing boss Michael Scott on "The Office," which leads Emmy watchers to wonder: Is it Carell whom voters don't like, or Michael Scott?

Steve-carrell-the-officeWhen Emmy voters view sample episodes from nominated stars, sometimes they hold the bad behavior of their unlikable characters against them. That may be what prevented Jason Alexander from winning any of his seven nominations for playing annoying curmudgeon George Costanza on "Seinfeld." It may also have hurt Hugh Laurie, whose character on "House" is a wanton drug abuser who berates his staff –- and patients too. They're among TV's most famous characters, but Emmy voters don't want to hug them.

Of course, this factor didn't hurt James Gandolfini, who played sociopathic mob boss Tony Soprano on HBO's "The Sopranos" to the tune of three Emmys. He won the second of those awards for the third-season episode "Amour Fou," in which Tony beat up his mistress Gloria (Annabella Sciorra). Not only did voters not hold Tony's violence against his portrayer, they selected that performance over Martin Sheen, who that year submitted the "Two Cathedrals" episode of "The West Wing" in which he grieved for his beloved secretary by railing at God –- in Latin!

Much of the comedy of "The Office" comes from the bumbling ineptitude of Michael Scott, but sometimes that quality is more a hindrance than a help to Carell, as in "The Injury," which he submitted for his first nomination in 2006; Michael spends the entire episode whining about burning his foot in a George Foreman grill. In his 2010 submission, "The Cover-Up," he is paranoid about his girlfriend and hires Dwight (Rainn Wilson) to follow her. And even though "Goodbye Toby" was arguably his best submission (it's the episode in which he first meets Holly, played by Amy Ryan), he spends much of its 60 minutes engaging in cruel celebration over the departure of Toby (Paul Lieberstein), an unassuming milquetoast in human resources.

But in this year's submission, "Goodbye Michael," Michael Scott is on his best behavior. What's more, he gets to bid a fond, tearful farewell to his employees, who, after all is said and done, are sad to see him go. It's Michael at his most sympathetic, and though the character is frequently hard to hug, Carell has never been so eminently huggable; he's a well-liked actor leaving his star-making role on a high note, and he has yet to win TV's top prize. Will he finally prevail, or will Michael Scott, once again, get the cold shoulder?


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— Tom O'Neil

Photo: Steve Carell in "The Office." Credit: NBC.