Emmy contenders nominated against costars have a secret advantage. Since winners are chosen by judges who view one sample episode from each contender in a category, costars are seen on each other's episode submissions in addition to their own. Thus, they get twice as many chances to show off their acting chops. This curious Emmy factor probably helped Felicity Huffman, for example, to win lead comedy actress in 2005. The performance she gave on her "Desperate Housewives" episode wasn't great, but she was so amazing on Marcia Cross' submission that the two taken together put her ahead of the pack.
Now consider this year's contest for supporting comedy actor in which "Modern Family" has four of the six slots: Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill and Eric Stonestreet. Last year, when "Modern Family" had three of the six nominations, Stonestreet prevailed. In the contest for supporting comedy actress, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara are going head to head. Meantime, over in the category of guest actor in a comedy, Nathan Lane is the only "Modern Family" contender. Even though it's unlikely that many judges will overlap, the seven actors up from this series have submitted seven different episodes in the three categories.
Below is a breakdown of each episode.
Julie Bowen's episode is "Strangers on a Treadmill," in which she tries to help her husband with his Realtor's banquet speech. Who else gets to shine? Burrell, who is seen as sympathetic for much of the episode until he makes the speech and winds up scoring with the crowd.
Ty Burrell, "Good Cop, Bad Dog": Burrell must become the bad parent for a day and force his daughters to do their chores. Who else gets to shine? Ferguson, who desperately wants to go to a Lady Gaga concert, but has to watch after his sick partner instead.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Halloween": Ferguson wears a Spider-Man costume to work only to realize that wearing costumes is not the norm at the office. Who else gets to shine? Vergara, who has a hilarious storyline involving her family trying to correct her thick Colombian accent.
Ed O'Neill, "The Kiss": O'Neill is made to realize that he's emotionally closed off, resulting in his son not feeling comfortable kissing in public. Who else gets to shine? Ferguson again, who squirms around throughout the episode trying to avoid Stonestreet's kisses.
Eric Stonestreet, "Mother's Day": Stonestreet is made to feel self-conscious when he is seen as Lily's mother figure as opposed to her father. Who else gets to shine? O'Neill, who has an unexpected emotional moment when he remembers his deceased mother's cooking.
Sofia Vergara, "Slow Down Your Neighbors": Vergara is taught to ride a bicycle for the first time, showcasing various scenes of physical comedy. Who else gets to shine? Bowen, who has several memorable tantrums as she deals with a speeding neighbor.