How long is too long to wait to get into Emmy's good graces?
Hugh Laurie ("House") has been nominated and lost the race for lead drama actor six times in the last seven years and is a nominee again this year. He won the Golden Globe twice (2006 and 2007) and bagged two SAG Awards (2007 and 2009), but he's still Emmy-less. Is he doomed to lose again and again?
"House" isn't as popular as it once was. It received four consecutive nominations for best drama from 2006 to 2009, but none since then. Nevertheless, the TV Academy continues to give the popular actor more chances to prevail -- and to get his heart broken on Emmy night.
Last year, pundits thought Laurie had his best chance yet at the gold thanks to his submission episode, the sixth-season premiere "Broken," a two-hour entry in which he is committed to a mental institution, spars with a psychiatrist played by guest star Andre Braugher, falls in love with Franka Potente and leaves a better, more enlightened man. The episode, which interrupted the show's usual storylines for what amounted to a TV remake of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (which resulted in Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher), seemed tailor-made for Emmy voters but, alas, they opted for "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston for the third time.
Is Laurie's character simply too unlikable? Dr. House is an arrogant medical genius who spends the better part of most episodes berating his staff and ridiculing his patients. Perhaps the character makes it difficult for voters to sympathize with the actor. But that certainly didn't stop James Gandolfini from winning three Emmys for playing career criminal Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos," including one for an episode in which Tony beats his mistress.
Or maybe voters have simply moved on. Unlike Steve Carell, also a six-time nominee hoping to score his first win on the comedy side for "The Office," no one is talking about "House" anymore. In recent years, traditional TV procedurals, the kinds that used to dominate the Emmys ("NYPD Blue," "ER," "The Practice"), have mostly fallen out of favor. Nowadays, voters prefer to reward edgier cable fare like three-time best drama winner "Mad Men." Considering how quickly tastes have changed, "House" seems long in the tooth, perhaps even outdated.
This year, Laurie submitted the episode "After Hours," the penultimate episode of the seventh season, in which House discovers that an experimental drug he has been taking has caused tumors to grow in his leg. He attempts to surgically remove them himself but eventually needs to be hospitalized and fears that his leg will be amputated. As in "Broken," he decides that he needs to change his life. Some may argue that if he couldn't win for "Broken" he'll never win, but other actors have won for episodes not considered their best. Kiefer Sutherland lost this category when nominated for the first-season finale of "24," in which Jack Bauer finds his wife murdered, but won a few years later for 24's underwhelming fifth-season premiere. Could Laurie surprise everyone by winning this year -- or has his time run out?
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— Tom O'Neil
Photo: Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie in the "After Hours" episode of "House." Credit: Fox