Can anyone beat Steve Carell at the Emmys?
Most Emmy watchers put Steve Carell out front to win best comedy actor for "The Office." This is his sixth nomination for playing hapless boss Michael Scott on the hit NBC sitcom, in addition to four noms for producing, but he's never won. (The series won best comedy in 2006, but that was before Carell received a producing credit.) He left the show this year, and now he's hoping the Emmys will give him a farewell hug the way it did to Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex and the City") and Michael J. Fox ("Spin City"), who both won for their last years in contention.
But Emmy voters are not always a sentimental bunch. John Goodman never won for "Roseanne" despite seven nominations, though he finally won his first prize for guest-starring on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" in 2007. And more recently, Martin Sheen was sent away empty-handed after seven unsuccessful bids for "The West Wing."
This year Carell submitted a dynamic episode to Emmy judges: "Goodbye, Michael," in which he struggles to say farewell to his employees, leading to a teary moment with Jim Halpert (John Krasinski). Will that episode in addition to overdue sentiment be enough to propel him to victory?
Perhaps, but perhaps not. He faces strong competition from last year's winner, Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"), who submitted "The Agreement Dissection," in which he battles Leonard (Johnny Galecki) over a violation of their roommate agreement and then goes dancing with the girls. But Parsons has another weapon in his arsenal: his costar Galecki, who was a surprise nominee in this category and submitted "The Benefactor Factor," in which Leonard is propositioned by a wealthy woman to exchange sex for research funding. But it also gives Parsons a second episode for voters to judge, which could help him pull off an upset against Carell.
Also threatening Carell is another surprise nominee: Louis C.K., whose critically acclaimed FX series, "Louie," is the only program in this category currently airing new episodes, meaning he'll be the freshest in voters' minds. Also, he benefits from the Cool Factor that helped propel another edgy comic to a win in this category in 2007: Ricky Gervais ("Extras"). C.K. submitted the episode "Bully," in which a frightening encounter with a young punk leads him to commiserate privately with the punk's father. It's a sympathetic performance, not loaded with laughter, but dramatic-skewing performances have won comedy performances before — as Edie Falco ("Nurse Jackie") demonstrated last year.
The last nominee is Matt LeBlanc, who earned three nominations for "Friends" and now contends for playing a version of himself on Showtime's "Episodes." He submitted the first season finale in which he has an affair with a married writer and then fights with her husband. It's a big, surprisingly effective performance, but LeBlanc, like Louis C.K., may be handicapped by the fact that they play themselves, which voters may not consider an acting challenge. That factor might have hurt Larry David in the past. On "Curb Your Enthusiasm," he plays himself as a finicky curmudgeon, and he has never won.
— Tom O'Neil
Photo: Steve Carell in "Goodbye, Michael," his final episode of "The Office." Credit: NBC.