If you looked at the Primetime Emmy Awards a good four years ago, then you would see Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series as one of the toughest categories on the map. After all, you had Steve Carell as Michael Scott, Alec Baldwin when “30 Rock” was hot, Tony Shalhoub from “Monk,” and Charlie Sheen prior to his public meltdown.
However, it’s now a different picture. Ladies now are at the head of some of critics’ favorite comedies, and many of the most heralded actors are in the supporting field (including everyone from “Modern Family”). With that in mind, it really feels at the moment like the reigning champ’s year to lose — though there are a couple of dark horses who could steal the trophy away in a pretty predictable category.
(Be sure to check out our feature for Outstanding Comedy Series over at this link.)
Most Deserving Nominees
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) – It’s a predictable choice, but the right one — Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper is the engine that makes “Big Bang” go, and he is also the two-time champion. It’s hard ultimately to argue with success, especially when you have a lead actor who is likable off-screen and is such a force on.
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock” (NBC) – It’s another predictable choice, but Jack Donaghy is still one of the best male characters on all TV. Did we love the story involving Avery’s mother? Not really, but blame the writers for that more so than Baldwin’s performance in it — which was hilarious, awkward, and often cringe-worthy.
Joel McHale, “Community” (NBC) – This is where things start to get a bit more interesting. McHale’s show seems to be polarizing to many viewers, but it’s really time that the comedy started to receive some of the love that it has long deserved. Plus, we’re not sure he is going to have many more opportunities with creator Dan Harmon off the show, and with a new Friday night timeslot.
Warwick Davis, “Life’s Too Short” (HBO) – Introducing the one candidate on our list who really has no shot at all of getting an actual nomination. There just aren’t many people who actually watched the Ricky Gervais creation “Life’s Too Short,” but those who did found a hilarious satire of what it is like for little people to work in show business — and Warwick led the way thanks to being so willing to send up himself.
Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO) – Just for the “Palestinian Chicken” episode alone (which is one of the finest half-hours of the past decade), Larry should add to his impressive list of accolades.
Louis C.K., “Louie” (FX) – This was a tough one for us. We didn’t enjoy “Louie” as much this past season, but with the weaker overall field C.K. deserves the love. There’s nobody who works harder — or does more for his show — than him.
Honorable mentions: Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”), Danny McBride (“Eastbound and Down”), and Elijah Wood (“Wilfred”)
The Likely Nominees
Jim Parsons – There’s no way Parsons is snubbed for playing Sheldon. Pencil this one in.
Alec Baldwin – Jack Donaghy is not getting snubbed — and neither is Alec Baldwin.
Joel McHale – Were this race tighter, we think Emmy voters may have went somewhere else just to flex their hatred for “Community.” However, we don’t think they really have an option here — and Joel does have a legitimate shot if the percentage of Emmy voters who are also fans of the show band together. While there are other great performers on the show (Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, and Alison Brie in particular), Joel stands the best shot at winning thanks to the lack of “Modern Family” in this category.
Louis C.K. – He was nominated last year, so he will be again simply because he has such a creative show.
Larry David – Larry is also a frequent nominee, and this would continue the Emmy habit of the show nominating familiar faces rather than new ones — even if he is deserving.
Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men” (CBS) – Now that Sheen is off the show, Jon Cryer is back as a lead actor — and we would be shocked if the Emmys didn’t honor him for keeping the show together. As much as we love Cryer as a person, “Men” is a trainwreck at this point, and we’d rather see some new blood on here.
Likely to receive some votes: Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory”), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”), Tim Allen (“Last Man Standing”), Ashton Kutcher (“Two and a Half Men”), and Matthew Morrison (“Glee”).
For those of you wondering about why Golden Globe winner Matt LeBlanc isn’t here for “Episodes,” there’s a simple reason — Season 1 aired in January 2011, and with season 2 premiering later this summer he is not eligible for this cycle. (Season 2 will be eligible for the 2013 awards.) This is the same reason that Bryan Cranston was not nominated last year for “Breaking Bad.”
Photo: Academy of Television Arts & Sciences