For the preamble, including an explanation on what exactly the Andy TV Awards are, go here. Shows that received Emmy nominations in these two categories that I don’t watch, and thus had no chance of getting nominations here include House, Two and a Half Men, Monk, The Mentalist, or all of the second season of The Big Bang Theory.
Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Series
I’m a dozen episodes into the second season of The Big Bang Theory, so I certainly can see why Jim Parsons got an Emmy nomination, but I haven’t seen enough to push any of these six actors from nominations.
The nominees are…
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock – Baldwin won his third straight Emmy for his portrayal of NBC executive Jack Donaghy, which is only slightly more impressive than a possible third straight Andy Award for Best Leading Actor in a Comedy. [Edit: Baldwin has only won two straight Emmys for 30 Rock. Ricky Gervais won the award in 2007 for Extras].
Steve Carell in The Office – It’s been a tight balance for Carell and The Office‘s writers between the buffoonery of Michael Scott and the underlying sweetness that’s hidden behind his ignorance. If you make him too stupid, or too awful, the show becomes too difficult to watch in a week in, week out basis (something the UK series didn’t have to worry about with its total of 12 episodes plus a special). This past season, the show tweaked the balance a bit, bringing out more of Michael’s humanity, leading to perhaps the best season in the show’s history and the best work in Carell’s career.
Jemaine Clement in Flight of the Conchords – It’s pretty funny that the Emmy people nominated Clement and not his partner Bret McKenzie. I’m guessing that’s because his submitted episode was better than Bret’s, because if you watch the whole season, you can’t really separate the contribution of one from the other. They’re like the Sedin twins, you either go with both, or neither (that’s a hockey reference. Sorry, I have to make one every once and awhile or lose my citizenship). Both are great, but they’re pretty much interchangeable depending on which of them wrote which episode.
Ken Marino in Party Down – As with Steve Carell, Ken Marino and the Party Down writers must avoid the temptation of constantly making Ron look like a complete buffoon. Marino does humiliation well, leading to some of the season’s best laughs (my favourite was him begging Molly Parker’s character to call 911 in mid-vomit), but it can become a bit much seeing a decent guy constantly get belittled week after week.
Bret McKenzie in Flight of the Conchords – See Jemaine Clement, above.
Josh Radnor in How I Met Your Mother – Radnor has a thankless job: he has to carry the load on a show where the best laughs go to his supporting players, and most of the jokes his character gets are at his expense. The show has played up the douchiness of Ted Mosby, which has led a lot of viewers to confuse their annoyance with Ted with an annoyance with Radnor.
The award goes to…
Steve Carell in The Office
For five seasons, Michael Scott has made me laugh, has frustrated me, he’s even drawn my sympathy. But last season was the first where I really cheered for Michael. Carell was able to use some of the subtlety that he’s exhibited in some of his movie roles to first create a warm and appealing relationship with Amy Ryan’s Holly Flax. This led to some great work as the veil of dopey optimism that usually surrounds Michael started to fade away, leading to a more bitter Michael and the superb Michael Scott Paper Company storyline. All of this would probably be enough to earn this award, but the clincher came in the season finale, most remembered for “send in the subs”, but for me was highlighted by Carell’s sensitive portrayal of Michael Scott doing the right thing with Holly and not saying the wrong thing for perhaps the first time in his life. It was heartbreaking and it was beautiful (plus, he still got to be funny with the horribly inappropriate “Slum-Dunder Mifflin-aire”).
Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series
This is probably the best category of all, better than the best series ones still to come (which I hope to have written before I post the top ten shows of the year). Best Supporting Actor in a Drama was the toughest to limit to six, but this was the most difficult to pick a winner from. There isn’t much that separate four of the top six actors in this category, with the other two being actors who have been giving some of the best performances in the past three years.
The nominees are…
Gabriel Byrne in In Treatment – I gave this award to Byrne last year, using the volume of his work as a tiebreaker. The volume was down a bit this year (although he still probably leads all contenders in minutes on screen), but the performance was still fantastic. The show broke from format a bit more this year to give Byrne some juicier scenes, and it worked.
Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights – I’m not sure there’s anyone on TV who does more with less than Kyle Chandler. He can convey so much with a pained look (sometimes through sunglasses) that I suppose it’s easy to overlook a role that goes out of its way to avoid showy moments.
Michael Chiklis in The Shield – Chiklis has been mesmerizing as Vic Mackey for seven seasons now, all culminating in what might have been the best scene on TV last year. In the penultimate episode of the series, Vic is forced to finally admit all the dirt he’s done, and for several seconds that felt like an eternity, he pauses while trying to decide how to say it. It was absolutely electric, and almost enough to clinch the award all by itself.
Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad – Cranston has won the Emmy in this category for the past two years, and it’s easy to see why. Especially if you’re basing your vote on “Phoenix” (his submitted episode), in which Cranston was absolutely devastating making an unconscionable decision. I still get chills.
Michael C. Hall in Dexter – The third season of Dexter may have been a down year, but Hall’s performance was still great. His interactions with Jimmy Smits’ Miguel Prado were often electric, bringing out sides to Dexter Morgan that we hadn’t seen before (most tellingly, we got to see Dexter’s rage, something he’d previously denied as possible). Here’s hoping the rest of the show can rise to Hall’s level this season.
Jon Hamm in Mad Men – Having the most seductive character on TV must be tempting for Mad Men‘s writers. It’d be easy to just let him be all mysterious and cool, having him give great pitches and nail hot chicks all season long (in fact, if all you know of the show is from the season two promotions, you might think that is the case). Luckily, Mad Men isn’t that kind of show, making Don Draper as interesting as he is cool. So much of that comes from Hamm’s understated work. Draper is such an inscrutable character that he demands a performer that can keep him interesting without giving much away. Hamm is that guy.
The award goes to…
Jon Hamm in Mad Men
God this was tough. You can’t go wrong with Byrne, Chiklis, Cranston, or Hamm, each of whom has given one of the great performances in the history of the medium in the past year. I was most impressed by Hamm near the end of the season during his California sojourn. We’re so used to him being the calm, collected, Randian hero, that when we get glimpses of Dick Whitman, it serves as a shocking reminder of Hamm’s versatility. Ultimately, what sets Hamm apart from the other nominees here (admittedly, very little sets any of them apart) is the absolute command he has of the viewer. It’s ineffable, but undeniable.