The Fifth Annual Andy TV Awards – Comedy Series Acting

Now that we’ve got the introduction and guest stars out of the way, let’s move on to categories people might actually care about. Comedy always takes a back seat to drama at these award shows, playing as the opening act to the more prestigious drama awards. It wasn’t my intention to that here, the reason is more practical: there’s two drama series I’m still hoping to finish before I write/post that category (one I will, one I probably won’t… unless my posting schedule is even slower than I’m anticipating). But I’m all caught up on every comedy I want to watch, so no need to delay.

The big missing show here is Glee, which got a whole whack of Emmy nominations but doesn’t interest me at all (the things it does well aren’t typically things I enjoy at all). I also never took to Curb Your Enthusiasm, and have never had any interest in Monk or The New Adventures of Old Christine, and proudly do not watch Two and a Half Men. I did watch 17 different shows this past year that classify themselves as comedies, so the list of potential nominees went pretty deep.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…
Ty Burrell in Modern Family
Donald Glover in Community
Tracy Morgan in 30 Rock
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation
Danny Pudi in Community
Eric Stonestreet in Modern Family

A lot of turnover in this category, to the degree that Tracy Morgan is the only one I’ve previously nominated in previous four years I did this post. Of course, Nick Offerman was the only other one ever eligible for an award for the brief, uneven first season of Parks and Recreation. As I’ll discuss later, this was a great year for new and second-year comedies, which will be reflected in these nominations. As a result of this turnover, last year’s winner, Neil Patrick Harris goes unnominated this year (although I will not be upset if he wins the actual Emmy). Not a great year for How I Met Your Mother, and Barney was a major contributor to the decline. Sure, that may have more to do with the writing than the performance, but that just goes to show you that all acting awards are partially acting awards.

Moving on to the actual nominees, Morgan was definitely the sixth nominee, as it was also a down year for 30 Rock. But he can always rise to the occasion with some blissfully hilarious bits, like his pursuit of EGOT and his ghetto horror stories. Donald Glover and Danny Pudi make up TV’s best duo, so much so that separating them for this post would be damn near impossible. If I have to, I’d say that Glover is destined to be the bigger star (not of the series, but in the world at large), but Pudi’s character is what makes the show work. Without Abed’s meta ways, Community couldn’t be what makes it special. I decided to limit myself to only two Modern Family nominees for the category, eliminating Emmy nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neil, and young Rico Rodriguez from contention, but that whole ensemble is so good that they all came close. Ty Burrell was the star of the much hyped pilot episode, and got better as the series learned to tone his buffoonery down. As for Eric Stonestreet, Cam is probably my favourite character on the show, but I can summarize his nomination in one word: “Fizbo”.
The award goes to…

Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation
In the show’s sophomore season, Parks and Recreation made a leap forward similar to that of co-creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur’s previous show, The Office, and Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson is probably the biggest reason why. He was the biggest bright spot of the first season, and only grew more awesome in the second. I’ve read interviews that Offerman instantly understood his role when they told him that Swanson wore a moustache, which makes sense, because one look at that glorious thing and you know a lot about Ron Fucking Swanson – the manliest alpha male on TV. Offerman’s performance is a study on comic minimalism, generating big laughs out of the tiniest gestures, and even bigger laughs the few times he went big. Ron Swanson is easily one of the best comedy characters on TV right now.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…
Jane Adams in Hung
Alison Brie in Community
Lizzy Caplan in Party Down
Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation
Sofia Vergara in Modern Family
Merritt Wever in Nurse Jackie

Again, only one repeat nominee in this category, Lizzy Caplan, although one of my nominees from last year graduated to lead actress status (so Jenna Fischer’s vice grip on this fake award has finally come to an end). Jane Adams’ nervous energy was probably the best part of the first season of Hung (but may be hurting the second). Alison Brie’s natural chemistry with star Joel McHale helped reshape the direction of the series (in a promising direction). Lizzy Caplan brought the same level-headedness to the second season of Party Down that she did the first, helping deepen the series that at times threatened to spin out of control under the weight of the zaniness of the rest of the cast and guest stars. Aubrey Plaza proved an excellent foil for Nick Offerman, as they seemed to try and out-minimal each other, which was right in her wheelhouse. The surprise was how she and Chris Pratt were able to give the series a mini-Jim and Pam arc, cutting through her character’s ironic shield and providing some genuinely sweet moments. Until this past season, I just thought of Sofia Vergara as a poor man’s Selma Hayek, but it turns out she has incredible comic timing. Since she’s my only nominee that received an Emmy nomination, I’ll be cheering for her tomorrow. Merritt Wever took a role that should’ve been annoying… the over-eager young nurse (and indeed was very annoying when played by Michelle Trachtenberg in NBC’s awful nursing show Mercy) and turned it into my favourite part of Nurse Jackie.
The award goes to…

Merritt Wever in Nurse Jackie
I’m convinced that Wever’s excellent work has helped shape her character in ways the writers hadn’t planned. She gets so much out of the smallest moments and silent reactions that they had to see what she was giving them and tailored their writing to her performance. Even the worst episodes of Nurse Jackie are worth the time for what ever Zoey bits they give us. Generally, I think Nurse Jackie is miscast as a comedy, as it’s at its most effective when doing drama, but Merritt Wever delivers comedically every time. As long as they lean on Zoey for their laughs and not, say, Jackie or Akalitus, then they might be able to pull off the dramedy thing more consistently.

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock
Steve Carell in The Office
Zachary Levi in Chuck
Joel McHale in Community
Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory
Adam Scott in Party Down

While their shows weren’t quite up to their standards last season, Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell still gave strong enough performances this year to keep their nomination status (it also helped that a lot of the new shows didn’t feature male leads). I went back and forth on the sixth nominee in this category before settling on Zachary Levi for Chuck. The show was a bit uneven last season, and I don’t love it like others do, but Levi’s amiable ways are the best reason to watch.

Often, the straight man leads of wacky ensembles get the short shrift by fans (see: Radnor, Josh or Krasinski, John), but I don’t think that’s the case with Adam Scott for Party Down. Of course, that could be because there weren’t that many fans of Party Down, but the few there were recognized the essential ingredient Scott brought to the show (so much so that they cut down the co-lead billing of Ken Marino to give Scott more focus). I’m not sure I could’ve watched the show without Henry’s stabilizing presence. Joel McHale could run into this problem, as Jeff Winger is easily the most normal character in that crazy study group, but he still gets to do enough oddball stuff like in the billiards episode that he isn’t viewed as a stuffed shirt (it helps that he’s already established as a biting comedic talent).

The award goes to…

Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory
The other five nominees are good-to-great performers in good-to-great shows. Jim Parsons is a great performer in a show that most likely would be unwatchable without him. I like other elements of The Big Bang Theory, but Parsons performance is the only thing that makes the show special. I hadn’t caught up with the show in time to nominate him last year for his season two work (superior to his work in season three, but probably still not enough to get him award against Steve Carell), an oversight I hope I’ve made up for here. The challenge for The Big Bang Theory is to make sure the material Parsons is given is equal to his talent, rather than lazily feeding him mediocre stuff in the hopes that he’ll elevate it by himself, and to prevent the show from turning into the Sheldon Cooper showcase. Sadly, I’m not sure the show is interested in doing either.

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…
Toni Collette in United States of Tara
Courteney Cox-Arquette in Cougar Town
Portia de Rossi in Better Off Ted
Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey in 30 Rock
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation

Every year I’ve done this post, this has been easily the weakest category. Some years I couldn’t even fill out the minimum nominees, and last year I nominated someone from a show I gave up on after two episodes (Toni Collette for United States of Tara, a show I gave a second chance to this summer). Not so this year, which produced so many female-led comedies that not only did I not give Mary-Louise Parker her default nomination, but had to agonizingly snub Kaley Cuoco for her under-appreciated contribution to The Big Bang Theory.

But suddenly, this category is STACKED (possibly more so than the one above). In part because Collette and Edie Falco’s largely non-comedic shows submit as comedies, but still. Portia de Rossi moved up to lead from supporting last year, a reflection of her massive contribution to the since-cancelled (and deliriously funny) Better Off Ted. Seriously, when you guys discover that show after it’s become a cult hit on DVD, you’ll be amazed at how great de Rossi is in it. Even better than her work in Arrested Development. Courteney Cox-Arquette’s work in Cougar Town has made me retroactively more appreciative of her work in Friends. The show got better when it transitioned into more of an ensemble piece, but I still felt like her leading work was strong. Tina Fey has dominated this award since 30 Rock debuted, and while I think the show needs to tame Liz Lemon a bit to give the show a stronger centre, she’s still fantastic. Just not fantastic enough to grab a fourth straight Andy TV Award.

The award goes to…

Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation
Last year, I nominated Poehler mostly just to fill out the category, writing “Poehler can be great, and in fact was pretty good in stretches during the bumpy first season of Parks & Recreation, but in truth, the show didn’t figure out how to best use her until the finale, so she hasn’t really earned this nomination. Hopefully next season will be better.”

Was it ever. When the show had time to recalibrate in the time between seasons one and two, they figured out Poehler’s strengths and how to make Leslie Knope work. Gone was the bumbling Michael Scott-in-a-business-skirt version, in came a hyper-active, hyper-competent version that we could cheer for while laughing at. Poehler does exuberant sincerity as well as anybody, and with that missing ingredient, the rest of the show fell in line. There’s still some bumbling as Leslie struggles to keep up with her ambition (which plays to Poehler’s strengths as a physical comedienne – even while pregnant), but now it’s clear that she’s no dummy.

Up next: Acting in a Drama Series

Related Reviews:
The Fourth Annual Andy TV Awards – Best Supporting Actress
The Fourth Annual Andy TV Awards – Best Supporting Actor
The Fourth Annual Andy TV Awards – Best Leading Actress
The Fourth Annual Andy TV Awards – Best Leading Actor

5 thoughts on “The Fifth Annual Andy TV Awards – Comedy Series Acting

  1. Pingback: The Fifth Annual Andy TV Awards – Drama Series Acting « Critically Speaking

  2. Pingback: The Fifth Annual Andy TV Awards – Outstanding Comedy Series « Critically Speaking

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