The Seventh Annual Andy TV Awards: Comedy Acting

Andy TV Awards

If you want to see how these went last year, and how infrequently I blog, scroll down just a bit.

It’s that time of year again when I finally update my blog, pick the very best in the world of television. While most of the TV internet is using the opportunity of the Emmys to pick from the Academy’s flawed list of nominees, I use my time wasted watching too much TV judgement to pick the most deserving nominees AND winners for the acting and show categories. Unlike the Academy, I base my decisions on entire seasons worth of television, and not just submitted episodes (since, you know, no one is submitting episodes to win fake internet awards).

Here’s the ground rules: to qualify for nomination, a show must have aired most of its season in the 12 months between May 31st, 2011 and May 31st, 2012. I used the Emmy ballot to decide which category a performer or a show belongs to, so if they submitted themselves for a supporting category even if they’re a co-lead, that’s where I considered them (same goes for the drama/comedy split).

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

Adam Driver in Girls
Jason Gann in Wilfred
Rob McElhenney in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation
Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation
Danny Pudi in Community

The Supporting Actor categories are always the most loaded. I could go 12 deep on this one without stretching to have an opinion. Truthfully, the six men here outclass much of the nominees for lead in a comedy series. This grouping is a nice mix of scene-stealers and characters who power their respective shows. When Girls started out, I didn’t think Adam Driver would be either. In fact, I thought he was the worst element of a show I was still trying to decide on. It turns out, he was secretly the best element of the show (or in the top two), and the development of his character was what made it all come together. The best part about the sudden conversion of his character is that all it took was a change in perspective. Driver was still playing the same guy, we just finally got to see it a different way.

It’s a little odd calling Jason Gann a supporting actor when he’s playing the title character of the show, but so be it. It’s a tour de force comedic performance, allowing him to indulge the deepest of ids. What’s most impressive is how quickly he allows the audience to buy into the show’s central conceit and forget that they’re watching an Australian dude in a dog’s costume for 20 minutes.

Fat Mac was probably the most audacious comedic stunt of the year. Charlie Day is always the raw force behind It’s Always Sunny, but Rob McElhenney stole the show this past season, not only by gaining a bunch of weight he quickly learned was more difficult to lose than expected, but also for how he brought to the forefront the loser subtext that’s always been hiding behind Mac’s bluster. It was a nice wrinkle that would almost generate pathos if that wasn’t completely against the aesthetic of the show.

And Chris Pratt? That dude is just plain funny. There’s not a character on TV who generate belly laughs as deeply and easily as Andy Dwyer.

One note: for the second year in a row, the actual Emmys have decided to make this category 2/3rds Modern Family (surprised they stopped there — Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez should fire their agents). I, however, have not given anyone from that show recognition here. The reason is simple: I gave up on Modern Family at the Christmas break. So don’t expect to see it come up in this post at all. I’ve had my fill.

The award goes to…

Danny Pudi in Community

It would be easy to give this award to Nick Offerman every year. There’s very few people in all of television that are as good at their jobs as he is at his. That said, Danny Pudi is one of those few, and as Dan Harmon used the third season of Community to spiral deeper into his own fractured psyche, he leaned heavily on Abed as his avatar. I’m still not sure that was the best thing for the show, but it was a very good thing for Pudi, who managed who shined every time the spotlight was put on him. Even in this aspie-heavy era of TV characters, Danny Pudi’s Abed Nadir is a standout. One of the truly great characters on television.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

Anna Chlumsky in Veep
Eliza Coupe in Happy Endings
Elisha Cuthbert in Happy Endings
Gillian Jacobs in Community
Busy Philipps in Cougar Town
Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation

Feel great about these nominees (none of whom were nominated for the real award), but I don’t really love any for the win. Busy Philipps was great again in an uneven season of Cougar Town. The show decided to let Laurie be a little more mature this season, which could have been death for the character, by Philipps pulled it off. But two wins in a row doesn’t feel right to me.

Aubrey Plaza is so reliably great as April Ludgate that it feels effortless, which is probably why she’s the sixth nominee here.

Anna Chlumsky had the tough job of seeming like the one competent person on staff while still pitching in comedy-wise in a cast full of loons. She pulled it off so well that I had her put in as the winner for awhile, until I struggled to think of a standout moment for her.

Honestly, the best supporting performance of the year probably came from one of the ladies from Happy Endings. In fact, I probably should’ve found room for Casey Wilson here as well. Eliza Coupe kills it week in, week out with her high-strung perfectionist role (an advanced-level Monica Gellar, if you will) and her phenomenal chemistry with Damon Wayans Jr. Elisha Cuthbert made a stunning turnaround from being the weak link of the cast to absolutely hilarious in almost everything she does. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it, where everything just clicked for a performer and writing staff. Sure, the dumb blonde bit isn’t revolutionary, but Cuthbert approaches it in a totally different way. She’s not air-headed so much as she’s proudly ignorant, yet still desperately wants to compete amongst the smart-alecs around her. So the award should go to one of these two… but I can’t decide which one!

The award goes to…

Gillian Jacobs in Community

Instead I’ll split the difference with another high-strung blonde that used to be the weak link of her cast. It’s been a long time since Gillian Jacobs was the love interest designed to foil the best efforts of Community’s protagonist, a role that was basically doomed to fail. There’s nothing more thankless than playing the humourless shrew in the middle of a fun-filled cast. So they steered into the skid, and made Britta’s killjoy ways the key to her character, with everyone recognizing how she is the worst. Her transition now complete, Jacobs has gone from being the misplaced straight-man of the cast to perhaps the most broadly comic character on the show.

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock
Louis CK in Louie
Rob Lowe in Parks and Recreation
Joel McHale in Community
Adam Scott in Parks and Recreation
Elijah Wood in Wilfred

AKA the only six male comedy lead performers I watched last year. We can make fun of Rob Lowe‘s decision to always submit himself as a lead, but maybe it’s strategy as much as it’s ego. With the move toward ensembles, there’s fewer comedies led by men these days, whereas supporting actor is a murderer’s row of talent. It didn’t help that I stopped watching The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and The Big Bang Theory this year (although, I half-considered just going ahead and nominating Jim Parsons again. I’m sure he was suitably Sheldon-y this past season). Rob Lowe is really funny as Chris Traeger, don’t get me wrong, but he wouldn’t be in my top 15 in supporting.

Adam Scott‘s jump to lead is more defensible, and his performance a lot more worthy of nomination. Alec Baldwin is such a pro’s pro that he could do 30 Rock in his sleep. And there were times that the writing this past season got so predictable that he very well may have been.

Joel McHale was less of a lead this past season of Community, which I think was the show’s detriment. They’ve got a great ensemble, but without Jeff Winger as a fulcrum, the show can sometimes spin out of control. That is what a lead performance is supposed to do. Lead.

Elijah Wood was a bit difficult to rate. There were times when he provided little more than a springboard for Jason Gann’s high energy performance. But when the series got really interesting was when Wood took it there. So I’ll give him credit where it’s due, just not too much.

The award goes to…

Louis CK in Louie

I wrote earlier that “the six men (in Supporting) outclass much of the nominees for lead in a comedy series”. Louis CK is the exception, as he gave the best male comedic performance of the year. Which is impressive, given that of all the things he does for the show, acting might be his weakest suit. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for Louis to change the script before a scene to cut his dialogue down to a manageable level. But there’s more to acting than line delivery, and CK’s myriad ways of showing desperate exasperation prove it. You expect a professional comedian to be funny, but what was surprising was his poignancy in “Pregnancy”, his compassion in “Eddie”, his hope in “Duckling”, and his utter naked vulnerability in “Pamela”.

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

Lena Dunham in Girls
Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey in 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep
Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation

This category used to be the worst, such that I wasn’t able to fill out the nominees. But not any more. There’s been such a great influx of comedies led by women of the past few years, and the television landscape is richer for it. In year’s past, Tina Fey would win often win this award both by merit, and sadly, a bit by default. She always deserved recognition, she just didn’t have the competition. This year, she’s the sixth nominee, squeezing out Courtney Cox only after I gave 30 Rock a second chance in August after having given up on it in March.

Surprisingly, unlike most people, I hadn’t given up on Weeds (although it did take me the whole year to catch up and I’m already behind on the final season). I’m not saying that it justified as many seasons as it got, but Mary-Louise Parker always managed to justify nomination consideration. Plus, I love her (Parker, not Nancy Botwin, who is THE WORST).

No, Nurse Jackie isn’t particularly comedic, although this past season did a better job integrating the lighter tone with the dramatic themes than year’s past. And Edie Falco typically gives the least comedic performance on the show, although she handled the limited comedy they gave her this season better than years’ past. But this isn’t an award for best comedienne, it’s for best lead performance in a comedy (or, if you will, a show that claims to be a comedy for awards purposes largely because it’s a 22 minute show), and you can’t argue that she didn’t give one of the six best of those. Well, you probably can’t argue because you don’t watch Nurse Jackie, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Lena Dunham’s performance in Girls is often referred to as “fearless”, which is usually a way of saying “she takes her clothes off a lot for someone with an unconventional-for-TV body type”. I, however, think she was fearless for how she never shied away from how terrible Hannah Horvath can be, even though Dunham could rightfully assume that many viewers would pass that feeling on to her. As with Louis CK, acting is probably Dunham’s least important contribution to the show, but she was still surprisingly adept at it, hinting at the potential and depth under the surface of a self-involved hipster.

No one could call Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ performance in Veep a surprise, as she’s as big a pro’s pro that you’ll see on television. Didn’t make it any less great, or her any less worthy of her Emmy victory. She was razor-close to winning my fake award too.

The award goes to…

Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation

Instead, I went with Amy Poehler for the third year in a row. Her work as Leslie Knope is as complete a performance as any on television. Her career work always let us know how funny she could be, and the writing on the show knows how to exploit her particular brand of cheerful hyperactivity to its fullest. But what really sets her off, particularly in the fourth season of Parks and Recreation, is her guileless optimism. Whether Leslie was pursuing her dream of public office or cementing her relationship with Ben, there’s a genuine sweetness to Poehler’s work that is truly beautiful. I believe in Leslie Knope. And I believe in Amy Poehler.

Stay tuned for Comedy Series, Drama Acting, and Drama Series.

2 thoughts on “The Seventh Annual Andy TV Awards: Comedy Acting

  1. Pingback: The Seventh Annual Andy TV Awards: Comedy Series | Critically Speaking

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