Bazinga! Sheldon Cooper’s catchphrase has been appropriate for the man who plays him at the Emmys as of late. Jim Parsons has won three of the last four Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmys and received his sixth straight nomination for his starring role on The Big Bang Theory. As much as this era of dominance has upset people, especially considering that Steve Carrell never won one for the iconic role of Michael Scott, it is really not surprising looking at the current state of comedy in television.
The television landscape has changed dramatically over the last 20 years with an expansion of cable networks producing original programming, which has led to new digital platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon, now producing its own original content as well. It has led to a saturation of the market that has lowered viewership of most watched programs and created niche programming that allows people to find the shows that best fit their taste. Comedy has been most affected by this change in that it has moved away from the standard sitcom to an array of tastes that range from dark absurdist, to satirical, to sketch show, to whatever the hell Nathan Fielder is doing.
The variety makes it difficult for Emmy voters to select male leads to nominate since the traditional form they’re used to is all, but disappeared. Parsons is really the only traditional male sitcom lead left that is worthy of a nom, which explains why he wins the award so damn much. Look at the field for this event 20 years ago in 1994.
Kelsey Grammer, “Frasier” (Winner)
John Larroquete, “The John Larroquete Show”
Jerry Seinfeld, “Seinfeld”
Paul Reiser, “Mad About You”
John Goodman, “Roseanne”
Five nominees all from successful sitcoms and all with big name cache. Grammer won four lead acting Emmys for his role as Frasier Crane. Larroquete, while not as successful as a led, won four straight Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmys for his performance on Night Court. Jerry Seinfeld is Jerry Seinfeld, enough said there. It may be easy to forget now, but Reiser was a big name in the 90s and Mad About You a smash hit. He received six nominations without ever winning. Finally, the multi-talented John Goodman starred as Roseanne’s husband on a smash hit sitcom that was deemed revolutionary for its time. He topped Resier with seven nominations for this role without ever winning. Now, look at the field for this year’s event.
Jim Parsons, “Big Bang Theory” (1/1) – As mentioned he is a three time winner and the only traditional sitcom lead actor in this field. Say what you will about Chuck Lorre, but his formula works and a big reason why is the actor’s ability to nail the punchlines while remaining in character.
Ricky Gervais, “Derek” (3/1) – Gervais has been an Emmy staple ever since bringing The Office over to the US. Derek is a special project for him and completely different than anything else he has done. It is a dark comedy on the surface, but packs a lot of heart and filled with wry observations of human behavior. It will be interesting to see how voters compare this performance to a traditional comedic one like Parsons.
William H. Macy, “Shameless” (4/1) – The result of Emmy voters not finding leads from traditional sitcoms to nominate is turning to famous actors on television no matter how good or comedic the performance is. To be fair Macy is excellent on Shameless and the show’s consistent supply of humor. The only argument against his nomination is that he is far from the lead. If he were nominated for a supporting role it would make sense, but he seems out of place in this category.
Louie C.K., “Louie” (5/1) – There is no doubt about whom the lead is on this show, in fact C.K. quite literally does it all on his titular program. Louie is a result of C.K.’s brilliant mind and while it is not always traditionally funny, but never boring. For all the accolades he receives as a stand-up, writer, and director, C.K. is also a brilliant actor more than deserving of a nomination.
Matt Leblanc, “Episodes” (18/1) – “Hey it’s a former sitcom star on a Showtime comedy. It must be good, let’s nominate him.” The thought process of Emmy voters, despite being oh so wrong.
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies” (30/1) – “Hey it’s a movie star and Academy Award nominee starring on a Showtime comedy. It must be good, let’s nominate him.” While Cheadle is his usual charming self and does what he can with the material given, the material is too awful to validate a nomination.
Andy Daly, “Review” – Review is a fun twist on the sketch show format. Daley stars as reviewer of life, Forrest Macneil. The premise allows for a variety of concepts that break up the show into three or segments of different things that people ask Forrest to review. However, instead of having each review standing alone with no consequences, like every other sketch show, every review impacts Forrest’s life mostly in negative ways. It eventually leads to him ending up divorce and bankrupt, but his unwavering desire to continue reviewing life.
Jake Johnson, “New Girl” – Johnson has really grown into the role of Nick Miller over three seasons. After Max Greenfield grabbed the early headlines with the much showier role of Schmidt, it would’ve been easy for the producers to turn New Girl into “The Schmidt Show.” However, it stuck with its other stars and for good reason as Johnson has become the most consistent supply of laughs and heart on the show.
Jim Parsons fatigue is very possible this year. But if it happens is there any viable candidate to step up and win? The best bet is voters awarding C.K. for all that he does on Louie. At (5/1) it is a great payout if they go in this direction.
Louis C.K. In a weak field he deserves to be recognized for the incredible work he has done. It is more than just rewarding him for writing, directing, producing, starring, and editing the show, he has also delivered a tremendous performance over the last four seasons. It is hard to say if it is more deserving than the others and Daly gave the best performance of the season, but I’m going to break my own rule of ignoring past seasons and awarding the Emmy to C.K.
The Parsons juggernaut rolls on to a fourth Emmy. Gervais is one for one when getting nominated in this category, but he’s made enough enemies in Hollywood that it will be difficult for him to get the necessary votes. Everyone loves Parsons and he is a throwback sitcom start that stands out in this list of nominees.