Louis C.K.

2014 Emmy Preview: The Jim Parsons Award

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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.

The former King of this category, Frasier Crane.

The former King of this category, Frasier Crane.

1994 Nominees

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.

Nominees

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.

Snubs

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.

Best Bet

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. download

Should Win

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.

Will Win 

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.

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Life’s Hard – Find a Distraction

A few weeks ago Billy posted his first Saturday Morning thoughts. A must read, in which he ponders why anyone likes going to loud bars where you can’t hear thoughts let alone other people talking. While I share his sentiment about loud bars, I would like to provide an answer to his question, life is hard.

It is easy to be hard on ourselves for failures and screw-ups, when we should be giving ourselves more credit for participating in life. We face many challenges in life, finding a career that doesn’t suck every ounce of joy out of us, making enough money to cover our basic needs, balancing work and social life, starting and maintaining relationships with people we love, etc.

Beyond all these everyday challenges lies the deeper, philosophical challenges of life. Why are we here? Does any of this matter? Is this all an illusion? These challenges can become overwhelming if we spend too much time thinking about them. An important key to life is accepting that no matter how smart we are or how hard we ponder, there is no answering any of them. But what if we can’t accept this? Or it is all just too overwhelming? This is where distractions that provide sensory overload become important.

We all need something to distract us from the pit of despair that lies buried within all of us. The pit that makes us think that we’re all alone and that life is meaningless. We don’t want to think about it, but as long as these difficult, philosophical questions linger, it will persist.

Everyone finds solace in different distractions. Some of us become workaholics. Dedicating all time and effort into our profession. It is easy to find meaning when we are working. Life has a purpose, I need to get x, y, and z completed today, so I’ll focus entirely on that and not leave a moment for a stray thought. These people are focused with laser like precision. Everything is simplified when life is centered around work.

This approach can be used on other aspects in our life. People can dedicate themselves to family or friends. They deflect all purpose and meaning on to others, which helps them avoid thinking about the purpose of their own lives. The goal is to help them accomplish something, be their support and aid them in achieving their goals. When we tie our purpose to others, questions about the meaning of existence tend to disappear and are replaced with how can I help this person.

Or cell phones can provide a great distraction, right Louis C.K.?

There is a reason why we hold celebrities and athletes in a higher regard than doctors and lawyers. They provide great distractions from our lives. Fans, or fanatics, are called that for a reason. They dedicate themselves to supporting their favorite teams and/or celebrities. They stop viewing them as human, but rather symbols of hope that there is a greater purpose to life. This is why we become so disappointed when athletes or celebrities let us down by cheating, using drugs, or proving their humanity. We hold them to a higher standard because the distraction they provide to us is important to handling the challenges of life.

Some people find solace in more destructive distractions, drugs and alcohol. Addiction is back in the news with the tragic end to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s life. Based off his brilliant, dark, sad, and twisted performances, I imagine no one understood the pit of despair that lies within us better than Hoffman. Early in his life he chose to fight it with drugs, the easiest, but most devastating way to handle the pit.

However, he was able to turn things around and channel this despair into a two decade acting career filled with incredible performance after incredible performance. He found a positive way to handle his demons and for a long time it worked for him. Unfortunately, his ability to tap into this  dark vein eventually overwhelmed him. I do not like speculation, but I imagine that part of the reason he relapsed was he couldn’t handle thinking about the deep, philosophical questions that plague humanity. He was constantly exploring all this darkness in his performances and simply releasing it in a character was not enough anymore.

It carried over to his daily life and he needed something more powerful to keep him distracted. Unfortunately for a mind this rich and thoughtful, simply rooting for his Yankees and Knicks was not enough. Instead, he went back to an old habit, something that quelled the demons in the past, heroin.

His tragic death makes me think of my favorite quote from The Great Gatsby: “She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'” Leave it to F. Scott Fitzgerald to have the character with the simplest mind to deliver the most profound quote. It is profound in its honesty. Life is easier as a fool. What do they say about ignorance and bliss?

I’d take a guess that if someone gave Hoffman the choice of coming back as himself or a simple-minded, anonymous blue collar worker, he’d take the simple-minded man every time. He may have left behind a beautiful anthology of work for the world to watch, but as Woody Allen eloquently says, “I’d rather live on, in my apartment.” Woody is the first man I’d repeat the same quote two days in a row. He is also the last man I’d invite to my daughter’s birthday party.

This would be a good moment for a Danny Tanner Full House lesson to take away from all of this, but sadly I do not have one. The only thing we can take away is that life is difficult and we all need distractions in order to get through it. We need to understand this and strive to fill our lives with positive distractions. There is nothing wrong with having a few drinks or going to a loud bar to dance and just empty our brain of all thought. But we cannot become dependent on these to get through each day.

Find non-destructive distractions. A hobby to fill free time, like wood work or bird watching. Perhaps a new workout routine and diet with a set goal of weight to lose. A TV show to binge watch and get caught up in a fictional world. There are so many options, but whatever it is just be aware of its purpose because otherwise there is a higher possibility it becomes a crippling addiction rather than a healthy distraction.