Sunday, 8 July 2012

Encore’s Emmy Ballot: The Comedies, Part 3 (Leading Actor, Leading Actress)

I’m winding down my Emmy ballot with the comedies. All eligible shows are listed HERE.

Previous entries in the ballot:
Dramas, Part 1: Casting, Guest Actor, Guest Actress
Comedies, Part 1: Casting, Guest Actor, Guest Actress
Comedies, Part 2: Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress

-Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock (for “The Shower Principle”)
-Garrett Dillahunt in Raising Hope (for “Sabrina Has Money”)
-Rob Lowe in Parks and Recreation (for “Smallest Park”)
-Joel McHale in Community (for “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”)
-Adam Scott in Parks and Recreation (for “Campaign Shake Up”)
-Elijah Wood in Wilfred (for “Happiness”)

Runners Up: Lucas Neff in Raising Hope

I was rather tempted to just make a ballot of three performers, but even if only three of these performers exude definitive “best of” qualities all six of them do fine jobs in “leading” their casts. I say “leading” because e only two of these performers truly qualify as leading performers, but I’m not here to judge leading qualities I’m here to judge performances. McHale’s work in Community is incidentally my least favourite of the principals (Chase and Jeong aside) this season, so it’s ironic that he’s the only one who makes my ballot in any category.

Still, even if my ardent appreciation has waned (unlike the love the general populace feels for it) the work of the main performers – McHale included – is ultimately what makes me appreciate the show the most. In “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” achieves what makes Jeff best – a secret “uncoolness” beneath the top dog veneer. Dillahunt and Lowe are, on their respective shows, playing in what seems to be particularly broad shows but their ability to avoid any generic tropes in their characterisations is what makes them so entertaining. One of my favourite things in “Sabrina Has Money” is the way Dillahunt plays – the especially over-the-top concept of Burt’s reaction to the new toiler – in such a humane making the situation even more silly and much more rewarding to watch.
In “Smallest Park” Chris’ role (like it’s been for much of this season) is reacting to things – he reacts to Tom’s ideas for reworking the Parks department and then reacting to the oddness between Leslie and Ben. It proves Lowe to play not just the typically joyful aspect of Chris as well but the lesser seen serious parts, also, making for a fine episode throughout. Of course neither Lowe nor Scott is truly lead on Parks and Recreation, but they’re both turning in fine performances. Scott’s is especially brilliant (he’s MVP behind Poehler, for me) and through a season of changes for Ben watching him react to the excellent work of Kathryn Hahn was one of my favourite beats. As Jennifer continuously (with lies) bests them watching Ben try to recuperate Scott does some great things with humour – walking away with the episode.

This leaves us with Baldwin and Wood. Baldwin keeps winning SAG after SAG, but he proves why he’s so lucky with the awards year after with particularly fine work this season. Watching Jack realise how important advising Liz is to his success at business makes for some fine moments with Baldwin, although I could have exchanged that episode out with a string of great things from him (the return of Avery, reacting to scenes with Liddy or his mother). It’s the same way with Elijah Wood in Wilfred having a slew of potential submission episodes. Wood gives, by far, my favourite performance by a comedian of the season. There’s much of the performance owed to Wood’s natural cadence (the wide-eyes) but much is just about the way he makes the very pathetic Ryan into someone the audience is moved to root for, even at his lowest.

Go below the jump for my ballot of brilliant leading ladies...

Laura Dern in Enlightened (for “Comrades, Unite!”)
Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie (for “Day of the Iguana”)
Tina Fey in 30 Rock (for “The Return of Avery Jessup”)
Laura Linney in The Big C (for “Losing Patients”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep (for “Tears”)
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation (for “Win, Lose or Draw”)

Runners Up: Courteney Cox in Cougar Town; Lena Dunham in Girls; Lea Michele in Glee; Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope

Here’s how much I love the ladies shortlisted above. I actually don’t want to ran the performances because each of them (starring in strong female-focused comedies) give such excellent performances that even though only two of them would win MVP honours in their respective shows, they each turn in superlative performances that I wish I could give Emmy’s to across the board. Take for example Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Edie Falco. Both of them are multiple Emmy winners. Louis-Dreyfus did a good job of leading an eclectic cast in this first season of Veep turning in what is – probably – my favourite performance of hers. The rings Selina ends up jumping through in “Tears” turns into a fine opportunity for her to move from humour to anger to tears and back within thirty minutes. Falco has to take Jackie through a similar series of emotions in “Day of the Iguana”. The way this season has provided her with an unlikely loss of power is best encapsulated in that look of shock at the episode’s end as she realises Cruz’s identity interspersed with excellent moments opposite Wever and Best.
I’ll admit, on occasion in previous years I’ve been somewhat doubtful about Fey’s true talents as a performer but this season I’ve been so taken with the things she’s done with Liz I’m happy to have been proven wrong. It’s not just that she’s had good episodes, throughout the season she’s been doing excellent things and even in an episode like “The Return…” where it seems like someone else, Jack for example, could take the spotlight she emerges with such excellent comedic beats (case in point: her rap). Over the second and third seasons Linney played funny mostly in the former and more dramatic in the latter and overtime I’ve come to realise that a key aspect of Linney’s personality is a strident harshness that makes Cathy that much more interesting of a character. Even as Cathy becomes rather to like, Linney’s performance is always nuanced and finely tuned. The season 2 premiere is probably her at her finest, though, because ultimately navigating through the “good” moments with her family make for some excellent moments from her.

What Laura Dern does in Enlightened is no doubt excellent. Like Linney before her she’s difficult to completely love, but loving a character has little to do with admiring a performance and even through her abrasiveness Dern imbues Amy with such humanity so that even as you feel like crying more than laughing at her trials – the truth of the character is never eclipsed. Ultimately, Amy Poehler barely – but barely – edges out ahead of the five other contenders. I wanted to (badly) to cite her excellent work in “Pawnee Rangers” as her best episode and it probably is. But, there’s this moment in the finale where Leslie votes and there are so many emotions Poehler is telegraphing to the audience and I just think, “This woman is amazing!” EMMY HER, NOW! (But, I had to go back and cite “Pawnee Rangers” just because of the line reading of “Oh my stars, I'm just a little lady, my fragile constitution cannot handle the fearsome outdoors.”)

Which lead comedic performers have made this year for you? As impressed with both 30 Rock leads? Which cable female lead are you impressed with? A lover of Wilfred?

Sound off below.


Brittani Burnham said...

I would love to see Adam Scott in there. He's wonderful. Elijah Wood would be a nice surprise too. I think Jim Parsons will get in for The Big Bang Theory again.

Alex in Movieland said...

Given how I've seen the 8 episodes of Veep, I would advise her not to go with one of the final 2 episodes - therefore, I can't agree with your choice. :)

I didn't think the last 2 were funny and... yes, she showed a bit more range, but it felt like the performance there lacked energy.

I would suggest one of the first 4 episodes, maybe the one in which her daughter visits.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

brittani parsons of course will make the emmy ballot, but i can't bear more than a few - A FEW - episodes of the show. i'm not a fan. glad to see some love for the excellent wood.

alex i've said elsewhere that julia's lucky that the show gives her a number of good potential submissions, but i also - often - feel more enamoured with the cast around her. i'm most focused on her in "tears".