Sometimes I'm tempted to dismiss Steve Carell 's shot at winning the Emmy for two reasons. He portrays what we all (including Emmy voters) hate the most — the creepy boss from hell — and he's already lost the race for best comedy actor twice. How can he possibly have any hope now?
This year Carell gave Emmy judges a special, one-hour episode of "The Office" titled "Goodbye Toby" as the sample of his best work. As everybody knows, size matters in Hollywood and it really, really matters at the Emmys. In the race for best comedy actor, which is usually reserved for the stars of half-hour sitcoms, one-hour episodes have won five times over the last eight years. Tony Shalhoub won three times for his one-hour show "Monk" in 2003, 2005 and 2006. In 2000, Michael J. Fox won for submitting his one-hour special farewell eppy of "Spin City" titled "Goodbye/Conclusion." In 2001, Eric McCormack won for "Lows in the Mid-Eighties," the one-hour flashback episode that reveals how the title characters of "Will & Grace" met.
This year we have three one-hour entries — Steve Carell, Tony Shalhoub and Lee Pace ("Pushing Daisies") — plus an extremely strong half-hour entry by Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock"). Charlie Sheen's 30-minute performance in "Is There a Mrs. Waffles?" is quite good too, but the lightweight nature of "Two and a Half Men" probably sinks him.
The detestable nature of Carell's character Michael in "The Office" is probably what's sunk him twice in the past. Now it's back big time. In "Goodbye, Toby," Michael has an irrational, unfair hatred of his personnel director and he's caught giving Toby a cruel farewell present — a rock with the note marked "Suck on this!"
Unfortunately, Michael gets caught in front of the new personnel director, Holly, with whom he's utterly, hopelessly in love. The fact that Michael is so ridiculously smitten throughout this episode does help to blunt his offensive nature — sometimes — like when he and Holly take a ferris-wheel ride out in the parking lot where the whole office gang throws Toby a farewell party.
"It's love at first sight," Michael confides to Jim (John Krasinski) about his hots for Holly. "Actually, no, it was when I heard her voice. It was love at first see with my ears!"
Carell's big, theatrical, knock-out scene comes when the party starts and Michael lets loose with a knock-off version of Supertramp's "Goodbye, Stranger" sung to the words of "Goodbye, Toby" with the help of a local rent-a-band at the shindig. Carell surrenders shrewdly to the silliness of the scene while he hops around, screeching and overselling every absurd lyric. He's great.
He's even almost sympathetic when he suddenly discovers that he ex-girlfriend Jan is pregnant. At first Michael is elated, believing the baby is his because it must've been conceived while they dated, but then Jan reveals shattering news: She got impregnated at a sperm bank while they dated.
"You'd rather have someone else's sperm than my sperm?" he asks Jan, obviously devastated.
Yes, of course. Jan's no fool. Idiocy might be hereditary. But she still obviously has a soft spot in her heart for Michael. She invites him to join her at her Lamaze class the next morning. He accepts. Then he looks sweetly into the camera and boasts to TV viewers — in the final scene of his Emmy entry — "I'm going to be kind of a daddy!"
Does that moment and a few random others redeem Carell's awful, off-putting and creepy character in the eyes of Emmy judges? Voters really want to like the actors they endorse.
If that doesn't matter, then this is a close race between Carell, Shalhoub, Baldwin and Pace. Read more about Tony Shalhoub's entry here.