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Could Steve Carell's creepy role in 'The Office' hurt his Emmy hopes?

July 30, 2008 |  3:59 pm

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 Steve_carell_pull_quote1 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.

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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.

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Photos: NBC

The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments

No one is more deserving than Steve Carell. I don't think Michael Scott is creepy. Though I love the entire cast, Carell is why I tune in each week. He is the seller. No matter how funny the other guys are (Alec and Tony especially), Steve steals the show and deserves the recognition for his brilliance. And 'Goodbye, Toby' was one of the best season finale's ever.

A character like Michael would normally come off as creepy and the boss from hell. Instead, Steve Carell makes Michael Scott absolutely endearing.

I think it's about time Steve Carell got an Emmy for it.

I guess I'm not the only one who LOVES Steve Carell in movies but can't stand to watch him in the office.

I think that James Roday of Psych has got to be nominated next time. He would be a clear favorite if he was nominated.

I think Lee Pace will win.

Michael Scott isn't nearly as "creepy" as Ton O'Neill; dude, do us all a favor and stay off those infortainment shows already...

Carell is a great actor. I think you are confusing him with his character who he plays fantastically. The Office is the best comedy on TV.

If voters couldn't stand Carell, they wouldn't have awarded the show the Best Comedy Emmy.

I think Carell is hilarious in "The Office." Tony Shaloub has won enough. Charlie Sheen isn't really that talented in my book. I won't comment on Lee Pace, as I haven't seen his performance. Baldwin is great on 30 Rock but I'd rather see the Emmy go to Carell if only because Baldwin seems like kind of a jerk in real life, whereas Carell seems more good natured.

I don't think Michael Scott is nearly as awful a character as you suggest. He has his bad moments, but he is almost universally redeemed within each episode.

The show certainly goes darker than most TV comedies, but I think you've painted his character with too broad a brush.

Honestly, I don't think viewers dislike the character of Michael at all. His idiocy, creepy, man-child like behavior makes viewers like him. To say his character is detestable is an exaggeration. His unlikable nature essentially is what make the show funny. It's like Larry David's character on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I love "The Office". A lot. And I have to admit that "Goodbye, Toby" is some of Steve Carell's best work. But I still can't shake the feeling that he almost ruins the show. He's too broad, too loud, too crass and unfunny, and compared to the subtle brilliance of the rest of the cast (especially Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski, who were totally robbed this year), and especially the masterwork that Ricky Gervais did in the original, he sticks out like a blaring tuba in the middle of a bunch of soft string instruments. Part of the fault is the writing, I'll admit, and even though "The Office" deserves a win in virtually every other Emmy category, I can't understand what the hubbub about Steve Carell is. Hopefully he looses to the immensley more talented Alec Baldwin or Lee Pace.

I think it's more important that voters like the actor than the character he portrays. Remember, good-guy Denzel Washington beat bad-boy Russell Crowe for the Oscar even though Washington played an evil villain and Crowe played a sympathetic genius with a mental illness. And just last year, industry darling Ricky Gervais won this very category with an episode in which his mean-spirited character flaunts his homophobia by rejecting a kiss during the performance of a play. That was much more hateful than anything Michael Scott has done on "The Office."

Considering that Carell is becoming one of the most beloved comedians on TV -- and a movie star to boot -- I think the good will the Academy will have for the actor cancels out the meanness and stupidity of the character. Now, whether he can beat Baldwin's tour de force submission is another story.


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