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Best supporting comedy actor: Neil Patrick Harris, Rainn Wilson or Jon Cryer?

August 10, 2009 |  9:50 am

Our forums moderators and crafty Emmy seers Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria ( agree that there are two front-runners in the Emmy race for best supporting comedy actor, but clash on which one is ahead. Boomer picks Rainn Wilson ("The Office"); Rob opts for Emmycast host Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother").

They also disagree on who could be the spoiler. Boomer warns us about Tracy Morgan ("30 Rock"), while Rob is leery of Jon Cryer ("Two and a Half Men").

It's important to note that these assessments are based on close scrutiny of the same material being viewed by Emmy judges: the episodes chosen by nominees as samples of their best work from the last TV season. Each contender picks one, which is noted in parentheses in the lists below.

1) Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother" ("Benefits")
2) Rainn Wilson, "The Office" ("Heavy Competition")
3) Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men" ("Sir Lancelot's Litterbox")
4) Tracy Morgan, "30 Rock" ("The Funcooker")
5) Jack McBrayer, "30 Rock" ("The Bubble")
6) Kevin Dillon, "Entourage" ("Tree Trippers")

Neil Patrick Harris Rainn Wilson Jon Cryer news

ROB L'S COMMENTARY: As with every category, the eventual winner will depend on whether voters watch the episode submissions (like they are supposed to) and base their vote on that, or whether voters read through the nominated actors and tick off a name based on other factors, such as popularity, that intangible "buzz factor," or maybe a sense that the actor in mind is overdue for recognition.

I think Neil Patrick Harris chose wisely with his submission, and don't quite understand why some tend to think it is not as strong as it could be. He has enough screen time to make a lasting impression, is very likable and has some very funny scenes. He is what I have been calling a scene stealer ever since this show began a few years ago. Coupled with him being all over the airwaves as host of this awards show and that awards show, and a general sense that he should have won already (but for the Jeremy Piven three-peat), I think Harris is the well-deserved front-runner.

Rainn Wilson also submitted well -- his episode features his character front and center, and he really delivers the laughs. My only problem with this submission, and perhaps his character in general (both of which may hurt his chances for the win), is that Dwight Schrute is not as likable a character as Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson has become -- and, in this episode, he doesn't allow the audience to really want to see him succeed in his quest to take Michael Scott down. Still, Wilson probably has never had a better shot, and it is still possible for him to fend off what is perceived in Emmyland as 2009 being Neil Patrick Harris' turn to grab the gold.

Special mention must go to Jon Cryer -- he has never had a better episode than this one as far as I'm concerned. I am not a big fan of this show, but I recognize funny when I see it, and Cryer is hysterical in this one -- likable (perhaps even pitiful) Allan suffers humiliation after humiliation, and takes a fair amount of pratfalls and bruises in this slapstick-fest. If voters feel like finally awarding Jon Cryer after a few fruitless nominations, then this might be the surprise of the category.

Tracy Morgan's nomination is probably a couple of years too late for me -- I didn't see much at all to be terribly excited about in his episode, and he doesn't really even benefit from any scenes in Jack McBrayer's episode to really warrant having a genuine shot at the win this time around. Similarly, McBrayer doesn't really deliver the laughs and likability needed to topple the favorites in this category in his episode. A win by either of the "30 Rock" gentlemen would be more about a "30 Rock" sweep as far as I'm concerned, and I am not even sure whether either of them would have enough "30 Rock" votes anyway, given that fans of the show have two actors to choose from (the dreaded “vote split” theory).

Finally, this will almost certainly not be Kevin Dillon's year. In his episode submission, he doesn't do anything Emmy-worthy to warrant the other guys in this category being worried about an upset. In fact, it is interesting that Jeremy Piven seems to outshine Dillon in the scenes they share in this episode, but he gets to sit this one out (probably because of Sushi-gate and perhaps voter fatigue).

Therefore, I am going with Neil Patrick Harris to finally win that Emmy that has so far eluded him.

1) Rainn Wilson, "The Office" ("Heavy Competition")
2) Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother" ("Benefits")
3) Tracy Morgan, "30 Rock" ("The Funcooker")
4) Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men" ("Sir Lancelot's Litterbox")
5) Jack McBrayer, "30 Rock" ("The Bubble")
6) Kevin Dillon, "Entourage" ("Tree Trippers")

BOOMER'S COMMENTARY:What kind of judging panel will this category have?  If it has the type that rewards the best episode, there is absolutely no question that Rainn Wilson will win. He has the only submission with tons of screen time and the sort of over-the-top moments that traditionally win this category.

If this panel has another agenda beyond its duty (and that happens at least three or four times each year), then Neil Patrick Harris will be rewarded for portraying a great and memorable character over the last four years PLUS having one of the biggest career years of anybody PLUS actually hosting the Emmys this year. The Harris episode is pretty good, but lacks in laughs (except for him trashing the TV sets over and over and over). I will trust that the panel members do their job and choose Rainn Wilson, the person with the funniest performance in his episode.

Beyond these two, I could certainly make a case for Tracy Morgan riding the "30 Rock" Emmy train and for playing one of the wildest characters on TV today (his episode has some great inside jokes about going after the FCC, and he also gets a nice scene on his co-star's episode as well).

I was very impressed with Jon Cryer's episode because of its fairly lengthy conversational scenes with Charlie Sheen and some fine physical humor at the end (plus he directed it and might get a couple of extra points for that).

Jack McBrayer's episode is funny, but very limited in actual screen time for him.

Kevin Dillon is not in contention for an Emmy but might be eligible to win for "worst submitter of the last decade" for this terrible episode selection (very funny ensemble piece, but not for him alone).


Emmy clawfest over best comedy actress: Tina Fey vs. Toni Collette (and watch out for Christina Applegate! Meow!)

Dueling Emmy predix: Alec Baldwin vs. Steve Carell

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