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Early Emmy predix: Neil Patrick Harris or Fred Willard to win best guest actor in a comedy?

July 19, 2010 |  7:01 am

The Emmy bout over best guest comedy actor is a toss-up according to our Emmy gurus Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Robert "Rob L" Licuria ( Boomer thinks Neil Patrick Harris -- who picked up his fourth consecutive supporting actor nom for his regular role on the laffer "How I Met Your Mother" -- will prevail for a star turn on the freshman hit "Glee." Harris got a chance to showcase his singing talents as well as his flair for comedy. However, Rob ranks Harris in the middle of the pack, preferring the performance of TV vet Fred Willard on another first-year smash, "Modern Family."

As usual, their insights into this matchup are fascinating, proving that this comedy contest is quite dramatic in terms of suspense. Read their expanded views below, plus check out their forecasts and mine for best comedy series as well as lead actor and actress:

Neil Patrick Harris Glee Guest Actor Emmys GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY: BOOMER'S PREDIX
(Ranked by likelihood to win)
1. Neil Patrick Harris, "Glee" ("Dream On")
2. Fred Willard, "Modern Family" ("Travels with Scout")
3. Jon Hamm, "30 Rock" ("Emmanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land")
4. Will Arnett, "30 Rock" ("Into the Crevasse")
5. Mike O'Malley, "Glee" ("Wheels")
6. Eli Wallach, "Nurse Jackie" ("Chicken Soup")

BOOMER'S COMMENTARY: This is an easy pick with Neil Patrick Harris winning his first-ever Emmy Award after 20-plus years on television. He has more than double the screen time than his competitors, gets to play the comedic villain (all that's missing is the twirling mustache), and performs twice with an almost comic wink throughout both songs. He doesn't really provide laugh-out-loud moments, but there is probably nobody alive that could have brought this performance to this role on this show (many were excited about him as a guest star even before the episode aired!).

I love Fred Willard in just about any program or film, and this perfectly-cast character is no exception. He offers some incredibly funny one-liners and a couple of touching moments as Ty Burrell's father. Jon Hamm only has an approximately two-minute scene near the beginning of the episode, and it is the single funniest performance among all of these nominees (but I don't think it is nearly enough time to actually win).

Will Arnett has one of the best recurring characters on any show and gets to shine again as the nemesis of Alec Baldwin at NBC/GE. He has three funny scenes but has no real character arc this time and is basically there to move the plot forward and get in some jokes. Mike O'Malley has the best character he has ever played, but he isn't one bit funny in his scenes with Chris Colfer or in the principal's office. Eli Wallach won an Emmy decades ago and might be here more because of his veteran status than any other reason. He is certainly charming in this brief role, but no Emmy this time.

Fred Willard Guest Actor Emmy Modern Family GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY: ROB'S PREDIX
(Ranked by likelihood to win)
1. Fred Willard, "Modern Family" ("Travels with Scout")
2. Will Arnett, "30 Rock" ("Into the Crevasse")
3. Neil Patrick Harris, "Glee" ("Dream On")
4. Eli Wallach, "Nurse Jackie" ("Chicken Soup")
5. Mike O’Malley, "Glee" ("Wheels")
6. Jon Hamm, "30 Rock" ("Emmanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land")

ROB'S COMMENTARY: Jon Hamm has around 2 minutes (one scene) in this whole episode and although he is ridiculously funny and likable, this nomination is perhaps not as deserving as everybody else. Mike O’Malley is fantastic in his episode, but I think he is the most dramatic (i.e., not really funny at all) in his scenes. The subject matter and emotion of the scenes he is in with Chris Colfer may help him, but in absence of some much-needed laughs, he will likely sit this one out. Ditto for Eli Wallach, who is only in fourth spot because he is a veteran and quite effective as a dying old man who refuses further treatment.

The three guys that are really in the running here each provide enough laughs and screen time to warrant serious consideration. Harris has loads of screen time, a great song and dance number, and gets to chew up the scenery with Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison. And yet I didn’t end the episode wanting to hand him his first Emmy for this performance. It’s probably the likability factor.

Will Arnett, a nominee on previous occasions, actually knocks it out of the park in his episode. He has three main scenes, one of which opposite Alec Baldwin is hysterical. Emmy voters obviously love this character, and if you watch the submitted episode, you will see that this nomination was not just one made by rote. He could win again, so be warned.

However, I am going with comedy veteran, industry fave and the funniest guy in the room: Fred Willard. Nominated for other performances over the years, he is due for more recognition, and really delivers in what is one of the most perfectly cast guest roles of last season as Mr. Dunphy Sr. Laughs, impact, screen time, I think it’s the perfect combination. This is by no means a slam-dunk, but I have a feeling it’s enough to get him over the line, especially if voters love "Modern Family" as much as we think they do.

Top photo: Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morrison in "Glee." Credit: Fox. Bottom photo: Ty Burrell and Fred Willard in "Modern Family." Credit: ABC

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