Our Emmy experts Chris "Boomer" Beachum and Rob "Rob L" Licuria (AwardsHeaven) disagree about who will prevail in the comedy lead actor race. Boomer believes Jim Parsons can win with his second nomination as Sheldon the slightly mad scientist in "The Big Bang Theory." And Rob thinks Tony Shalhoub can take home a fourth Emmy for the eighth and final season of "Monk," adding to those he won for seasons one, three and four.
COMEDY LEAD ACTOR: BOOMER'S PREDIX
1. Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory" ("The Pants Alternative")
2. Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" ("Don Geiss, America & Hope")
3. Tony Shalhoub, "Monk" ("Mr. Monk and the End, Parts 1 & 2")
4. Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Seinfeld")
5. Steve Carell, "The Office" ("The Cover Up")
6. Matthew Morrison, "Glee" ("Mash Up")
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY: I agree with many people that Tony Shalhoub gives the most complete and impressive overall performance of this category's nominees. It does have a little humor, but is mostly dramatic and probably contains the most crying and coughing of any comedy submission (maybe ever). The first hour is very interesting and makes you want to know what happens next, which is unfortunately the second hour and its poorly written and plotted conclusion to the series. With all of that in mind, I just can't bring myself to think that Emmy voters would want to elevate him into a pantheon with the only other men to ever win this category four times (Carroll O'Connor, Michael J. Fox and Kelsey Grammer).
Jim Parsons easily gives the funniest performance of the group, with nice ensemble work, individual one-on-one scenes with each character and a drunken conclusion accepting an award no less. Voters haven't warmed too much to "The Big Bang Theory," but I hope they will appreciate the all-out comedy in this particular episode. I am projecting him to take home his first Emmy this year.
I have Alec Baldwin in second place because I think it is the most complete performance he has submitted to Emmy judges yet. It doesn't have the gimmicks of previous winning submissions, but has a lot going for it and him. There is a strong possibility they aren't quite done with rewarding him yet, even more so in a year when practically nobody is predicting him to win again. Larry David is also very funny in his season finale and even gets a couple of tender moments trying to win back his ex-wife.
Steve Carell submits an incredibly weak episode this year that finds him off-screen as much as on. Speaking of weak, if I was ranking all 37 acting episodes in the comedy categories, I would most likely rank Matthew Morrison's at No. 37 (mainly due to the awful rapping).
COMEDY LEAD ACTOR: ROB'S PREDIX
1. Tony Shalhoub, "Monk" ("Mr. Monk and the End, Parts 1 & 2")
2. Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory" ("The Pants Alternative")
3. Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Seinfeld")
4. Matthew Morrison, "Glee" ("Mash Up")
5. Steve Carell, "The Office" ("The Cover Up")
6. Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" ("Don Geiss, America and Hope")
ROB'S COMMENTARY: Unbelievably, I have reigning champion and multiple Emmy winner Alec Baldwin in last place in this category, based solely on the episode that he chose to submit to judges. In "Don Geiss," I don't think he was given nearly as much to do as in previous entries. He doesn't have as much of the witty dialogue that we are accustomed to seeing and there's not even any of the over the top mugging for the camera (like in last year's "Generalissimo" episode) that I think was the main factor that propelled him to the top last year. I think it is safe to say Baldwin will sit this one out this year.
Similarly, Steve Carell is good but not great in his episode. There are some laughs, and the usual cringe-inducing hysteria that this character is renowned for, but I never once thought to myself that this performance would drive Emmy voters to tick off his name on the ballot. There is almost zero likeability, which Carell has had in past attempts (and still lost), which I think will ultimately cost him votes. Maybe next year, in his final season, he might get that great send-off episode that will (finally) get him the Emmy that has so far eluded him.
I was tempted to place Matthew Morrison in last position because I think he (or his representation, or the show's producers) made an almost fatal error by submitting the very episode that demonstrates the one incredibly irritating factor that he and the show were mercilessly criticized and picked on about all season long: Mr. Schu RAPPING. And it's not even once, but TWICE, in two separate song-and-dance numbers, that we have to suffer through the horror of it all. That all being said, Morrison is by far one of the most talented actors on TV right now – and that much is clear from his episode. He is an accomplished all-round performer and will garner some votes because of this. He also has plenty of screen time, some range, and even some laughs. So he proves that he deserves to be here, but I couldn't wait for the episode to be over, and I have a feeling that I won't be alone in that assessment.
Larry David is not first and foremost an actor. We all know it. But he is continually nominated because the material is premium grade, he owns this character (perhaps because it's a little too close to home), and because of the combination of largely improvised scenes and high laugh-factor. He is not usually in the running for the win though, maybe because voters don't take him too seriously as an actor. However, in the episode he has submitted, he not only has plenty of screen time, but the over the top repartee with comedy icons from the now-classic Emmy darling "Seinfeld" are hilarious and probably his best work ever. Don't completely count him out – he's in the middle of the pack and could surprise.
However, I think this category ultimately comes down to two guys, in two very different shows and with completely different performances, with only tenuous similarities in that both characters play eccentric, off-kilter characters (i.e. "nut jobs") dealing with a relative crisis in their lives, one very serious and one not so serious. Jim Parsons has probably about 15 minutes in which he completely knocked my socks with his performance. I laughed out loud countless times, essentially with every line reading and punch line, laughs ensued, which firmly concretes Parsons in my mind as the best comedic actor currently on TV. His acceptance of an award while intoxicated with alcohol and nerves is a sight to behold, and in any other year, I would have little hesitation to anoint him my choice for the win.
However, standing in his way is perennial favourite Tony Shalhoub, who has a two-part series finale of an hour long show to strut his stuff and demonstrate (once again) why his previous Emmy wins were no fluke. The Emmys has been criticized unfairly for bestowing this prize on Shalhoub in years past. Whether you like the show itself or not, his comedic timing and characterization are undeniable. And Shalhoub knows how to choose episodes wisely, actually earning each Emmy with a winning performance that expertly mixed drama and comedy. I myself am not a fan of the show at all, but every time I sit down to view these episodes, I always finish up Shalhoub's episode recognizing why he is always in this category, and I expect, what with the emotion and sentiment laced throughout this series finale, that he will win again.
My only caveat is that some voters might be reluctant to hand him yet another Emmy and risk the wrath of tired cranky TV critics in doing so. But has this ever stopped the Academy before? Keep these four past champs in mind: Doris Roberts, Brad Garrett, Michael Richards and Candice Bergen (all multiple winners, even against more fancied or "cooler" competition).
Photos: Jim Parsons in "The Big Bang Theory." Credit: CBS; Tony Shalhoub in "Monk." Credit: USA.