TNRLM Shortlist: Lead Actor/Comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock: While 30 Rock may be maddeningly inconsistent, Baldwin is most assuredly not. While this season didn’t bring anything as howlingly funny and “instant classic” as Tracy Jordan’s therapy session, Baldwin still did yeoman’s comedy work every episode, including funny pokes at his Malice character and having his “double” show up in a Mexican telenovela.
Matt Keeslar, The Middleman: Last year’s best new show didn’t attract the attention it deserved and got canceled, but Keeslar’s performance as the milk drinking, aw-shucks hero was note perfect. “I’m as serious as a hefty bag full of rottweilers!” when I say Keeslar deserves a nomination.
Zach Levi, Chuck: Chuck’s second season amped up everything, including the emotional stakes, and Levi deftly anchored the show’s evolution from pleasant diversion to must see TV. Who else could motivate the interwebs to run to their local Subway to “save Chuck?”
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies: Ned had a lot to deal with this year, and Pace expertly handled the complex twists and turns of his relationship with Chuck (and their extended families), all while navigating the poetic dialogue in an endearingly matter of fact deadpan.
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory: BBT has evolved into TV’s best sitcom, and if there were room, every single player on the show would be nominated. However, Parsons takes a role that could quickly devolve into the “audience whoops when he enters” equivalent of JJ Evans or Cosmo Kramer, and gives him a disarming charm no matter how annoying the character’s behavior is on the surface. Not many people can make knocking on a door (three times in a row, of course) laugh out loud funny, in addition to providing one of the season’s biggest highlights dealing with getting a napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy.
James Roday, Psych: Tony Shaloub got lots of Emmy love (and rightfully so) for his portrayal of Adrian Monk, so how about a little love for the “other” USA Network detective on Friday nights? Since Roday dialed down the “fake psychic” histrionics, his Shawn Spencer has been an 80s pop culture spewing delight, making a know it all oddly likable.
Adam Scott, Party Down: While Party Down is pretty much a true ensemble, Scott’s Henry is the emotional center of the show, and his disillusioned deadpan was an engaging audience counterbalance to some of the broader comic creations around him.
TNRLM Shortlist: Lead Actress/Comedy
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who: The show’s high concept never quite lived up to Applegate’s lead performance, which showcased her innate sweetness and deft comic timing.
Kaley Cuoco, The Big Bang Theory: The writers didn’t really know what to do with Penny in the first season, but the character (and Cuoco) really came into her own this year. Once she started to embrace the geeks next door on their own terms, Penny found a comfortable and welcome place in the storylines, and her situational pairings with Sheldon were comic gold.
Tina Fey, 30 Rock: Liz Lemon’s nerdy desperation never fails to disappoint, and her dysfunctional relationship with Jon Hamm’s Drew gave Liz more to do than just spew hysterical office-based one liners.
Jenna Fischer, The Office: The “Michael Scott Paper Company” plotline was hit and miss, but it certainly gave Fischer’s Pam more to do, and that’s always a good thing. Her “Jerry Maguire” moment with Michael, realization of what she’s done, and growth into a sales position was a nice extended character arc and highlight of The Office’s season.
Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies: Friel gives you faith that sunny optimism and a central lightness can be awesomely appealing without being cloying or saccharine.
Yvonne Strahovski, Chuck: As good as Zach Levi was on Chuck, nobody would invest in the show quite as emotionally if it wasn’t for Strahovski’s shaded performance as his conflicted handler, Sarah Walker. The audience believes that Sarah could fall for the erstwhile Nerd Herder, just as they can believe she can kick some serious ass.