Friday, June 5, 2009

Emmy Shortlist: Comedy Supporting Actors

It’s that time of the year, now that the regular television season is over, when folks start putting together a short list for Emmy Nominations. I’ll do mine in few installments, starting today with supporting performances in a comedy.

TNRLM Shortlist: Supporting Actress/Comedy

Lizzy Caplan, Party Down: Caplan’s Casey, a wannabe stand up comic coming out of a bad long distance relationship, was a great romantic foil for Adam Scott’s Henry, creating one of the most deadpan comic couplings this year (Caplan was also fantastic in True Blood last year, as Jason’s unhinged blood junkie girlfriend).

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies: A tiny whirlwind of comic charm and spunky sass, with bonus points for glorious singing.

Portia de Rossi, Better Off Ted: Veronica was as icy and buttoned up as Lindsey Funke was scattershot and dimly self aware, and both were played to perfection by de Rossi.

Jane Lynch, Party Down: Lynch is hit or miss for some folks, and I’ll admit that a little of her goes a long way. Party Down used her to great effect as a bawdy former C-level actress.

Cobie Smulders, How I Met Your Mother: Both ladies (including Alyson Hannigan) from HIMYM are worthy, but since Hannigan was sidelined for month or so on maternity leave, let’s give the show’s nomination here to Smulders, who did great work all season, culminating in a terrific finale with Barney.

Jenny Wade, Reaper: Though the plotting in Reaper was as disappointingly unfocused as last year, the performances really stepped up. Wade was a fantastic addition to the cast, giving her “reformed” demon an adorable quirkiness underscored with some not so human menace.

TNRLM Shortlist: Supporting Actor/Comedy

Adam Baldwin, Chuck: First, we have to address the question of whether or not to classify Chuck as a “comedy,” since it’s a little bit of everything (romance, comedy, spy caper, action adventure). Given how loaded the pure “drama” categories are, and how many smiles and chuckles Chuck brings to the party, I think it’s fine to put it here, and nobody does more with less than Baldwin’s Agent Casey. Whether it’s a grunt, a look or a nod, Baldwin is consistently entertaining, funny and badass.

Rick Gonzalez, Reaper: It took me a while to warm up to Gonzalez. I couldn’t stand his performance or his character on Reaper last year, but he completely won me over in the show’s second (and hopefully not final) season. His romance with Jenny Wade’s demon Nina was the heart of the show this year, and his off-kilter and underplayed line readings were appreciably surprising and delightful.

Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother: Harris should be a shoo-in winner in this category. He takes what could be a broad cartoon in a lesser actor’s hands, and infuses the scheming, womanizing Barney with an innate likeability. A masterful creation, masterfully played.

Chi McBride, Pushing Daisies: Reliably exasperated and caustic, McBride handles the labyrinthine plot twists and tangled, brilliant dialogue with aplomb.

Jason Segel, How I Met Your Mother: Marshall and Lily’s relationship is one to envy, in no small part because of Segel’s ability to play endearingly schmoopy. Plus, this last season gave him a chance to show more of a bromance with Barney, a welcome pairing we haven’t seen that often before.

Ray Wise, Reaper: Wise’s grinning, malevolent Prince of Darkness is a consistently terrific comic creation, completely dominating the screen while taking souls, looking for love or running a suburban botox party. If Reaper doesn’t get picked up by another network (or sold into syndication), I’d certainly watch a half hour sitcom with the Devil as a central character. He’s that “good.”


  1. I agree with everything you said about Reaper. It was never must-see TV for me, but it was nice to have on the DVR during a slow week. Having never seen Party Down (But I definitely want to, knowing now that both Kaplan and Lynch are involved.), my vote for actress goes to Wade. The men are all just so good, though, that I can't possibly choose one.

  2. With Reaper, I enjoyed it, but the individual pieces (Actors, especially, but also the premise) were much better than the sum of the parts, mainly due to poor episode/series plotting and execution. But my oh my were there some good performances, as I noted above. Wise was spectacular. Gonzalez completely won me over, and the relationship with Nina gave his "sweetness" an outlet. Wade was a surprise to me. I'd never seen her in anything before, but she was cute, endearing, and never lost the slight sense of otherworldliness. In a way, she remined me of Emma Caufield's delightful portrayal of Anya on Buffy.

    And DO check out Party Down. Great comedy pedigree behind the scenes, and the on screen result was very funny. (Plus, if you're a fan of Veronica Mars, creator Rob Thomas was behind this show, and there are more VM cameos than you can shake a stick at, including a very, very funny one from Veronica herself in the final ep).

  3. This is a great list, and Kristin Chenoweth is my dream woman. I'm thinking of moving her to the top of my "Five Free Passes" list, although Carrie Underwood is not going to be easy to replace.

  4. And I'm going with the Chenoweth-McBride Pushing Daisies sweep for this one.