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Emmy Essays: Predicting the Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series Winners


Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy

NOMINEES
Anthony Carrigan, Barry
Brett Goldstein, Ted Lasso
Toheeb Jimoh, Ted Lasso
Nick Mohammed, Ted Lasso
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tyler James Williams, Abbott Elementary
Henry Winkler, Barry
Bowen Yang, Saturday Night Live

I’m a big Bowen Yang fan, even if I haven’t really watched Saturday Night Live in many years. The thing is though, I don’t need to. On any given Sunday between September and May, I can just go online and see the highlights from the previous night’s offering and catch his brilliance. I don’t think he’s ever going to win this award, no matter how many times he’s nominated, but it’s still nice to see him recognized for his continued greatness.

Tony Shalhoub, on the other hand, is a brilliant actor who needs to find a new gig. His work on the past-its-expiration-date Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has devolved into all too familiar tics and tells. While he certainly deserved this award when he won it three years ago, I think it’s only name recognition that got him a place on this year’s list. This isn’t a slam against Shalhoub, I still think he’s brilliant, I just think everything about this show has gotten lazy, including the performances. Wake me up when he’s on a new show, doing something different.

Tyler James Williams is great on Abbott Elementary, and certainly does belong here, but unlike his female costars who have a shot to win their awards, I believe he’s overshadowed by the other five men on this list. Two are from Bill Hader’s remarkable Barry, the other three from the enormously entertaining Ted Lasso. Just as there is a Mano a Mano in the Best Actor category between two men from these shows, so shall it be in the Supporting division.

Nick Mohammed’s character’s heel turn was a polarizing part of Lasso’s sophomore effort, but that takes nothing away from his terrific performance in the midst of it. Likewise, Toheeb Jimoh’s beautiful and sweet work as soccer player — and wooer of team owner Rebecca in the year’s best May-December romance — Sam was such a delight, the nomination came as a pleasant surprise, as I didn’t have enough confidence in the Academy to recognize what they were seeing. And in Barry, Anthony Carrigan’s ongoing brilliance as Noho Hank never fails to kill me, pun intended. Carrigan is so good and so funny in that role, and what he did in this third season, showing a different side of the character with far more gravitas, was a revelation. Were I a voter, he would get my vote again and again.

But I’m not, so let’s instead talk about how, as with the Best Actor category, this is a two-man race between past winners in this category, Henry Winkler and Brett Goldstein. They are both so good as Barry’s Gene Cousineau and Lasso’s Roy Kent, respectively, it’s hard to choose between them. Especially this year, when each show’s final episode allowed the actor in question to show something new. Without spoiling anything, Gene had a triumph and Roy a tragedy that gave both men indelible acting moments. If it weren’t for my devotion to Carrigan, I would have a nearly impossible time choosing between these two. Ultimately, I think Goldstein repeats because people like Lasso more than Barry, but it could go either way.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Anthony Carrigan
WHO WILL WIN: Brett Goldstein

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy

NOMINEES
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Hannah Einbinder, Hacks
Janelle James, Abbott Elementary
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Sarah Niles, Ted Lasso
Sheryl Lee Ralph, Abbott Elementary
Juno Temple, Ted Lasso
Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso

I like Alex Borstein, generally, but I am so down on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel at this point, it’s hard to look at her work and think anything other than, “Ugh, why is this show still on?” It’s become rote, and lazy, and as good as the actors are, they have become lazy, too. I get why she was nominated here, just as costars Rachel Brosnahan and Tony Shalhoub were, but that doesn’t mean she has a chance to win. All three of them have fallen into the same verbal tics that come with working on an Amy Sherman-Palladino show, and while I keep watching in hopes that the show and its stars can recapture some of the magic of the first two seasons, the reality continues to disappoint me.

It’s a shame, really, because I genuinely love the work of every other woman on this list. Under certain circumstances, Kate McKinnon would win this as recognition for her long stint on Saturday Night Live, and it would be deserved. The thing is, though, she’s won this award twice already, in 2016 and ’17, so she’s already been given the recognition for her greatness, and I don’t honestly think what she did this year was any better than what she did before. This is not a knock, mind you, but rather acknowledgement of her greatness and consistency.

It’s also a shame that such wonderful actresses as Ted Lasso’s Sarah Niles and Juno Temple, Abbott Elementary’s Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Hacks’ Hannah Einbinder don’t have any real chance at winning this award, in spite of the greatness each showed us this past year. Temple was somehow even better than she was in the stellar first season of Lasso, and Niles, as the patient therapist who wears Ted down and gets him to ask her for help, was sublime. Same for Ralph, whose put upon veteran teacher is the crowning achievement of a decades-long career that has never been anything but fantastic. Ralph has always been one of those underrated actresses who you might not think of right off, but when you do, you say, “Oh, yes, she’s amazing.” It’s great to see her recognized here. And, for the second year in a row, Einbinder does genuinely exciting work as self-destructive comedy writer Ava. She goes toe-to-toe with Jean Smart and is easily the veteran actress’ equal.

But, as with each of the Comedy categories this year, this one really is between two people. Last year’s winner Hannah Waddingham, and newcomer Janelle James. Waddingham is clearly the favorite here, and as good as she was in Season One, her heartbreaking affair with Toheeb Jimoh’s Sam offered us a whole other level to the character. James, on the other hand, as Abbott Elementary‘s devious school principal is one of the year’s best villains. Not just because she’s hilarious, but also because you genuinely get why she’s doing what she’s doing, and that’s not always easy to pull off. It also makes an even better villain, if you can identify with them. Personally, I would give it to Sheryl Lee Ralph, but even though I think Waddhingham repeats, I would not be surprised if James pulls an upset.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Sheryl Lee Ralph
WHO WILL WIN: Hannah Waddingham

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