20 July 2008

And the Nominees Are... Part 4: Comedy Acting

Let's begin with the leading ladies: I don't have a single complaint with this category. I think the academy got it just right. Tina Fey was nominated but didn't win last year, so I'll certainly root for her, but I'd kind of like to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus win this time. Her Christine Campbell is self-centered and competitive, but she comes across as a real person with good qualities as well as flaws. I also think Christina Applegate did a fine job as amnesia victim Samantha Newly, trying to make amends for her past behavior on Samantha Who?, but this was the show's first season, and I think the character needs time to develop and hopefully grow a bit more complex. America Ferrera won last year for Ugly Betty, so even though she's nominated again, I'd like to see the academy spread the love and choose one of the others. Oops, I forgot Mary-Louise Parker on Weeds. Nice job, maybe next year?

Actors: once again the academy is stuck in the James Spader rut of nominating someone over and over, even though he doesn't necessarily deserve it over and over. I'm referring specifically to Tony Shalhoub's Adrian Monk. Ricky Gervais won last year for Extras and I had no problem with that, but prior to that, Shalhoub had been nominated six times (not counting this one) and won three times for Monk. We get it, already: he has OCD and about a squillion quirks that go with it, but he's still a detective genius. Give someone else a turn, why don'tcha? Like, say, Josh Radnor as Ted on How I Met Your Mother. It's an ensemble show, but he's the central character, so I would say that qualifies.

Alec Baldwin's portrayal of loopy but sly network exec Jack Donaghy is one of the absolute best things about 30 Rock. Think what you want about him as a person, he's dead-on in this role. Steve Carell should probably win one of these years for his antics as the nightmare boss who wants to be everyone's friend on The Office. Newcomer Lee Pace did an excellent job as the deadpan center of Pushing Daisies, but it's probably too soon. Charlie Sheen? Funny enough on Two and a Half Men, but like the show, the performance is one-note. I'd have preferred to see Jason Lee get a nomination for My Name Is Earl; even though I thought the jail and coma storylines were not that effective and the show had a very uneven season, Lee made us admire Earl for his sincere efforts to be a better person, and he has first-rate comic chops and timing.

Supporting actresses: The nominees: Kristin Chenoweth for Pushing Daisies; Jean Smart for Samantha Who?; Amy Poehler for Saturday Night Live; Holland Taylor for Two And A Half Men; and Vanessa Williams for Ugly Betty. Naturally I would have liked to see Jenna Fischer get nominated for The Office. I'd probably give her Jean Smart's spot on the list. I liked Smart as Samantha's doubtful, pushy mom, but I thought she overplayed it a bit.

Vanessa Williams is a hoot as the wicked-witch Wilheilima Slater on Ugly Betty, but I thought Judith Light brought more depth to the character of long-suffering matriarch Claire Meade, while also making her extremely funny. Chenoweth is a Broadway vet who gave verve and spunk to Olive's unrequited love on Daisies. As for Poehler, what more needs to be said? She's hugely talented, and it's great to see her getting this recognition. Taylor has been nominated four times, including this year, for her role as Evelyn, Charile and Alan's iceberg of a mother on Two and a Half Men. She's easily the best thing about the show, and maybe it's time for her to get a statue, so she can move aside for new blood.

Supporting actors: eh. The nominees: Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon for Entourage; Neil Patrick Harris for How I Met Your Mother; Rainn Wilson for The Office; and Jon Cryer for Two And A Half Men.

Let's start by throwing out Piven and Dillon (sorry, guys) and replacing them with Jack McBrayer and Tracy Morgan from 30 Rock. Both their characters--McBrayer's addled hayseed Kenneth Parcell the NBC Page and Morgan's (intentionally?) outrageous actor Tracy Jordan--are completely insane, in completely different but equally hilarious ways. Next, let's get rid of Cryer (see Sheen, above) and slide in Jason Segel, who makes Marshall's quirks so sweet and lovable on How I Met Your Mother.

Last, substitute John Krasinski for Rainn Wilson. Same show, totally different vibe. Wilson's Dwight is intentionally overplayed, but it's getting harder to find the funny Dwight moments among the annoying Dwight moments, and the character of Dwight is the biggest reason people are turned off by The Office. Krasinski's Jim Halpert is given much more to work with by the show, and does much more with it. People get hung up on his puppy-dog eyes, but Jim has grown into a much more complex and rich character as he gradually realized it was time to grow up, while maintaining the mischievous edge we love (my favorite prank: putting Dwight's desk in the men's room).

But even with all those changes, my choice for this category is Harris, as womanizing bro-meister Barney Stinson on Mother. Sure he's an arrogant pig who uses people, but he has also shown us how much he cares for his friends Ted and Marshall. Harris's gift is in bringing all Barney's disparate strands into one whole person, and somehow making him likable in spite of his selfishness. Deep down, Barney just wants to be liked, just like everyone else. He just doesn't know how to show it, yet.

So, there we go. I guess I'm going to have to watch the awards this year. We'll revisit my ramblings on September 22nd and see how I did. And yes, you would be justified in concluding that I spend far too much time watching television.

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