Steve Carell: The Office
Seasons on show: Two
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Episode submitted: “The Injury”
Season highlight: Carell’s Michael Scott describes how he burned his foot on a George Foreman grill in bed, because like anyone else, he likes to wake up to the smell of sizzling bacon in the morning.
Why he could win: With his career taking off, there’s a sense that the small screen is lucky to have him. And the consensus is that he really made the Michael character his own this season.
Maybe not: Some might still get turned off by Michael’s more despicable traits.
Quote: “There was no way I was going to do the job Ricky Gervais did on the show. His rendition of that character was perfect, and to try to copy him in any way would have been suicide because there was no way I could have done it better. … So I figured the best advice I could give myself was to just take that idea of the character, of this guy with an enormous social blind spot, and run with it in a different direction,” Carell told the Australian Associated Press.

Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Emmy pedigree: 18 noms; two wins (“Seinfeld,” 1993 as writer-producer)
Episode submitted: “The Ski Lift”
Season highlight: His ongoing mental wrestling match over whether he should donate a kidney to Richard Lewis.
Why he could win: Does improvisational genius seem too strong?
Maybe not: Playing a version of himself may always be held against him by a faction of voters.
Quote: How much is the off-screen David like the onscreen David? “Not only is it the most-asked question that I get, it’s the most asked question that anybody who knows me gets. And the answer is, that’s the guy I wish I was. I love that guy. … That guy does the things I wish I could do, behaves the way I want to behave,” David told the audience at a New York Times-sponsored panel.

Kevin James: The King of Queens
Seasons on show: Eight
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Episode submitted: “Pole Lox”
Season highlight: In the season’s premiere episode, which received a 10%-plus in ratings increase from the year before, James takes pole dancing to an entirely new level.
Why he could win: “Everybody Loves Kevin?” He finally got to step around Ray Romano’s lengthy shadow this year, and his appealing perf in the Will Smith box office hit “Hitch” proves auds like to spend time with him.
Maybe not: Hard to figure out how James gets his first nomination on the eighth year of “Queens.” There’s no palpable buzz in his direction.
Quote: “If someone else wins and it looks like I’m happy for him, I should get an Emmy for that.”

Tony Shalhoub: Monk
Seasons on show: Five
Emmy pedigree: Three noms; two wins (“Monk,” 2003, ’05)
Episode submitted: “Mr. Monk Bumps His Head”
Season highlight: When Monk gets amnesia. “He doesn’t know where he is, who he is,” Shalhoub says. “It allowed me to do a little exploration outside the norm.”
Why he could win: With two wins in three years, he’s on the verge of a small dynasty. The show’s basic cable home has proved no hindrance.
Maybe not: Lots of new blood in the category, and Carell has gotten particular attention over the past year.
Quote: “Every year I go through the same sort of self-torture. I feel that, oh, it’s slipped through my fingers again, I’m not as invested … I feel like I’m doing it a little by the numbers, and then I don’t know, the episodes turn out well, but for some reason I have to beat myself up for a few weeks at the beginning. Maybe that whole process is how I work and then it turns out for the best.”

Charlie Sheen: Two and a Half Men
Seasons on show: Three
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Episode submitted: “The Unfortunate Little Schnauzer”
Season highlight: His exchanges with father/guest star Martin Sheen.
Why he could win: Never buzzworthy but always funny, “Men” is comfort food for the masses, and Sheen is the main ingredient.
Maybe not: Um, how to put this. Some general discomfort from members of the Denise Richards Support Group, regardless of the merits of his performance? That might be unfair, but it also might be reality.
Quote: “We’re all thrilled to finally be recognized for the hard work that we do. Sorry we’re not as hip as the rest of those single-camera shows, but I think we’re pretty funny.”

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