It’s deja vu for three of the nominees for lead actor in a comedy: Steve Carell, Tony Shalhoub and Charlie Sheen. This is the third straight year they’ve gone head-to-head-to-head.Shalhoub has been dominant in this category, having been nominated six years in a row — for every season “Monk” has been Emmy eligible — and has won three times. A win here would tie him with sitcom vet Kelsey Grammer, who took home four statuettes for his work on “Frasier.” Like Shalhoub, Alec Baldwin has been nominated for each season of “30 Rock” — although that’s only two so far — and it’s difficult to imagine a year that Baldwin would get ignored by voters while the show remains on the air. After being passed over the first few seasons of “Two and a Half Men,” Charlie Sheen has now become an Emmy fave, racking up his third consecutive nom. He’s yet to win, but the TV Acad is certainly taking notice of CBS’ healthy Monday nightlaffer — co-stars Jon Cryer and Holland Taylor are also nominated. Carell, coming off “Get Smart” this summer, seems to be doing a fine job balancing his work on “The Office” with a burgeoning movie career, and the popularity of the NBC skein is due in large part to his portrayal of idiotic boss Michael Scott. The only newcomer is Lee Pace, who replaces last year’s winner, Ricky Gervais of HBO’s “Extras.” It will be interesting to see how Pace fares here, as his is not only the only new show of the lot, but it’s an hourlong program, while the rest are all half-hours. ALEC BALDWIN Show: “30 Rock” Emmy pedigree: Six noms Best scene: During a therapy session in “Rosemary’s Baby,” Jack re-enacts Tracy’s childhood to help him work out some issues. Jack imitates Tracy’s dad, mom and a neighbor, moving from chair to chair for each character. Why he might win: That scene was one of the funniest of the year, on any laffer, and has the potential to catapult Baldwin to his first-ever Emmy win. Maybe not: Baldwin is as much, if not more, a movie guy than a TV personality, and there could be some sort of apprehension from the Academy to give him the smallscreen’s highest honor. STEVE CARELL Show: “The Office” Emmy pedigree: Two noms Best scene: Michael admits he ran over Meredith and told everyone that she was going to be OK. Later, when he pays her a visit at the hospital and he’s hoping for forgiveness, he pulls Meredith’s IV out while delivering balloons. Why he might win: Carell works overtime to make his dim-bulb boss a success. It shouldn’t hurt that he’s also making smart moves away from “The Office” this summer as Agent 86 in one of the season’s top comedy pics. Maybe not: Emmy voters have had two previous chances go with Carell in this category, but both times they went elsewhere. Could it be a trend? LEE PACE Show: “Pushing Daisies” Emmy pedigree: First nom Best scene: Pace showed his magic touch all season. Particularly charming were his romantic interactions with Anna Friel. While there could be no physical contact between them, they still managed to get close by using a number of protective barriers including body bags and beekeeper suits. Why he might win: Pace poked life into one of the most critically acclaimed new shows of the season and did a nice job of walking the fine line between comedy and drama. Maybe not: Often, voters like to see winners pay their dues over several seasons, and the fact the “Daisies” is a freshman show could hurt his chances. TONY SHALHOUB Show: “Monk” Emmy pedigree: Three wins plus two other noms Best scene: In the two-part season finale, Monk is arrested for murder but escapes — evading search dogs because they can’t pick up a scent off his clothing. He is later presumed dead, freeing him to uncover the truth that will clear his name. Why he might win: The gumshoe hasn’t lost a step, and if voters who cast their ballots for him in the past are looking for a reason to pass him over this time to share the wealth, they might not find any. Maybe not: Shalhoub does nearly as well at the Emmys as his character does solving cases, collecting three statuettes during the first five seasons. Voters may feel it’s time to give someone else a chance. CHARLIE SHEEN Show: “Two and a Half Men” Emmy pedigree: Two noms Best scene: After becoming an overnight star, the recording artist known as Charlie Waffles fulfills a contract requirement by performing a concert. To get past his stage fright he needs to get drunk before going on. Why he might win: It might be time to acknowledge the most-watched sitcom on the air, and voting for Sheen — the series’ bedrock — would be a start. Maybe not: Hard to say why Sheen has yet to pick up a trophy. To his credit, he makes it look awfully easy, and that may work against him.
Data provided by:Nielsen Media Research (Preliminary Results)