Familiarity packs race with vet faces

Category offers up a deja vu feeling

Only Jeremy Piven has been-there done-that in the supporting actor in a comedy category.

His competitors have all been previously nominated — actually, the same five guys were in last year’s race — but none has taken home the trophy, grabbed by Piven twice. Emmy could make room for a newcomer here, and it might even be from Piven’s own show, “Entourage.”

In recent years, voters have shifted from supporting actors in studio-audience sitcoms — Brad Garrett practically owned the category with three wins this decade for his role as the unloved brother in “Everybody Loves Raymond” — to favoring single-camera laffers; hence Piven’s domination the past two years.

How that will play out this year remains to be seen. Piven’s castmate, Kevin Dillon, gets his second chance this year while Rainn Wilson of “The Office” — another show shot on a soundstage but without a live audience — also vies for the second year in a row.

This year’s other two contenders come from CBS’ Monday lineup of traditional sitcoms.

Jon Cryer of “Two and a Half Men” is a three-time nominee whose work alongside star Charlie Sheen never quite gains full Emmy appreciation, but with the show continuing to be a ratings leader among laffers, voters could show some respect for Cryer’s contributions.

Neil Patrick Harris of “How I Met Your Mother” may benefit from his sudden pop culture ubiquity and his series’ growing reputation as winning comfort food.


Show: “Two and a Half Men”

Emmy pedigree: Two noms

Best scene: In “Meander to Your Dander,” Alan realizes his girlfriend’s fix for their stagnant relationship is a threesome.

Why he might win: Cryer’s contributions to the success of “Men” can’t be overlooked, and if Piven doesn’t take home the honors for a third time, someone here will win for the first time. Why not Cryer?

Maybe not: His “Men” character is built on neuroses and uncertainty, attributes rarely celebrated in male categories.


Show: “Entourage”

Emmy pedigree: One nom

Best scene: In “The Dream Team,” Drama so lusts after a medical marijuana trucker cap that he fakes disease to get the goods.

Why he might win: On a show that sometimes takes itself too seriously, Dillon’s self-important D-list actor provides reliable laughs.

Maybe not: It’s been nearly a year since the series has been on the air. Shouldn’t make a difference because of screeners, but others shows feel fresher.


Show: “How I Met Your Mother”

Emmy pedigree: One nom

Best scene: In “The Goat,” Barney desperately tries to avoid telling Ted he slept with Robin by seeking a loophole in “the bro code,” spurring a time trip back to its Revolutionary War conception.

Why he might win: He’s a crowd-pleasing scene-stealer. Never underestimate the impact of a live audience genuinely convulsed by an actor’s antics — or aww-somely touched by his poignant moments.

Maybe not: Despite terrific reviews and solid, if not spectacular, ratings in its three seasons, “Mother” has never been loved by the Acad.


Show: “Entourage”

Emmy pedigree: Two wins plus one other nom

Best scene: When his son is rejected from private school, Ari obscenely explodes and then tearfully begs to get him enrolled.

Why he might win: Like four-straight Emmy winner John Larroquette’s rapacious “Night Court” prosecutor, Piven’s haughty Hollywood agent is consistently over-the-top entertaining.

Maybe not: There are some who believe the show has lost some of its buzz, and after four seasons, his overbearing character may start to grate.


Show: “The Office”

Emmy pedigree: One nom

Best scene: In the hourlong episode “Money,” Dwight mopes about a distressing breakup while hosting guests at his family’s bed and breakfast, the Beets Motel.

Why he might win: The breakout character on a breakout show, he’s considered overdue for recognition.

Maybe not: Dwight is the kind of humorless, officious guy who got beat up in grade school. Also, Wilson makes it look so easy he’s almost taken for granted.

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