Three 'Family' members up for supporting actor

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Gallery: The Actor Nominees

The TV Acad is strongly considered renaming this category the “Supporting actors who co-star in ‘Modern Family,’ ” as three of the sitcom’s cast are competing against one another.

There can only be one winner, however, so two or possibly all three of the “Family” thesps will go home empty, and while the show has clearly resonated with voters, the three will obviously split votes.

While Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet are all nominated, the three men’s performance styles couldn’t be more different.

Burrell plays Phil Dunphy, married to Claire. Burrell is a stunning physical comic, and all those pratfalls are tinged with an endearing goofiness. He’s the dad any kid would love to have — at least until the age of 13 — then he or she’d be embarrassed with his hijinks.

Stonestreet and Ferguson, meanwhile, play Cameron and Mitchell, the funniest pair primetime has seen in years. Their relatable performances as a gay couple raising an adopted daughter are particularly relevant as the debate over gay marriage rages on. Stonestreet’s over-the-top performance elicited some of primetime’s biggest belly-laughs last season, while Ferguson’s sarcastic, slightly hassled reactions perfectly complement Stonestreet.

Meanwhile, two veterans — “Two and a Half Men” co-star Jon Cryer and “How I Met Your Mother” wiseguy Neil Patrick Harris — face off with baby-faced Chris Colfer, who evolved into the strongest scene-stealer by season’s end of “Glee.”

Ty Burrell
“Modern Family”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: Burrell’s chemistry with Fred Willard — who played Phil’s father — was casting perfection. Burrell also revealed his romantic side when Phil surprised Claire with a vow-renewal ceremony in Hawaii.
Why he might win: Burrell’s rubbery performance harks back to that of Dick Van Dyke falling over ottomans and couches while demonstrating a heart of gold. It’s a portrayal of the American Dad that could ignite Emmy nostalgia.
Maybe not: Burrell will have to impress Emmy over and above that of his two “Family” co-stars.

Chris Colfer
“Glee”
Emmy pedigree: First-time nom
Best scene: It was clear Colfer was a forced to be reckoned with when he diva’d his way through Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” but it’s Colfer’s scenes with onscreen dad Mike O’Malley, who’s also nominated, that tug on viewers’ heartstrings.
Why he might win: Colfer is the most unlikely nominee in this category, surprising everyone with his heartfelt but hilarious interpretation as a rival diva.
Maybe not: Some may consider the nomination enough acknowledgement of his performance.

Jon Cryer
“Two and a Half Men”
Emmy pedigree: One win, plus three previous noms
Best scene: Cryer is the original TV nerd, giving those “Big Bang” guys a run for their money. He’s at his funniest with sight gags, whether he’s drunkenly dancing in his underwear or singing Christmas carols with his elitist mother (Holland Taylor).
Why he might win: Everyone agrees that “Two and a Half Men” would be difficult to pull off without Charlie Sheen, but Cryer’s the one who’s won the Emmy.
Maybe not: Like “How I Met Your Mother,” “Two and a Half Men” may be overshadowed by the bright lights of more buzzworthy shows “Glee” and “Modern Family.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson
“Modern Family”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: The much-smaller Mitchell threatens Cameron (Stonestreet) with physical harm if he visits Lily while she cries instead of naps.
Why he might win: Ferguson plays perfect foil to Stonestreet. They’re very Laurel and Hardy-like in their comic timing with one another.
Maybe not: Since they play a couple, it may be difficult for voters to separate one from the other.

Neil Patrick Harris
“How I Met Your Mother”
Emmy pedigree: Three previous noms
Best scene: Womanizer Barney achieves his perfect week, scoring seven chicks in seven days.
Why he might win: Is there anything Harris can’t do? He’s hosted the Tonys and Emmys, and the TV Acad may feel he’s due for some thanks for nearly singlehandedly saving the kudos biz.
Maybe not: Having completed its fifth season, “Mother” may be r
unning out of comic fodder, and while Barney was quite lovable early on, his shtick may be tiring.

Eric Stonestreet
“Modern Family”
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: When Stonestreet’s character, Cameron, raised his adopted daughter Lily over his head in the pilot in a tribute to the Lion King, the “Modern Family” deal was sealed.
Why he might win: Like Colfer, Stonestreet was an absolute unknown before last fall, but line for line, he may deliver more laughs on “Modern Family” than anyone else. OK, maybe not Manny, but any of the adults.
Maybe not: There just could be too many “Family” thesps here to give one a clear victory.

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