Marriage and parenthood did nothing to hurt Jack Donaghy’s relationship with Liz Lemon, nor did they harm Baldwin’s relationship with his viewers. Baldwin wears Donaghy like a perfectly tailored suit, one that nonetheless feels new each year.
“Men of a Certain Age”
Braugher’s Owen Thoreau Jr. almost has no counterpart on TV in the way he works to keep his father, wife, children and himself happy. As he has always done, Braugher brings an edgy, authoritative quality, but this is no Det. Frank Pembleton from “Homicide” — you can see the boy and the man in Thoreau all at once.
We learned that Phil Dunphy was a cheerleader in college, a revelation that perfectly captures the unselfish energy Burrell brings to “Modern Family” each week. Flip any kind of comic device into the air and Burrell can catch it, and all you want to do is cheer.
This is the last chance for Emmy to honor Carell for his iconic role as Michael Scott. In portraying Scott’s journey from immature Scranton office manager to a grown-up finally ready to take on the next phase of his life — highlighted by his crackling relationship with his fiance, Carell makes the case that the TV Academy shouldn’t let this final opportunity go by.
“Friday Night Lights”
The fifth and final season of “FNL” brought one last set of challenges for Chandler’s Coach Taylor: a top player being led astray by his father, a daughter in emotional crisis, career problems for both himself and his wife, Tami, and, of course, another season on the gridiron. Chandler handled them all with the usual gritty grace that comes so unfathomably naturally to him.
Colfer became a kudos star when he won at the Golden Globes, and his eloquent speech might still be ringing in voters’ ears. It’s often difficult to choose one member of a large ensemble to represent a show, but it would be difficult to argue with Colfer — who has often become a de facto spokesperson for the group — as that choice.
“Two and a Half Men”
It would be unfair to taint all the thesps on “Men” because one of them acted reprehensibly and alienated his colleagues. While Warner Bros. Television chose not to submit the show for Emmy contention, the actors — well, at least all but one — have reason to hope that they’re still in the kudos race.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Like many “Modern Family” characters, Mitchell is a study in contradictions — an eminently capable bundle of nerves. Ferguson saves this oxymoron from becoming a moron, ensuring that Mitchell makes complete sense and is a ball to watch.
Michael C. Hall
Hall has long been recognized as a significant force in helping Showtime turn up its game, and now the question remains whether voters feel the same way. While the show might have already creatively peaked, Hall remains its driving force.
Showrunner Matthew Weiner peeled more layers off Don Draper for Hamm to play, from being slapped around by a hooker to breaking down in tears at his ex-wife’s death, culminating in the crazy elation of his sudden engagement. In many ways, it was the most impressive season yet for Hamm, Emmy-nommed three times but not yet a winner.
Neil Patrick Harris
“How I Met Your Mother”
In between his horndog ways, Harris’ Barney hit on several emotional high notes, most noticeably when he reconnected with his biological father (John Lithgow). And, if the season finale is to be believed, he’ll also be walking down the aisle in the near future.
Love’s labors weren’t lost on Laurie, who brought his usual sardonic spin to House’s combustible relationship with Dr. Cuddy. The five-time Emmy nominee has kept viewers glued to a show whose formula after seven seasons is relatively clear-cut.
So much attention has been paid to Morrison and the “Glee” cast, it feels as though the show has been around for decades. Yet Morrison’s perf remains fresh, and his fling with Gwyneth Paltrow lent the series a revitalized watch-me vibe that gave hardcore fans a reason to stay addicted.
“The Big Bang Theory”
There was a time when Parsons was so magnetic in his role as Sheldon that it seemed “Big Bang” might cease to be an ensemble. To the contrary, last year’s winner for lead comedy actor has had no trouble meshing with a cast that has now nearly doubled in size, while still having his incomparable Sheldon moments.
The three-time nominee is known for his sly humor as Roger Sterling, but a dead serious story arc with former flame Joan (Christina Hendricks) involving an affair and a pregnancy showed the depths of emotion Slattery can access.
Stonestreet stormed to the supporting actor Emmy last year, an impressive feat given the competition from his own show alone. Few actors can play both the bull and the china shop, but Stonestreet pulls it off weekly.
Antiheroes and the actors who love them | Actors always playing the bridesmaid | Prior noms hope to repeat | Actors in Emmy contention
Lead Actor Contenders
Sean Bean | Steve Buscemi | Jeremy Irons | Matt LeBlanc | Andrew Lincoln | Louis C.K. | William H. Macy | Tom Selleck