“How I Met Your Mother”
Episode: “Subway Wars”
Highlight: The premise itself, in which the gang races to lower Manhattan, employing various modes of transportation in an effort to prove which is the swiftest.
Why she might win: This is a chaotic episode of “How I Met Your Mother” for sure, but the chaos is mined for plenty of laughs. A map displays the progress each person is making, and the inevitable conclusion — they arrive around the same time — feels cathartic.
Maybe not: Except for its four consecutive Emmys for multicam art direction (2006-09), the show has never truly resonated with TV Acad voters.
Episode: “See You Next Fall”
Highlight: Phil and Claire hop off the back of a pick-up truck and fall down a hill, arriving at Alex’s graduation in almost Wile E. Coyote fashion.
Why he might win: This was a fitting way to gear up for the end of the second season, with the entire family finding itself trapped inside Jay’s property (the driveway door wouldn’t open) and having to work together frantically to escape.
Maybe not: Despite excellent situational and physical comedy throughout the episode, it ended on a fair amount of cheese.
Episode: “Slow Down Your Neighbors”
Highlight: Cameron and Mitchell argue while Cameron’s stuck inside Lily’s princess house.
Why she might win: Uncomfortable humor is a delicate thing, and “Slow Down Your Neighbors” keeps perfect tabs on the Phil/Claire storyline — Claire’s angry at a speeding neighbor, but Phil is hoping to sell the woman a house — without letting it go off the rails. Phil masterfully plays both sides.
Maybe not: James Marsden guesting as a pseudo-hobo — too weird?
Episode: “Live Show”
Highlight: Jon Hamm reprising his role as Drew Baird (the guy with hooks for hands) and performing in an infomercial.
Why she might win: This was one of the most ambitious undertakings in comedy this year — a show known for its frequent flashbacks and flights of fancy, performed totally live. The episode was a rousing success, marrying the goofy sensibility of “30 Rock” with the immediacy and danger of live TV.
Maybe not: “Live Show” was a hell of a lot of fun, but wins more points for novelty than substance; there have been stronger “30 Rock” episodes this season.
Michael Alan Spiller
Highlight: Haley lifts up a serving tray to reveal Cameron’s disembodied head. Children scream.
Why he might win: “Halloween” wove the families’ troubles into a laugh-packed, cohesive story, culminating in a group effort at a haunted house.
Maybe not: There were few twists and turns — predictably, the haunted house, at first in disarray, came together and went off without a hitch.
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