You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lead Actor: Comedy

Record books ready to be written

When you think of television comedy legends, the low-profile Tony Shalhoub probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind.

But with this year’s nominations, Shalhoub has a chance to become only the second actor to win four Emmys for a single comedic role, joining Kelsey Grammer of “Frasier.”

No slander at Shalhoub’s ability is meant by the relative surprise that comes with his dominance. If anything, it underscores the impression the former “Wings” and “Big Night” actor makes on “Monk,” the USA hourlong that is anything but the traditional big-audience sitcom.

Nevertheless, it won’t get any easier for Shalhoub to win this year.

On the one hand, there’s Charlie Sheen of “Two and a Half Men.” Sheen might have the greatest claim to Shalhoub’s throne: His show is the longest-running alternative to Shalhoub and the most popular half-hour on television. And rather than hitting the lowest common denominator, it’ s sophisticated enough to defy being a guilty pleasure.

On the other hand, you have Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell, representing true critical darlings “30 Rock” and “The Office.” Baldwin’s performance won universal raves, and Carell’s brilliance has received wide affirmation.

And then there’s Ricky Gervais, whose Emmy nomination parallels the BAFTA nod his character, Andy Millman, received for the fictional BBC2 series “When the Whistle Blows.” Millman provided a reminder that winning isn’t everything: Sometimes it’s victory enough just to avoid getting ejected from the ceremony.

Alec Baldwin
Show: “30 Rock”
Emmy pedigree: Four noms
Best scene: In “Blind Date,” Jack nearly meets his match in trying to out-bluff Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) in a poker game. Afterward, he ruminates: “The Italians have a saying. … ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ And although they’ve never won a war or mass-produced a decent car, in this area they are correct. In five years, we’ll all either be working for him … or dead by his hand.”
Why he may win: Baldwin brings true star power and line readings so smooth that he’s practically the Barry White of sitcoms.
Maybe not: The crisis over the widely circulated, blistering voicemail Baldwin left for his daughter is on the back burner but still could cost him votes. And some might conclude that while he’s much more than your average supporting performer on “30 Rock,” he’s not a lead.

Steve Carell
Show: “The Office”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: The oft-bumbling Michael shows his wiles while manipulating a power-hungry Dwight in “The Coup.”
Why he may win: It’s Carell’s name that first comes to mind for many who ponder television comedic actors today. No one does (mostly) inept with a heart of gold better.
Maybe not: Perhaps he hasn’t found the Tony Shalhoub voodoo doll yet.

Ricky Gervais
Show: “Extras”
Emmy pedigree: First nom in this category; one win, one other nom
Best scene: Already burdened with a critically indefensible sitcom, Andy gets himself in hot water in “Episode 9” by complaining about a boy’s behavior at a restaurant — not realizing that the boy has Down’s syndrome.
Why he may win: Gervais goes even darker in this series than his original British”The Office,” to laudable results. He not only showcases his genius comic timing but his ability to play a character at war with himself.
Maybe not: Six episodes a year for a British import might not give Gervais enough ammunition, and it can be hard to find voters who are even aware of it existence.

Tony Shalhoub
Show: “Monk”
Emmy pedigree: Three wins plus one other nom
Best scene: Reacting to the news of his beloved Dr. Kroger’s retirement, Monk goes through the five stages of grief in about a minute in “Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink.”
Why he may win: With three statues to his credit, no explanation necessary other than to say he’s an Emmys darling. Moreover, Baldwin and Carell could split the NBC “Thursday Night Done Right” vote.
Maybe not: There are no weak links in the category, which could encourage voters to give someone else a chance at the podium.

Charlie Sheen
Show: “Two and a Half Men”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: In “Smooth as a Ken Doll,” Sheen shows Charlie’s underrated depth in figuring out how to deal with Myra (Judy Greer), who flirts like a champ.
Why he may win: Popularity counts, and “Men” is the most-watched show featuring a nominee. Further, more and more people have reversed their early dismissals of Sheen and “Men” as unhip.
Maybe not: Sheen still doesn’t have a lot of kudos heat, maybe because his character is fairly laid-back. His work strikes many as sharp but not memorable.

More TV

  • Comcast NBC TV Content Explosion Placeholder

    Karen Kovacs, Time Inc. Veteran, Named EVP of Client Partnerships at NBCU Ad Sales

    Karen Kovacs, a former senior executive at Time Inc. and a one-time publisher of People magazine, has been named executive vice president of client partnerships at NBCUniversal’s ad-sales unit. Kovacs will oversee broader partnerships with advertisers, and work to develop deeper alliances between sponsors and various parts of NBCU’s media portfolio. She will report to [...]

  • Jenji Kohan

    'Orange Is the New Black' Creator Jenji Kohan to Be Honored by Writers Guild

    Jenji Kohan, creator and showrunner of “Orange Is the New Black” and “Weeds,” has been named recipient of the Writers Guild of America West’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement. She will be honored at the Writers Guild Awards show on Feb. 17 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Jenji Kohan’s [...]

  • Sinclair Enters Streaming Arena With Local

    Sinclair Enters Streaming Arena With Entertainment Bundle and Local Channels

    Sinclair Broadcast Group is diving into the increasingly crowded streaming platform arena with the launch today of Stirr, a free OTT entertainment bundle offering local news and general entertainment, sports and lifestyle channels. Sinclair aims to leverage the near-national reach of its sprawling station group with its strong local presence in markets across the country [...]

  • 'Space Force' Series From Steve Carell,

    'Space Force' Comedy Series From Steve Carell, Greg Daniels Set at Netflix

    President Donald Trump’s proposed space force may debut on Netflix before it actually makes it to space. Variety has learned that the streaming giant has ordered a comedy series from “The Office” alums Steve Carell and Greg Daniels titled “Space Force.” It is described as a workplace comedy centered around the people tasked with creating a sixth [...]

  • Jason Katims Writers Office

    Jason Katims Sets Apple Overall Deal

    Jason Katims is departing his longtime home at Universal TV for a new multi-year overall deal at Apple. Katims and his True Jack Productions banner will remain at Universal TV until this summer when his current deal expires before making the move to Apple. He has previously created shows like “Parenthood,” “Roswell,” “About a Boy,” and [...]

  • Homecoming Amazon Studios

    Julia Roberts Will Not Return for 'Homecoming' Season 2

    Julia Roberts will not be starring in “Homecoming” Season 2 at Amazon, Variety has confirmed. The Oscar-winning actress will remain on the show as an executive producer, however. “Homecoming” was picked up for two seasons when it was initially ordered at Amazon, but Roberts only had a one-year deal to star on the show, according to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content