Actors always playing the bridesmaid

With Cranston out, thesps such as Hamm looking for first win

It took Ted Danson seven nominations in a row before he finally hit Emmy gold in his eighth time out for his work on “Cheers.”

“I guess you’ll be saying ‘You’ve been robbed’ to some other boy,” he joked with the crowd during his 1990 acceptance speech. “I’ll miss that.”

At least Danson finally got TV Academy recognition. Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury holds the record for the most Primetime Emmy nominations — a staggerng 18 without a single win.

Despite critical applause and even ratings success, there are several actors who may pop up as again nominees this year who have yet to to give an acceptance speech. And that’s equally true in both the drama and comedy categories.

Hugh Laurie and Steve Carell have five nominations apiece, yet no statue. Michael C. Hall, who was nominated once for his work on “Six Feet Under” and three years in a row for “Dexter,” has yet to take home the lead actor trophy. Even Jon Hamm, the star of the much-lauded and Emmy-rich “Mad Men” is 0 for 3.

“It’s an unwinnable game trying to predict why certain actors don’t win, or even get nominated,” says David Bushman, TV curator at New York’s Paley Center for Media.

The common wisdom among academics and TV critics is those best positioned to win an Emmy are either the flashy new kids on the block or actors in a jazzy role.

Bryan Cranston garnered three Emmy nominations and zero wins while doing stellar work as dad Hal on “Malcolm in the Middle.” But when the thesp known for his comic style switched to gritty drama on “Breaking Bad,” he monopolized the lead actor category by winning three years in a row.

“Cranston was brilliant on ‘Malcolm,’ but everyone knew he was a comedy guy. Like Michael Chiklis, who had never done anything like ‘The Shield’ before, Cranston needed to do something for Emmy voters to feel like he was working hard,” says Rich Heldenfels, TV critic for the Akron Beacon Journal. “You don’t win for making it look easy.”

Cranston’s ineligibility this year offers a break from his stranglehold. Now the question is, who is ready to claim the mantle?

Gail Pennington of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Hamm’s turn on “Mad Men” could fill the bill, but he might not have enough breakout scenes in the way Cranston did.

“Jon makes it look so easy. The voters like big showy roles like Bryan’s, and who would argue he doesn’t deserve it?” says Pennington. “Bryan throwing off his pants fleeing a meth lab will always be more compelling than Jon Hamm looking pensive.”

As for Carell, Pennington says he might have a shot at kicking the losing streak.

“It’s so typical of Emmy to notice Steve Carell as he walks out the door,” Pennington says of the actor who said goodbye to “The Office” this past season.

Also harming certain actors’ chances are roles requiring several episodes to see the full impact of their work.

“Hugh should have won in the first years, but I don’t think voters knew what an incredible job he had done in creating this character,” Pennington says.”Now I think it is too late.”

Although lacking an Emmy, most of the perennial groomsmen have not suffered in their careers.

While some past winners have faded into obscurity, those who’ve come up short continue to have vibrant film and TV careers. In fact, the “you’ve been robbed” syndrome might actually work in their favor.

“How can you perceive not winning as damaging when you look at those examples? They are highly regarded critically and so in demand commercially,” says Bushman of folks such as Carell, who has had a healthy bigscreen career in addition to playing Michael Scott on the NBC sitcom. “Not winning isn’t something really damaging or holds back a career, but it would be nice to have that extra validation from your peers.”

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

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