Can any thesp slow the C.K. surge?

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Actor Nominees - Comedy

Is there anything Louis C.K. can’t do?

A recent multiple winner at the Television Critics Assn. Awards and a standup often called the best working comic in the world today by other comics, C.K. now strives for Emmy gold as an actor. Having already won as a writer on “The Chris Rock Show,” he now finds himself competing against others for their work in front of the camera.

The competition is steep, however, starting with two-time winner Jim Parsons. Playing the king geek of “The Big Bang Theory,” Parsons has become the de facto Emmy symbol of the hit CBS sitcom, and voters are finding his performance so convincing that thesps working in the singlecam format have been left in his wake.

The only other multicam nominee this year is Jon Cryer, who was moved up from supporting to lead with Charlie Sheen removed from “Two and a Half Men.” Cryer has long been an Emmy mainstay among the supporting class, having been nominated six years in a row and winning in 2009.

Like C.K., “Curb Your Enthusiasm” kingpin Larry David is playing a version of himself, though a much more of a curmudgeon that the real one. This marks the fifth acting nom for David, who has two Emmy statues out of 22 nominations.

The newcomer to this group is Don Cheadle, star on Showtime’s laffer “House of Lies.” Emmys often like to acknowledge a bonafide bigscreen thesp — think Glenn Close in “Damages” or Kyra Sedgwick in “The Closer” — shifting to TV, but it’s unclear if Cheadle’s theatrical influence will move him ahead of the competition here.

“30 Rock”
Jack Donaghy continues to try and get Kabletown back on top, whether that means eliminating the page program or coming up with another use for a poorly designed sofa. His efforts to free wife Avery from North Korea get sidetracked at times by sexual tension with Avery’s mother, Diana.
• Jack has to deal with his feelings about his mother after she is hospitalized for a heart ailment.
• When, at last, Avery is released, they must face the guilt from their behavior during the time they were apart. Ultimately, but only grudgingly, each acknowledges being unfaithful.

In his second season, C.K.’s alter-ego continues to balance his anything-but-normal dating life while trying to be a good dad for his two daughters. His interactions with other comics and a trip to Afghanistan to help raise the spirits of U.S. soldiers help define him as both a performer and citizen.
• It what could have transformed into a wildly violent scenario in which verbal communication was nonexistent, C.K. uses a duck to bring a sense of calm to the calamitous situation.
• Hoping to instill a sense of family and reach across generations, Louie takes his daughters on a long ride to rural Pennsylvania to see his great aunt. The girls are puzzled by the woman’s use of the derogatory “n” word but don’t get a chance to ask about it before the elderly woman collapses and dies.

“House of Lies”
Marty Kaan demonstrates his smooth-talking finesse at convincing business chieftains into believing they can’t do without his consulting services. At the same time, he proves inept at dealing with his son, Roscoe, and just barely avoids a merger that would have been personally disastrous.
• Cross-dressing seems perfectly natural to Roscoe, but it doesn’t always translate into accepted school behavior. On top of that, Marty has to muster a strong defense after he is summoned to school following an accusation that Roscoe kissed a boy.
• What happens when Marty gives his promise to April that he will stay faithful during a business trip to Washington, D.C.? A client practically throws herself at him, of course.

“Two and a Half Men”
The departure of Charlie Sheen results in a radical restructuring of the show in its ninth season, because Cryer’s Alan Harper lacks the money to stay in the Malibu beach house. Solution: billionaire Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), who buys the property and lets Alan continue to live there.
• Alan continues to have relationship problems, most notably with Lyndsey, whose sleazy movie past proves difficult for him to overlook.
• As the courtship with Lyndsey progresses, their mothers meet. Alan suffers a minor heart attack, moves in with Lyndsey and receives a visit from Charlie’s ghost (Kathy Bates).

“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Larry leaves Los Angeles for New York and life as a single man, creating millions of new opportunities to be socially inappropriate. Among the offended are Ricky Gervais, Michael J. Fox and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
• Anyone who’s ever waited in a long line should be able to relate to the time Larry took on those who employ the “chat and cut.”
• Larry, once more on the prowl, finds himself in competition for the romantic attention of a woman also being wooed by guest star Rosie O’Donnell. In the same episode, he learns the subtle variations of bows made by Japanese.

“The Big Bang Theory”
Sheldon Cooper went where his character has never gone before, gradually establishing a relationship with Amy. He’s in no hurry, though, which prompts Amy to deploy her neurobiological skills to hasten romance.

• Amy helps Sheldon understand his emotional reaction to being shunned by his mother, who prefers sightseeing with Leonard and Penny to a lecture of a Nobel laureate.
• What will Sheldon do to get one of his papers before Stephen Hawking? Practically anything, and that includes walking through the Caltech cafeteria in a French maid costume.

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Actor Nominees
Tax breaks create TV party
Drama | Comedy | Miniseries/Movie