In what might be the closest race not to result in a tie in one of my polls we had 20 votes cast. In fifth place with no votes is Kiefer Sutherland from 24. In fourth place with four votes (20%) is James Gandolfini of The Sopranos. Tied for second place are James Spader (Boston Legal) and Denis Leary (Rescue Me) with five votes each (25%). But the winner, with six votes (30%) is Hugh Laurie of House.
I think that a couple of things are fairly obvious. The first of course is that James Gandolfini will most likely win for playing Tony Soprano in his show's final outing. This season (or is it part of a season) saw Tony go into a darker place than he ever has before and have his supports cut from under him. I don't know if it is superlative acting but it is showing a different dimension of Tony, which could be seen as stretching Gandolfini's abilities.
The second thing that is fairly obvious is that in this poll at least Keifer Sutherland is suffering the backlash from what is generally described as the worst season that 24 has ever had. The show started off with a blast (ha ha) but went downhill real fast. Under those circumstances even the best performances may not be good enough to make up for the perceived quality of the episodes.
That's the obvious. There are several things that aren't obvious. Like where those last votes for Hugh Laurie came from – the last time I checked I'm pretty sure he was actually trailing behind Gandolfini. Was it that my review of the Season 3 DVD set reminded people of how good he was in it? And yet I'm not entirely clear on why he went past Dennis Leary. Leary does a masterful bit of acting in portraying Tommy Gavin (at least I hope it's acting – I'd hate to think that Leary is anywhere near as big a horse's ass as Gavin is). As Toby put it in his comment on this category, "I can't stand Tommy Gavin. I'd have no trouble if his character was finally killed off and the show continued.... But I can't deny that Leary nails the role and makes Tommy a despicable jerk who deserves everything that's happening to him (save of course the loss of his son). I've got to give Leary the credit he deserves for that." Of course, Rescue Me is a cable show and as I've mentioned before they tend to do less well in my polls than broadcast series. In a way performing this well might be as good as a win. Nah.
I also don't get James Spader. As in why Spader gets nominated in this category for the role of Alan Shore. The few episodes that I've seen of Boston Legal have always come off more as "dramedies" rather than a full blown drama like House, Rescue Me or The Sopranos. I don't deny that Spader does well in the role, but I honestly don't see him as being in the same class as Laurie, Leary or Gandolfini. I wish that someone would convince me that I'm wrong about this one but right now I don't see it.
This brings us to Hugh Laurie. Greg House is patently a jerk but never as huge or as terrible a one as Tommy Gavin. Nor does he have that vaguely egotistical quality that has irritated me about Alan Shore on those few occasions when I've seen Boston Legal, despite the fact that he does have a huge ego. Laurie's performance this season has been layered and we've learned things about House that we didn't know before – why he became a doctor, and a little of where his "real" pain lies. While I don't think that Hugh Laurie's performance is quite on a par with either Gandolfini's or Leary's I wouldn't be as surprised to see him win as I would be to see Spader or Sutherland win the Emmy.
New poll up in a few minutes.