Sunday, August 08, 2010

Poll Results - Who SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama?

We're back again with the poll results. We've had another good turnout although the total number of votes cast was down significantly from last year. This year eighteen votes were cast, while last year there were twenty-six votes. The poll was up longer last season than this season however that doesn't explain precisely why we had fewer votes. There was a major push of voters on the second day last year, when I was tracking this material (to decide on how long the voting would run) but I can't really tell you if that holds true this year. I guess I just find it curious.

As I said, there were eighteen votes cast. In sixth place, with no votes was John Hamm from AMC's Mad Men. In fifth place, with two votes (11%) is last year's winner in this category, Bryan Cranston, the star of AMC's Breaking Bad. In a three way tie for second place, with three votes each are Kyle Chandler from NBC and DirecTV's Friday Night Lights, Hugh Laurie from FOX's House, and Matthew Fox who played Jack in ABC's Lost with three votes each (17%). But the winner, with seven votes (39%) is the star of the Showtime series Dexter, Michael C. Hall.

Let me start off by saying that I fully expect Brian Cranston to win the Emmy again. Sorry, but that's what I think is going to happen. The Academy seems to love Cranston's portrayal of a man who is – or was – basically good descending into the evil of drug manufacture, and becoming increasingly corrupted and evil in the process. Cranston gives a bravura performance.

I gave up on Lost long ago so I don't know if Matthew Fox's nomination was based entirely on merit or whether it was because he was the nominal lead actor in a big ensemble on a show which was both popular and critically acclaimed and had a huge influence on the industry...while it was on. Remembering what I can of Fox's performance during from back when I was watching the show, I'm inclined to believe the latter while admitting that the former is a vague possibility. There are better actors on Lost, two of whom are nominated in the Supporting Actor category. I was frankly surprised that John Hamm didn't get a vote for Mad Men. While he probably won't win, Hamm's portrayal of the outwardly confident, successful and aggressive – all to the point of arrogance – but inwardly conflicted and insecure Don Draper is far better that what I've seen Fox do, and better than some of what the other nominees in this category have done. There are those that would argue that this includes Hugh Laurie. There are those who have said that the character of Dr. House is mostly always the same, and therefore not really deserving of a nomination. There are, they say, episodes where the show breaks out and that in those episodes Laurie tries to do something different but for the most part he doesn't change. They forget that the Emmy nominations aren't based on a whole season of work but on episodes submitted by the actor and/or his agent. And those outstanding episodes of House where Hugh Laurie really shows his acting chops are the episodes that get submitted. Finally we have Kyle Chandler, getting the nomination he should have had when Friday Night Lights debuted rather than as it heads into its final season. Chandler's portrayal of Coach Taylor is spot on, a man who is by turns a firm but loving father and husband, a tough task master, a giving mentor and friend, and someone who even though he tries his best doesn't always triumph. It's a great role. I still can't get over the feeling that there will be people voting in this category who will look at this and say that the nomination was his award.

Which brings me to Dexter, a show that I don't watch, and to Michael C. Hall, an actor whose other work I am only slightly familiar with. The cynic in me might say that he has a better than average chance because of his recent illness, while I haven't seen the show I am given to believe that Hall's performance in Dexter, in which he makes the audience relate more to a serial killer than to his victims, is perhaps worthy on its own. I just have my doubts as to whether it will win.

We had two comments last week. Unfortunately – well you know what I mean – they weren't about this week's category but about last week's, the Lead Actor in a Comedy category. Judith writes: "I agree that Parsons gives a fine performance. Big Bang Theory is a big hit here in NZ, mainly because of Sheldon!" True. Sheldon is pretty much universal in his appeal as a comedic character. On the same topic, Ben writes: "Either Carell or Baldwin would be acceptable. Carell leads a great cast. If there's a problem with 30 Rock it's not with Jack or Liz, but with the fact that the writers haven't done much with the other characters. But Baldwin is excellent." I think that part of what helps Alec Baldwin is that he was primarily regarded as a dramatic actor for a long time; someone who did occasional comedies, but did drama, often serious work and not just the sort of action-adventure stuff that a lot of actors get tagged with. Baldwin is an actor who does comedy well rather than a comedian who acts. It's quite a valuable asset. Since I've never really watched 30 Rock, I can't fully comment (actually I take that back, I watched the first episode, but I found the Tracy Jordan character played by Tracy Morgan to be too annoying for me) on your assessment of the past season. I have to wonder how far you can go in bringing up the other characters without losing focus on the leads. In other words to what extent do you push this towards being an ensemble show. In something like Friends or Will & Grace it was easier because of the relatively small core cast but here it think it could be a bigger problem.

Ben continues: "That said, I do think Parsons deserves to win. He gives such a unique charm to his character. Of course regardless of how many viewers like him, you're probably right that he won't win." I think that Jim Parsons has a thin line to walk with Sheldon. It's not so much that taking him "out there" too much will destroy the charm that Sheldon has, although that is of course a risk, but there is the possibility that if the character is taken too far it might be seen by some as some sort of insulting stereotype or caricature. I think he manages to walk that line beautifully.

New poll up shortly – or maybe not so shortly, depending on when my brother comes to pick me up for dinner.

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