Emmy Episode Analysis #3- Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

If the episodes mattered, I think this is a category where we might have seen an upset.

Louie Anderson- Baskets (“Easter in Bakersfield”)

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Veteran actor Anderson earned his first Emmy nomination of his career this year for his cross-dressing performance in the debut season of FX’s Baskets. He portrays Christine Baskets, the mother of Zach Galifianakis’ Chip, and has seen Anderson receive widespread critical acclaim for his surprisingly heartfelt and funny performance. In this episode, Chip returns home to spend Easter with his mother and grandmother, which leads to riffs between the three of them, including at church where Christine’s car is about to get towed, and at lunch, in which the Baskets family encounter one of Chip’s old girlfriends, who accidentally lets slip about Chip’s marriage to a French woman in Paris, much to the surprise of Christine. It’s undoubtedly a great performance from Anderson, and a realistic one at that, but it’s stuck in a place between dramatic weights and laugh out loud funny, and falls short of both. He has a couple of great scenes, including when Christine’s mother is complaining about her weight issues as a child, and Christine’s reconciliation with Chip in the casino, which makes for an overall decent submission, but doesn’t cover up the limits of Anderson’s performance in terms of overall impact.

Andre Braugher- Brooklyn Nine-Nine (“The Oolong Slayer”)

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Arguably one of the greatest television character actors of his generation, Braugher earned his third consecutive nomination for his role as Captain Ray Holt in Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, despite the Emmys being yet to warm to the Golden Globe-winning police comedy, with Braugher earning half of the show’s entire nominations from its 3 year run so far. In this episode, Braugher’s Holt is recruited by Andy Samberg’s Detective Jake Peralta to catch the mysterious criminal ‘the oolong slayer’ behind the backs of their respective bosses. And despite Braugher’s somewhat limited screen-time, he gives as consistent a performance as you’re likely to see in this category, with deadpan delivery that is second to none, as well as playing the straight man with excellent ease. His chemistry with Samberg is terrific, and the episode also ends up with a great emotional pay off, as Holt makes a triumphant return to the Nine-nine precinct after being re-instated as captain. As a big fan of the show, I’m always delighted to see Braugher return to this category, and while you’d have to watch the show regularly to understand his true brilliance in this role, this episode is still a very good taste of his comedic talent.

Tituss Burgess- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (“Kimmy Gives Up!”)

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After stealing the show in his breakout role as Titus Andromedon in Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s, and earning himself his first ever Emmy nomination, Tituss Burgess returns to this category again, as the show manages to keep the same level as buzz as its first season, which saw Burgess going into Emmy night as favourite to win in this category, only for him to lose to Tony Hale. In this episode, Titus is teaching Carol Kane’s Lillian the songs from ‘The Great American Songbook’, which revolves around him singing knockoffs of famous broadway hits. However, Titus has a moral quandary as Lillian believes that he is singing due to his newly founded happiness, due to his new relationship with boyfriend Mikey, and he wonders whether he’ll lose it all. While this episode is nowhere near as amazing as his submission last year, which included the now viral hit ‘Pinot Noir’, it’s still an OK submission. He’s not in it much, and his is probably the most minor of the 3 main storylines, he’s undoubtedly brilliant, showing off his true musical talent, coming from his roots in musical theatre. I’d have liked to have seen him pull off some of his very unique comedic talents, but he does get to showcase his chemistry with both Ellie Kemper and Kane. I think he had better choices, such as “Kimmy goes to a Play!”, but I still think he has a great shot of winning due to the adoration of his character, and that he’s the best thing about the show.

Ty Burrell- Modern Family (“The Party”)

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A two-time winner in this category, Ty Burrell is the last man standing in terms of acting nominees from ABC’s Modern Family, as it has seen its acting nominations go from as high as 6 for its supporting cast to just 1. However, with it still managing to receive a nomination in Outstanding Comedy Series, which it has won 5 times, Burrell cannot be discounted. In this episode, Burrell’s Phil Dunphy is going to see a new sci-fi movie with Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s Mitchell. On their way in, Phil encounters an old friend, who persuades them to consume a marijuana gummy bear to enhance their enjoyment of the film. The only problem is that they have to quickly return home after the smoke alarm goes off in their home, to which suspicion of a party being thrown arises. Personally, I was rather disappointed by this episode, as Burrell struggles to stand out amongst a very large ensemble cast that are given roughly equal screen time. That being said, Burrell clearly brings some gravitas to proceedings, as Phil is not as trashy as the other characters, and delivers a good speech towards the end of the episode while very high. I never feel the high/drunk schtick plays that well in episode submissions, and that is clear here- I was much more interested in Ed O’Neill’s performance, which was very well played in how reserved it was. I doubt he’ll win, but you never know.

Tony Hale- Veep (“Inauguration”)

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The winner of this category twice in the last three years, Tony Hale is looking to defend his title this year for his role as Gary Walsh in HBO’s Veep, which is the heavy favourite to win Outstanding Comedy Series for a second successive year. In this episode, Gary comes to the aide of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ outgoing president Selina Meyer as she finds herself dealing with life after the new president’s inauguration. While Hale struggles to stand out amongst a jam-packed ensemble cast, it’s still an OK submission, as he gets to go against type in a big speech to his colleagues about how they all let Selina down. It’s impressive acting, and similar to the speech he gave in his winning submission last year, but that’s all he does really. It’s a memorable moment, but it has minimal impact as a whole, even though we do get some nice scenes towards the end of the episode where Hale and Louis-Dreyfus show their dynamite chemistry, but I’m not sure if this is exactly Emmy worthy. I’m expecting him to win, mainly by default due to his win last year, and the lack of an obvious other candidate, but whether he deserves to win is another matter entirely, as I was really disappointed by this episode, even though I love him on the show.

Keegan-Michael Key- Key & Peele (“Y’All Ready for This?”)

This Keegan-Michael Key’s second successive nomination for his work on Comedy Central’s sketch comedy Key & Peele, which has just finished its final season, a season that has also seen it nominated in the Outstanding Variety- Sketch Series, and pick up a shock SAG Ensemble nomination last December for Key and his comedy partner Jordan Peele, who hasn’t been nominated here. In this episode, Key plays a football player whose motivational speeches lead to violence between teammates; a man going on an awkward road trip; the anger translator for President Obama; a weirdo that is trying to stop terrorists on a plane by bringing their own weapons on board; a feminist pirate; and a policeman who can’t stop shooting black people. I wasn’t expecting much from this episode, but I LOVED it. It’s a really great submission, and Key is excellent in it, managing to showcase his full comedic range excellently in a whole variety of different sketches. In particular, the anger translator, which Key has previously performed with the real Obama, is amazing, and the episode plays very well as a whole. Key is undoubtedly a lead, and thus shouldn’t be in this category, but that shouldn’t take anything away from this fine performance, in which Key makes the most of the extra time he has on screen than his competitors.

Matt Walsh- Veep (“Kissing Your Sister”)

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The most shocking of any nominee in any category, Matt Walsh came out of nowhere to pick up his first Emmy nomination for his role as Mike McLintock on HBO’s Veep. It’s no surprise that the show picked up more nominations this year, but one would have thought that if it had got anyone other than Tony Hale in this category, it’d be either Hugh Laurie, who’s nominated in Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/Movie for The Night Manager, or Timothy Simons, who had a stellar season on the show as Jonah Ryan. However, it was Walsh who broke through, and has submitted this episode, which takes the form of a documentary to show the events of the past season of Veep. In the episode, we see Mike prepare for the arrival of his adopted daughter from China, and his attempts to make a room in his house into a bedroom, and then to a man cave, and then to a bedroom again. Meanwhile, there are discussions as to whether Mike should be fired, which culminates into a dramatically ironic scene where one of his poker buddies is interviewing for Mike’s job, even when Mike doesn’t know it yet, creating an awkward encounter between the two. I’ll be honest, this is a very poor submission, as Walsh is only in roughly 5 minutes of the episode, and he doesn’t get to show any range at all. He’s likable, as Mike always is, but it does make you wonder why he is nominated here at all. He’s massively outshone by his co-stars, and isn’t particularly memorable, and I don’t give him much of a chance of winning, which is a shame as I like him as a performer.

Quality of Submission

  1. Keegan-Michael Key
  2. Andre Braugher
  3. Louie Anderson
  4. Tony Hale
  5. Tituss Burgess
  6. Ty Burrell
  7. Matt Walsh

Likelihood of Winning

  1. Tony Hale
  2. Tituss Burgess
  3. Louie Anderson
  4. Keegan-Michael Key
  5. Ty Burrell
  6. Andre Braugher
  7. Matt Walsh
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