Emmy Episode Analysis #1- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson- Black-ish (“Lemons”)

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This is a third consecutive nomination for Anthony Anderson in this category for his portrayal of Dre Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish, something that is very much deserved, as he gives one of the most consistent comedic performances on television at the moment, in a show that is growing in popularity, acclaim, and Emmy nominations, earning a Best Comedy Series nomination for the second successive year this year. In this episode, Anderson’s Dre is dealing with the outcome of the most recent presidential election, with Dre wanting to avoid confrontation with his colleagues and trying to get on with an important sales pitch. However, when his boss accuses him of not caring about what’s going on in the country, Dre is defensive, unleashing an impassioned speech about his love for the country. Anderson’s submission is a strong one, and he is really good in the episode, despite only appearing in about half of the episode, as Black-ish is a very ensemble driven show. Towards the end of the episode is where he really shines, with a couple of really strong monologues, adding emotional weight to what is a very impressive episode overall. He could be in with a very good chance of winning this year.

Aziz Ansari- Master of None (“The Dinner Party”)

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Fresh off his first acting nomination last year, Aziz Ansari returns to this category for his portrayal of Dev Shah in the second season of Netflix’s Master of None. Also a writer, producer, and occasional director of the show, it has been Ansari’s breakthrough from character actor and comedian, to bona fide star, winning his first Emmy last year for writing the episode “Parents”. In this episode, Ansari’s Dev is invited to a dinner party at the home of his boss ‘Chef’ Jeff, played excellently by Bobby Cannavale, and decides to take his friend from when he lived in Italy, Francesca, played by Alessandra Mastronardi, which creates some flirtatious tension between the two. While he probably has more dramatic acting range in episodes later on in the season, this is a really good submission for Ansari, as he is fun, charming, executes some good range, and really stands out as the focal point of the episode, which isn’t necessarily the case with some of his fellow nominee’s episodes. We see him in his hosting gig on “Clash of the Cupcakes”, execute some fine chemistry with his co-stars, which allows some range as we see how Dev acts differently with his friends, and when he’s on a date, and also the episode ends in what is the defining moment of the entire season, with an almost entirely continuous shot of him sitting in the back of a taxi, which is really well executed. I can’t see him winning unfortunately, but this episode definitely puts him into contention.

Zach Galifianakis- Baskets (“Freaks”)

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After missing out on a nomination last year, Zach Galifianakis has broken through into this category for dual role of brothers Chip and Dale Baskets on FX’s Baskets, in what is probably the most surprising nomination of the six. In this episode, he only portrays Chip, but we do get clips that summarise the first season of the show that include clips of Galifianakis as Dale, which helps his case as a performer of dual roles. The episode follows Galifianakis’ Chip run away from his home, go on a train, and becomes part of a group of homeless street performers, who take Chip under their wing, and allows Chip to be a clown as part of their ‘freak show’ act they perform on the streets. It’s a decent submission for Galifianakis as he gets both comedic and dramatic content, which allows him to showcase his range as an actor, and lets him pull off his trademark physical humour to excellent effect, including a scene in which he tries to open a can of noodles, which only an actor of the ability of Galifianakis can pull off. And with his co-star, and Emmy winner last year for Baskets, Louie Anderson only appearing in 2 scenes, at the beginning and end of the episode, it really allows Galifianakis to flourish and not get overshadowed by him, even though he does sometimes just settle into the background of some scenes with the titular ‘freaks’. I very highly doubt he’ll win, especially after missing out last year, but it’s a good submission nonetheless.

Donald Glover- Atlanta (“The Big Bang”)

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The only one of the nominees from a freshman show, Donald Glover has received his first acting Emmy nomination for his role as Earn Marks on FX’s Atlanta. Atlanta is one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the year, and has already earned Glover a Golden Globe in Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. Glover is also nominated in Directing and Writing for his work on the show. In this episode, Glover’s Earn finds out that his cousin, Paperboy, played by Brian Tyree Henry, has released a hip hop single while on his shift at work, where he quickly goes and tracks down Paperboy in an attempt to become his new manager, and get his track played at the local radio station. While it isn’t the most engaging episode, it is a good showcase for Glover, as he comes across and likable and cool, something that will appeal to younger voters. The episode is the show’s pilot, which is a good tactic for submissions, as you don’t need context, but as it is such a niche show, and it skews young, it can be alienating for some voters. However, we already know that the show is popular among the wider academy, and Glover comes across very well, with a lovely scene with his daughter towards the end of the episode, so he could have a shot, but I have my doubts.

William H. Macy- Shameless (“You Sold Me the Laundromat, Remember?”)

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A main-stay in this category ever since the show’s switch from drama to comedy for its fourth season in 2014, William H. Macy is now the longest serving nominee in this category, with this year earning his fourth consecutive nomination in this category for his portrayal of Frank Gallagher in Showtime’s Shameless. Coming off a second Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Male Performance in a Comedy Series, Macy could perhaps have his best shot at winning yet, despite his show’s lack of nominations overall. In this episode, Macy’s Frank is trying to re-establish himself as the patriarch of the family after getting his adopted son into private education, but remains banished from the house. To try and prove his worth, he breaks in and attempts to complete chores around the house, with differing degrees of success. It’s a good showcase for Macy’s skill as a physical comedian, providing what is a soapy drama with much needed comic relief, and his skills as an actor makes Frank a character that is in equal measure pathetic and sympathetic. The scenes with him towards the end of the episode with his daughter and the laundromat reinforce this, and the episode ends up with him dancing with an elderly lady. Yet, despite having the longest episode submission, with it running just under an hour, he only has limited screen time, even if he is the best part of it. He has an outside chance, but I think he’ll struggle due to the lack of popularity of the show amongst the academy.

Jeffrey Tambor- Transparent (“Elizah”)

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The reigning champion of this category of the last two years, TV veteran Jeffrey Tambor returns to this category for his career best performance as transwoman Maura Pfefferman in Amazon’s Transparent. He’s been quite a comfortable winner in both of his wins, but his work is cut out this year as the show missed out on an Outstanding Comedy Series for its third season, the first time the show hasn’t managed to score a nomination in the main category. In this episode, a somewhat of a bottle episode to open the new season, sees Tambor’s Maura in her new job as an LGBT call centre worker, in which she answers a call from a young and troubled transwoman called Elizah, and, feeling that she hasn’t helped her and feels concerned for her safety, Maura tries to track her down. It’s a really good submission for Tambor, and may be his best performance on Transparent to date. With the entire episode focussed on Maura, Tambor goes to new depths in finding out what she’s like. He portrays her as a flawed but caring individual, and his performance makes this a highlight from the show’s season. However, a concern for many is the lack of comedy in the show, and Tambor gives by far the most dramatic performance of the six, which could just as easily work in his favour as much as it hinders.

Quality of Episode:
1. Aziz Ansari
2. Jeffrey Tambor
3. Anthony Anderson
4. Zach Galifianakis
5. Donald Glover
6. William H. Macy

Likelihood of Winning:
1. Anthony Anderson
2. Jeffrey Tambor
3. Donald Glover
4. Aziz Ansari
5. William H. Macy
6. Zach Galifianakis


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