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Emmy’s Lead Actor in a Drama Series: A Highly Subjective Opinion

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I hate trying to predict the Emmy awards, particularly in a category where I’m invested in a particular show or actor. I don’t claim to be objective, nor do I want to be. I refuse to sidestep the fact that I really want Hugh Laurie to win Best Actor in a Drama this year. He deserves it, certainly, for his nominated performance in “Broken,” and for the five previous years (including the second season, Hugh Laurie in "Broken" which he was incredulously not nominated at all).

All six actors nominated in the incredibly competitive category are outstanding in their nominated episodes and are indeed the best actors currently on the small screen. I’ve watched several Mad Men episodes (and now I’m intrigued because Draper’s 10 year old daughter seems as obsessed with Ilya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as I was at that age!). Jon Hamm plays a generally pretty unlikable character in a cast of unlikeable characters. He’s excellent, underplaying his role and speaking volumes with a twitch or a quirk of his eyebrow. 

I loved Bryan Cranston in Malcom in the Middle, and his character in Breaking Bad couldn’t be more different. Cranston has range and brings a lot of sympathy to his character. Michael C. Hall is probably the favorite among TV critics for his work on Dexter, and he’s already won a slew of awards this for his performance as the serial killer with a peculiar ethical code. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and Matthew Fox (Lost) are also good candidates, and you could make arguments on their behalf as well. But I would like to think this is Hugh Laurie’s year, finally. 

“Broken” is a two-hour showcase of exactly why Laurie is the best actor around. The episode’s writers (who absolutely should have been nominated for their wonderful script) provided the material for House’s journey from Hell, but Laurie infused the writers’ words with every emotion possible: terror, anger, bitterness, menace, frustration, desperation, amusement, pathos, fury, elation and so much more. He so embodies this character with whom he’s lived for six seasons, that it’s easy to forget that Laurie is not playing himself. The only thing the two share are their love of music, motorcycles and expansive intelligence.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that come Sunday night, the Emmy people will finally give Laurie his due (and one of those nice gold statuettes). But like I said, I’m not objective—and the most deserving are often not rewarded come Emmy night. So, I’ll hedge my bet and suggest that if not Laurie, the Emmy will go to Michael C. Hall.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her debut novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse comes out October 11 from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Donna

    Barbara, I’m totally with you here. And again Hugh Laurie has deserved an Emmy every year nominated but still w/o a win. My concern is it will go to a dark horse, light weight in this category due to sentimentality. Not saying who but you can probably guess. I hesitate to add I also fear this could be Hugh’s last nomination as the Emmy community will move on to the newer talent on television. Hope I’m so wrong on both counts. Michael C. Hall is a great default choice. But right now I selfishly want Hugh Laurie for the win!

  • Olga Parera

    I wanna Hugh to win so bad!! He’s been sooo overdue!

  • Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, the magnificent stars of Friday Night Lights, have been overlooked entirely until this year. Unfortunately, the TV academy will probably think nominations are reward enough for them.

  • Jackie

    I am hoping for Hugh to win that elusive Emmy tomorrow night. Going back through all 130 plus episodes thus far in the “House” series and just marvelling at Hugh Laurie’s brilliance in both the outrageous and subtle in his acting is joy to behold. I remember last September when “Broken” was reviewed by many critics and those same people said it’s a good thing that he lost last year, because in 2010 it will be his by right of performance. Now it is squeaker time again! I know of Michael C. Hall’s recent health battle, etc., and although he did win a GG and SAG this year, Hugh won the same awards in 2007 and that did not guarantee him the Emmy that September.

    I still fail to understand the Television Academy’s oversight regarding Hugh Laurie thus far. It is frustrating to say the least. Unless the “House” writers come up with an amputation or a multi-limb breakdown, I don’t know what Hugh can do to add that statuette to his collection if it’s not there by tomorrow at midnight. “House’s Head” and “Under My Skin” didn’t bring the Emmy home…still wondering what would have happened if “Three Stories” would have been his Emmy submission for 2005…maybe we wouldn’t be having this controversy at all. Fingers and toes crossed for the win tomorrow night!

  • Hugh happens to have two Golden Globes. Does he deserve an Emmy? Perhaps. The only problem is he’s up against Matthew Fox,and LOST had its series finale. The show and actors are probably going to rake it in.

  • Jay

    Nancy Fontaine actually won’t a short article about Hugh hopefully winning the Emmy on Sunday and she said that it’s tragic that actors don’t win based on their performance during the whole season, but instead based on their performance in a single episode. I actually think that this works in Hugh’s favor this year since Broken was a fantastic episode and everything else this year kind of paled in comparison (except for Help Me) mostly because the writing wasn’t as good as it was in past seasons and many of the plotlines were weak and contrived. Good luck to Hugh tomorrow night and hopefully we’ll get a good season 7!

  • Jay–

    I agree with the idea that the leading actor categories should be based on a season’s body of work. House (the character) did not have any super-powerhouse episodes except for Broken and the two final episodes of the season. I disagree that this was a weak season; although I do feel it had a different vibe to it.

  • How silly. They aren’t going to change the rules for leading actors and ask voters to watch over a hundred hours of TV. Besides, how would they enforce anyone watched a whole season?

  • No, but they could ask actors to submit representative work–say 4-6 episodes from the season (like the series do).

  • Visitkarte

    I want his so badly to win, I think I won’t look out of fear I couldn’t stand it. I so much hope I wake up early Monday and read that he won. And then watch his speech on You Tube.

  • Jay

    You know what Barbara? I think that the way that you described Season 6 was probably better than the way that I described it. Now that I think about it, there were several notable episodes in Season 6, but it just had a different vibe to it.

  • Jay–During the season, I realized there were parts of it when I was not enthusiastic (and said so in my column). When I re-watched the season closely to finish the book (I watched all the episodes in succession over a period of a week), it occurred to me how many episodes in Season six were really, really good.

    The whole season felt slightly off-kilter with House trying to change, his apartment and much of his music gone, like his motorbike. Less brooding, etc. But so many episodes resonate in retrospect.

  • RobF

    Breaking Bad was just crazy good most of season 3, and had excellent performances from almost every character. I think Hugh Laurie has been consistently excellent through 6 seasons of House, and deserved at least one Emmy in previous seasons, but Bryan Cranston would be a good choice this year.

  • ruthinor

    I have never understood the criticism that a particular “season” was strong or weak. It has always seemed to me that each season had both weak and strong entries, and of course, people have different tastes. But so much of this seems to be related to whether or not a favorite character was present often, or not so often.

    I don’t watch awards shows anymore because, like politics, I find them to be mostly BS. People win for reasons that have nothing to do with their actual performances, and they are generally pretty boring. I would love for Hugh Laurie to win, but it seems that, unlike his big fans (us!), many critics have written off the show because it’s the “in” thing to do.

  • RJW

    I agree that Hugh is way overdue for an Emmy win! As for season 6, I thought it was great,and it was my 16 year-old son’s favorite season so far.

  • I know you loves you some House Barbara, but I gotta go with Matthew Fox here.

    Lost’s final season was a genuine television event, and regardless of what anyone thought of the finale (for the record, I loved it), Fox’s brought a real depth to his character this season…a guy who came full circle from his original “Mr. Fix It” character to one who ultimately finds redemption through faith.

    And anyone who wasn’t moved by the final scene needs to check themselves for a pulse.

    Fox wins. Maybe Hugh’ll get it next year though.


  • I just don’t know, Glen. That was an immense journey House took during Broken. The thing about Hugh Laurie that makes the performance even more remarkable is not that he’s great in the part (which he is), but that the acting itself is a feat. The character is so incredibly far from the personality of the actor, and if they’re rewarding the art, then HL should win. HL embodies this character in a way that makes you want to throttle him in one moment–and then rips your gut out the next with its pathos.

  • We’ll have to see what happens, I guess.

    If Laurie takes it over Fox, I’d be okay with it (although I still think its only the second best lead actor performance of the past year). Fox’s Jack Shepherd was also a guy of many contradictions, who only relinquishes his need to fix everything once he realizes he sees the truly broken man he is in his mirror image (symbolized in “The Lighthouse” episode).

    If HL took it, I wouldn’t see it as a crime, but I just think this is Fox’s year. Or more appropriately perhaps, it’s Lost’s year.

    Now if either Micheal Emerson (Ben Linus) or Terry O’Quinn (Locke/Smokey) don’t take a supporting actor award home, that will be a crime.


  • Presumably they would see the actor’s work in what the series submits, so not sure what the benefit would be of increasing the homework of voters, who aren’t necessarily going to do it anyway.

    Are their other shows where the fans have this odd need for validation from a group of people they don’t know? I don’t see Dexter fans whine like this every year.

  • Eve K

    I really loved Broken, but maybe, just maybe they could have gone even darker with it. It was in many ways a very light episode for its theme, mending a broken soul. It was a lot of slapstick humour, and some “Deus ex machina” solutions (music-box saving the mute woman – and given by superman in a wheelchair) – but I think they could have made a fantastic episode without all that…just keeping it real. But then again – Hugh was fantastic and Broken was the best episode of the season. Good luck tonight!

    On a side note – I dont watch much tv, but I really love Jim Parsons character Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, some really Housian character traits there. Hope he also wins tonight!

  • Eve K

    Oh, and yes, I do agree with El Bicho that House fans are somewhat obsessive and that they (we) should tone it down a bit so not to hurt the show. Some of the twitter fans are crazy and have no life what so ever. My interest here is a character study. As soon as that is not interesting anymore, Im out.

  • Cynthiaanne (hiyacinth)

    I know i’m one of the many who really hope it’s Hugh’s year for the Emmy. I just think Hugh’s acting was incredible in Broken, as he is in all he does but i believe that was the episode submitted.
    Trying to imagine what Hugh’s win will cause, those of us who wanted him to win for so long will just erupt with delight that he got there in the end.

  • Show with “fandoms” tend to be obsessive about stuff like this. I just think it’s his time (not whining) and not afraid to say it. Agree with Eve K about why to watch the show. To me it’s an immensely intriguing character study of a flawed, but ultimately noble character. Whether I find those characters in film, tv or in literature I tend to gravitate towards them.

    I’ve begun watching Rubicon and am finding it quite good.

  • Elena

    He deserves it? – Yes
    We need him to win it? – Yes.
    He needs it? – No.

  • ruthinor

    I get the feeling that many folks, even in the TV industry, think that Laurie has already won an Emmy. I think that might be a factor.

  • Ruthinor–from many of the articles I’ve read, you may be right.

    Deserve: 100% (agree with Elena)

    We need him to win it? (Not necessarily–we do NOT require the validation–though it would be incredibly fine to see HL get that recognition.

    He needs it? No.

  • ruthinor

    Live-blogging in the NYT…I can’t believe it…Cranston won for the third time in a row?? What is wrong with these people? I have to admit that I tried watching Breaking Bad and found it to be incredibly boring. Maybe I’m too old! If not Laurie, jeez, why not the guy on Friday Night Lights…that’s a terrific show and well acted by all. I like Dexter a lot too. Well, to each his own, I guess. Hugh’s crying all the way to the bank, since he’s the highest paid.

  • Thanks for ruining it for people on the West Coast, ruth.

  • El B — the show is live coast to coast this year. At least I think I read that.

    Breaking Bad is wonderful, but they should spread the love around.

  • ruthinor

    I live on the west coast. Everyone is seeing it at the same time. It starts at 5 PM here, 8 PM in the east.

  • Broadcast was supposed to be live from the W. Coast.

  • Lighten up El Bicho. From the Emmy site:

    “The 62nd Primetime Emmy® Awards, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, will take place this Sunday, August 29, at NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles, and will air exclusively on NBC. For the first time in more than 30 years the show will air live coast-to-coast (5-8 p.m. PT, 8-11 p.m. ET).”

  • That may be, but you could have posted any reveals farther down in your comment as I saw the info on the Fresh Comments page.

    As Cubs fans say, there’s always next year.

  • Well, this Cubs fan gave up hope many seasons ago, and with global warming, Hell is unlikely to freeze over.

  • At least Modern Family and Jim Parsons from Big Bang Theory broke through the repeat winners this year. And we all love Edie Falco.

  • Yes, we do…and Jane Lynch. Also delighted to see David Strathairn to win. He’s done some awesome work over the years all the way back to Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. (Not to mention his Oscar-calibre work in the movies)

    Glad to see Pacific get some Kudos too.

  • ruthinor

    I’m happy for Parsons too. The writing of his part is so complex and his delivery is terrific. To my mind, Modern Family is fine, but I just don’t see it as any great breakthrough. I enjoyed “The Middle” as much, if not more. The Big Bang Theory really is different. BTW anyone remember Jane Lynch as Charlie’s therapist in that awful show Two and a Half Men? She was about the only thing that made it worth watching! Too bad she wasn’t on more often.

  • I remember Jane Lynch from all those fantastic Harry Shearer/Michael McKean/etc movies like “Best in Show” “A Mighty Wind” Brilliant comedy.

  • Lost got stiffed, which sucks (especially in the supporting actor category since Emerson and especially O’Quinn were both outstanding).

    I liked Jimmy Fallon’s musical impressions though — his Springsteen and Green Day were both pretty funny (not as good as his dead-on Neil Young bits on his late night show though).


  • Elena

    I don’t believe it… Yes, we not need this award for HL, but we want it … (some of us want desperately) What is wrong with these Emmy people?

  • Flo

    Very disappointing to see Hugh Laurie losing again. I thought he had a real great chance this year along with Mike C Hall. Emmy people are just in love with Cranston, I guess (who is fabulous, but three year in the row???? Spread the love stupid voters he’s not the only actor here!)

    Glad to see that “Glee” didn’t win all, especially glad to see they lost the best comedy Emmy. It would have been underserved IMO. However, I like Jane Lynch (she was great in “Party Down”) so it’s cool.

    Nice for Edie Falco. I’m ecstatic for John Lithgow, Jim Parsons and Archie Penjabi.

    I’m rolling my eyes for the lead actress in the drama series though. Kyra Sedgwick is a fine actress but the Emmy belonged to Julianna Margulies IMO.

    Maybe I should really give “Mad Men” a try. I’ve seen only two or three episodes and found it a bit soporific.

    Lisa Edelstein and Jennifer Carpenter had their place in the drama supporting actress race. Too bad.

    Jimmy Fallon is not funny at all, despite his imitations I found him to be such a drag most of the time.

    The Emmy writers should be shot. The prompter text that the poor actors had to say to present each Emmy was awful. Why not let the presenters improvise and do their presentation naturally, instead of making them say lame jokes? That’s how we do it in France and it goes fine.

    Anyway, we’ll see next year if Laurie gets the Emmy recognition he deserves.

  • Donna

    While I’m extremely disappointed for Hugh being still emmyless, let’s remember he received 2 SAG (screen actors guild) awards for his {H]ouse role, which may be more meaningful as it’s decided by his fellow actors. Not too shabby an accomplishment I’d say.

  • DebbieJ.

    @Flo #41 – When Brian Cranston made his acceptance speech about the tweets from the fans of his fellow nominees (that they were robbed), he doesn’t know how dead on he was. 3 years in a row? Really? How about spreading the love around Emmy?

    About Glee, it did win two awards, Jane Lynch for supporting (much deserved) and Ryan Murphy for direction. I was disappointed that Chris Colfer didn’t win in the supporting actor category. He is heartbreaking and funny as Kurt. I didn’t expect Glee to win best comedy as I think it has a smaller target audience than the rest of the nominees. And I am thrilled that Modern Family won. That show is a riot.

    I don’t dislike Jimmy Fallon. I find him to be funny but I won’t go out of my way to watch him. I thought he made a good host. Not great, but good. But the opening number had to be one of the funniest and energetic is recent memory. Besides it was a homage to Bruuuce! 😉

    I’ve tried giving Mad Men a chance – twice. With all the hype I figured it has to be swell. Sorry folks. It just doesn’t do for me.

    Ricky Gervais is a genius! That man is like an inoculation of energy! Just when it started to get boring, he came in and livened up the show.

    It did go down hill after ward. Maybe I was just deflated with Hugh’s shut out 🙁 I fell asleep about 2/3rd’s through.

    Am going to catch the George Clooney and Al Pacino bits later on. But other than that, I didn’t/don’t much care at this point.

  • Jackie

    Disappointed yet again with Hugh being the nominee and not the recipient for the 5th time. The two SAG awards – exceptional recognition by his peers and to a different degree, the two Golden Globe awards and other awards he has received are testimony to Hugh Laurie’s excellence in the role as perceived by others.

    A wee bit of encouragement here for 2011 – not to rush a year…Kyra Sedgwick’s win last night came on her 5th nomination, Bryan Cranston is not eligible for next years’s Emmys as the season for “Breaking Bad” begins in July and he misses the deadline for Emmy tape submission. There’s always a new guy on the block, or Hugh’s contemporaries, Michael C. Hall and Jon Hamm. Gabriel Byrne could be a factor as well as Dustin Hoffman.

    Bryan Cranston was spot on with his comments regarding the other nominees being robbed of this year’s award. Spread the wealth indeed! Ironically, if the Emmy submission tape was supposed to be the determining factor, others have posted on various sites that Cranston’s entry was not even his strongest vs Hugh’s entry “Broken” – pts. 1 and 2 – How many critics said last year that Hugh was a shoo-in for the win by just previewing it? You just never know until that envelope is opened.

    On a closing note, I was glad to see David Strathairn’s win for “Temple Grandin” – he was the patient of the week in the episode that Hugh Laurie directed that aired this past April, “Lock Down”.

  • Greenhouse

    Question from a non american : who are the people who vote at the Emmy’s?

  • Janine

    not related but I have a question for Barbara
    are you going to get to see the season premeir early like you did with the finale? I’ve heard (very mild spoiler) that the episode will be different (unique was GY’s term) and I would love to get your perspective on it. Your preview of the finale really got me excited, especially since there were so many negative spoilers flying around it.

  • Hi Janine–I very much hope to screen the premiere. If it’s made available to the press I will definitely see it. I’ll do a preview article and of course a review. Three weeks to go!

    Still planning a “History of Huddy” article over the next several days.

    Right now anticipating the release of CZ tomorrow!

  • Janine

    can’t wait for your history of huddy article. i’ve been watching old “huddy centric” episodes all summer and these last three weeks till the premier are getting unbearable with all the promos showing exciting stuff ahead!! can’t wait for your book too!

  • Flo

    @Debbie and @Jackie (#43 & #44)
    I agree that Cranston was spot on on his speech about other actors being robbed. It look like he was surprised to have it for the third year in a row.

    Also, I heard that back in the “Cheers” years Ted Danson finally won the award at his eighth nomination….If it is true, there is still hope for Hugh Maybe.

    @Barbara, can’t wait for your book and your article about House/Cuddy. There are so many things to say! When I wrote my little article on them, a couple months ago, my head was spinning. It is very complex and there are still many things we don’t know.

    @Greenhouse, Being French, I also wanted to know who voted for the Emmys. To know how the Emmy works I found this article: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/emmy2.htm
    Hope it helps.