2011 Dream Emmy Ballot: Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

It’s that time again, folks. The Emmy nominations will be announced on July 14, which means I have almost an entire month to flood this space with hopes, dreams and predictions about what could happen come nomination time. To kick things off, I’ll be bringing back the Dream Emmy Ballot. It’s something I did last year and even with my much smaller readership back then, folks seemed to enjoy it. I’ll try to do a category (only the major ones, obviously) every day, but let’s just play it by ear for right now.

In any event, just a qualifier or two: This is obviously my Dream Emmy Ballot. Meaning, these initial picks are going to be who I would love to see be nominated for the awards. I know that many of these people don’t actually have a chance in garnering a nomination, just as I know that I will miss some of your personal favorites because I don’t watch that series. I watched more television than ever this season, so I imagine my personal picks will more closely align with more “official” selections, but nevertheless, this is all based on my personal taste and wishes. I’ll do more concrete, objective analysis as we get closer to the actual nomination announcement. Secondly, these picks are all based on the official nomination ballot, just so you know.

Let’s kick things off today with Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, which is unsurprisingly packed. Last year, this category had six nominees, so I am going to assume that will happen again this year and thus fill my dream ballot with that many actors. Here they are, in really no order whatsoever.

Darren Criss, Glee

The second season of Glee had a hell of a lot of problems, but the introduction of Blaine was not one of them. The character wasn’t particularly well written — you know, because this is Glee — but Darren Criss did a wonderful job of working around that and bringing him to life. Many Glee performers don’t necessarily fit into the constraints of the “comedy” framework and for better or for worse, Criss is one of those. His Blaine was never particularly funny, but Criss did a great job with the things he was called upon to do. This is not the place nor the time to start trashing the Emmy category process. It is sort of a cheat that Criss submitted himself in this category since he was in so many episodes, but the Emmys’ love for Glee could (and should) very well extend to its most buzzed about new character. A Glee guest-star (NPH!) won this award last year.

John Lithgow, How I Met Your Mother

Like Criss, John Lithgow is one of my picks who will probably be high on the Emmy voters’ radar as well. He is a five-time Emmy winner, including his victory in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series at last year’s ceremony. When voters love you, they continue to love you, and in this case, Lithgow deserves it. The identity of Barney’s father has been one of HIMYM‘s longest-running stories, and therefore, I’m sure most fans had a certain picture of the character in their mind. What was so great about Lithgow’s performance is that he wasn’t really what I expected — I actually remember shrugging when I heard he’d be playing the role — but ended up winning me over nevertheless. His work on the series was funny, but also heartfelt when it needed to be and perhaps most importantly, not overly showy like I expected it to be.

Matt Damon, 30 Rock

Although I recognize their place within the series’ formula, I have never been too big of a fan of 30 Rock‘s consistent use of guest stars. Sometimes though, the series finds the right actor for the right character and it doesn’t even feel like high-profile stunt casting at all. Matt Damon’s work as Carol definitely fits that bill and he is probably the best guest actor not named Jon Hamm the series has used. Damon was regularly funny in the role, but he absolutely wrapped up a spot on my ballot the moment “Double-Edged Sword” aired. The manic insanity that he and Tina Fey bring to that ridiculously hilarious story of a stalled plane on a runway served as some of my favorite comedic storytelling of the entire year. Wonderful stuff. He’s also probably a lock, considering his high profile and the series’ history of dominating the category.

Ben Schwartz, Parks and Recreation

When Ben Schwartz was hired to be a series regular on NBC’s Undercovers I was supremely depressed because I assumed it meant way less Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation. Thankfully, the television gods were on my side, as Undercovers was quickly cancelled and Parks and Recreation took production time off for Amy Poehler’s pregnancy, allowing Schwartz to make his return in the season’s later episodes. Every time the character makes his way into the world of the main character, he’s added a slightly new wrinkle to his outrageous public persona, and I especially loved how the series made him slightly more pathetic this season. I’m sure a lot of that is Michael Schur and his writing team, but lots of credit has to go to Schwartz, who finds the perfect mix of smarm and naivety in the character to make him at least slightly sympathetic.

Kevin Corrigan, Community

Edit: As someone pointed out to me on Twitter, Corrigan actually submitted his work from “Competitive Wine Tasting,” for some odd-ass reason. I like to talk about the performances in general, but it seems dumb for me to talk only about “Conspiracy Theories” when Corrigan didn’t submit for that one. He didn’t have as much to do in “Competitive Wine Tasting,” but was still generally fun, aloof and weird. Perhaps he submitted that episode because it is much more straight-forward than “Conspiracy?” 

Oh, Professor Professorson. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” is one of the most straightforward hilarious episodes of Community‘s second season and this man has a lot to do with it. The character is completely absurd, but in the perfect way for the conspiracy thriller-leaning episode. Corrigan was playing a similarly mysterious character on Fringe when this episode aired and it sort of felt like he intelligently played the same kind of beats in both roles, only kicking the Community performance up a bit more. He has done a lot of interesting work over his career in both comedy and drama and it would be nice to see him grab hold of a nomination. He won’t, but it would be nice.

Jim Rash, Community

You’ll be shocked to know that if I had to pick a winner from these six possible nominees, it would be Mr. Jim Rash. His performance as Dean Pelton is consistently one of the best things about Community (a series that has A LOT of “best things”) and honestly, if Rash would have entered into the supporting category, I would have strongly considered him for a spot there. The dean character could have quickly gotten old or annoying — especially his sexual orientation — but Rash never lets it come close to doing so. He makes the characters and the audience awkward, uncomfortable and generally annoyed without becoming bothersome or gimmicky himself. As of now, he’s yet to let the character fall victim to what I like to call the “Kenneth from 30 Rock syndrome,” wherein a character that’s great in spurts becomes less so when given more screen-time. In fact, Dean Pelton has gotten better with more material. It is hard not to fake nominate someone who is willing to wear all those ridiculous and horrible costumes.

Notable performers left out: Timothy Dalton, Chuck; Jon Hamm, 30 Rock; Michael Rosenbaum, Breaking In; Robert Clendenin, Cougar Town


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