Many Emmy categories, such as Best Drama Actress, are so overcrowded this year that we wonder which contenders will be left out, but not Best Comedy Actor, which has plenty of space available. There will certainly be fresh faces in this race. The trouble is figuring out who they will be.
Two of last year’s six nominees are out of the running this time around — Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development“) and Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock“) — but the other four are eligible again: Louis C.K. (“Louie“), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies“), Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes“), and winner Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory“).
So, who could possibly join them? The field is so wide-open. Let’s consider our Top 10 other contenders, including a few who might pull off jaw-dropping surprises:
1. Robin Williams (“The Crazy Ones“) currently ranks among the top six in our racetrack odds. He’s a respected veteran, an Emmy- and Oscar-winner, and the TV academy loves A-list stars, but “The Crazy Ones” received a tepid response from critics and audiences and was axed by CBS after one season. Will the stigma of cancellation be too great to overcome?
2. Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley“) is the breakout star of the spring’s hot new comedy, but youth is rarely an advantage for men at the Emmys; remember that “Entourage” earned three bids for Best Comedy, but only the oldest members of its core cast were ever nominated (Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon). Nevertheless, Middleditch earned a Comedy Actor bid at Critics’ Choice, and there’s precedent for far younger men to be nominated. Just ask Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and Fred Savage (“The Wonder Years”).
3. Johnny Galecki (“Big Bang Theory”) already has a track record in this category, earning a nomination alongside co-star Parsons in 2011. However, even as the show has built momentum, Galecki has never been returned to the race. These newly available slots might be the opportunity he needs to stage a comeback.
4. Ricky Gervais (“Derek“) has surprised before in this category. He won in 2007 for “Extras” when few were predicting him to prevail. An Emmy-winning actor and producer, as well as a nominee for writing, directing and hosting, his industry stature might serve him well in this uncertain field.
5. William H. Macy (“Shameless“) is a major wild card. He’s an Emmy darling, with two wins from nine nominations. He never broke through in the dramatic race for his “Shameless” role as an alcoholic dad, but the show’s surprise category switch could be a game-changer for him.
6. Michael J. Fox (“The Michael J. Fox Show“) holds the record for the most victories in this category (four, tied with Kelsey Grammer and Carroll O’Connor), but his much-hyped return to a regular series TV role was met with disappointment. His cancellation stigma may be even tougher to overcome than that of Robin Williams.
7. Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project“) missed out on a bid last year, but sometimes it takes Emmy voters an extra year or two to catch on to a show and its stars. Like Middleditch, Messina is coming off of momentum from a Critics’ Choice bid, and he also has a history of recurring roles on Emmy-friendly shows like “Damages” and “The Newsroom.”
8. Jonathan Groff (“Looking“) gives a low-key performance, and his show had a small viewership in its first season, but the HBO dramedy provoked passionate debate, as well as comparisons to “Sex and the City” and “Girls,” both of which picked up lead-acting bids for their stars in their first years. He might receive extra support from voters who also admire his work in the telefilm “The Normal Heart.”
9. Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation“) has yet to be nominated for an Emmy. Amy Poehler, is the only one of the “Parks and Rec” cast to contend at the Emmys. But with “The Office” and “30 Rock” having ended last year, “Parks” is NBC’s longest-running series and could potentially pick up support from fans of those departed shows.
10. Andy Daly (“Review“) may be a long shot, but it wouldn’t be the first time an offbeat Comedy Central star snuck into a wide-open contest: Sarah Silverman pulled off a similar surprise in 2009 when she earned a Comedy Actress bid for “The Sarah Silverman Program.”
Am I crazy? Do all of those men really have a shot? Do you think Emmy voters will surprise us this year? Predict Best Comedy Actor below, then join the Emmy discussion in our forums.