Doesn’t it seem as if Anthony Anderson is everywhere this year? When he’s not guest-hosting “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” or Kimmel’s Oscar special, or ABC’s primetime game show “To Tell the Truth,” he’s an executive producer of the ABC series “Black-ish,” and he also stars in the hit comedy as advertising executive Andre “Dre” Johnson, who tries (usually in vain) to instill a sense of pride in African-American culture in his family.
Though very favorably reviewed in its freshman year, “Black-ish” managed to land only one marquee Emmy nomination in 2015, but it was a big one — a Best Comedy Actor bid for Anderson. Momentum kept growing for the show, however: in 2016 “Black-ish” landed three Emmy nominations — Best Comedy Series, and acting noms for Anderson and his co-star Tracee Ellis Ross.
2017 has been the year that the other awards groups have finally woken up to “Black-ish.” The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Screen Actors Guild, neither of which had previously given the show any love, suddenly discovered the ABC hit. Anderson received two nominations from SAG this year, one for Best Comedy Actor and a second (along with his “Black-ish” co-stars) for Best Comedy Ensemble.
The Golden Globes paid even more attention. Not only did they nominate “Black-ish” for Best TV Comedy Series and Anderson for Best TV Comedy Actor, but Ross actually won Best TV Comedy Actress, thus putting “Black-ish” firmly on the board as an award-winner. Ross’s Globe victory was also the first for an African-American actress in that category since 1983 (Debbie Allen for “Fame”), and should Anderson win the Emmy, he would be the first African-American actor to take the Best Comedy Actor prize since 1985 (Robert Guillaume for “Benson”).
With Anderson approaching another potential Emmy nomination, could the third time be the charm? Many people think so (he currently ranks third in our Gold Derby predictions), especially when you consider this year’s episode “Lemons,” which received widespread acclaim for its take on how Donald Trump‘s presidential election win affected the African-American community, and how it personally affected Dre both at work and at home. Vulture called the episode “extraordinary” and singled out Anderson’s “outstanding” performance. The Atlantic said the episode finds “the human magic of this moment … It expresses anger while also insisting on empathy.” And the Washington Post said the episode “masterfully balances serious social commentary with comedy.”
What makes “Lemons” such a particularly effective potential submission for Anderson is that all of those opposing points-of-view in the episode are seen through Dre’s eyes, and he gets a powerful monologue at the end of the episode about how the election affected his view of America, only adding to the power of Anderson’s performance.
It may seem significant that Anderson has been passed over twice for the Emmy, but that actually does little to affect his chances. It’s common for Emmy voters to take a few years to reward a performer. After all, Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) didn’t win the Emmy until his fourth try, and Ted Danson (“Cheers”) finally won it on his eighth nomination, so there’s lots of hope left for Anderson.
Anderson will have to get past some stiff competition, though, in the form of two-time defending Best Comedy Actor champion Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) and critically acclaimed newcomer Donald Glover (“Atlanta”). But Anderson’s powerful potential submission, plus the growing awards momentum for “Black-ish,” may just be enough to put him over the top.
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