Emmy episode analysis: Louie Anderson (‘Baskets’) searches for love and fulfillment in ‘Denver’

After his surprise win last year Louie Anderson is again nominated in the Best Comedy Supporting Actor race at this year’s Emmy Awards for his role on FX’s dark comedy “Baskets.” He plays Christine Baskets, the often inconvenienced mother to dysfunctional adult twins, both played by Zach Galifianakis. Along with his Emmy win last year, Anderson also has two Daytime Emmys for his voice work on his autobiographical animated series “Life with Louie” (1997-1998).

In “Denver,” the episode Anderson has submitted to Emmy voters, Christine takes an impromptu trip to the Mile High City hoping to reconnect with Ken (Alex Morris), the carpet salesman with whom Christine had bonded earlier in the season. After checking into her hotel, Christine goes to a restaurant hoping to sample a famous Denver Omelette, only to be discouraged to find out that it originated in New York. After thinking that Ken is ignoring her calls, Christine is elated when he invites her to his home to have dinner with his family. The encounter turns romantic and Christine and Ken go to bed together, where Christine confesses that she has too often sacrificed her own happiness for the sake of her children.

Will Anderson’s performance in “Denver” help him to a second consecutive Emmy win? Let’s examine the pros and cons of his submission.


“Denver” is a true showcase for Anderson, who appears in almost every scene. It gives him the chance to show wide range of emotions to Emmy voters. Anderson is charming and endearing as Christine ventures out of her comfort zone looking to do something for herself for a change. But the highlight of Anderson’s performance comes in Christine’s interactions with Ken. We see her joy interacting with Ken’s family, her awkwardness in her flirtations with Ken, and her elation as the encounter turns romantic. The episode culminates in moment of impact and empathy as Christine shares her regrets about her own life taking a backseat to the lives of her sons.

In addition to a second consecutive nomination for Anderson, “Baskets” also picked up a bid for Galifianakis in the Best Comedy Actor category, which indicates that the series has only grown in voters’ esteem. And with Anderson receiving even greater critical acclaim for his work this season, a win this year may be even more warranted than his win last year.

This is a category that loves repeat winners, with an impressive 16 actors earning multiple Emmys for their performances in the same role. Since 2010, only three other actors have triumphed here: Eric Stonestreet (2010, 2012) and Ty Burrell (2011, 2014) for “Modern Family,” and Tony Hale (2013, 2015) for “Veep.” So there’s a good chance Emmy voters will stick with the actor they liked last year.


In this category in particular, the funniest performance usually wins. While Anderson has many lighthearted moments in his submission, it is not the kind of over-the-top laugh riot that is seen in the performances of his fellow nominees, particularly Burrell and Tituss Burgess (‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). Voters may choose to reward a more purely comedic performance.

American politics have dominated the television landscape during the past year, something that favors many of Anderson’s competitors: “Veep” nominees Hale and Matt Walsh, and especially Alec Baldwin, whose performance on “Saturday Night Live” — particularly his Donald Trump impersonation — was one of the highlights of the season for many television viewers. Anderson’s more nuanced work on a show that has lower visibility could get lost in the shuffle.

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