According to our three sets of predictions -- experts, editors and users -- Steve Carell is finally going to win Best Comedy Actor after five consecutive losses. That this win will come for his final season as Dunder-Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott on "The Office" will be bittersweet. Carell submitted his farewell episode, "Goodbye Michael," in which he prepares to move to Colorado with his fiancee Holly (Amy Ryan). He plans to leave a day early to avoid tearful goodbyes, but he can't fool Jim (John Krasinski), and the two choke back tears before Michael leaves for the airport.
It's a sentimental 50-minute episode that showcases Michael at his most likable, unlike Carell's first unsuccessful Emmy submission, "The Injury," in which he whined about burning his foot, or last year's entry, "The Cover-Up," in which he had Dwight (Rainn Wilson) spy on his girlfriend in a fit of jealous paranoia.
Submitting fond farewells is a strategy that worked in the past for Michael J. Fox ("Spin City") and Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex and the City"), but it's not foolproof. Martin Sheen had never won Best Drama Actor for playing President Bartlett on "The West Wing," but even when he submitted the series finale, in which Bartlett left the White House after his second term in office, he was sent home empty handed. Might the same fate befall Carell?
All of our editors predict Carell to prevail, as do a vast majority of users.The only actor within striking distance may be last year's champ, Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"), who has the advantage of two submissions as his his co-star Johnny Galecki is also nominated. Parsons submitted "The Agreement Dissection," in which Sheldon (Parsons) battles Leonard (Galecki) over a breach of their roommate agreement, leading Sheldon to spend a girls' night out with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Amy (Mayim Bialik), and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). Galecki submitted "The Benefactor Factor," in which Leonard has to decide whether to have sex with a wealthy woman (Jessica Walter) to secure research funding. According to our odds, this one-two bunch benefits Parsons but doesn't particularly help Galecki.
The last three nominees are all long-shots. Louis C.K. was a surprise nominee for the FX comedy series "Louie," and he submitted the episode titled "Bully," in which his date is ruined when he fails to stand up to a young bully, then follows him home only to end up commiserating with the boy's overwhelmed father. The episode is light on laughs, but sympathetic, and Louis C.K. is admired within the industry, much like another under-the-radar writer/actor who defeated Steve Carell in 2007: Ricky Gervais ("Extras"). Also, "Louie" is the only nominated show in this category currently airing new episodes; if any voters are watching the current season while marking their ballots, he could have an advantage.
It would also be foolish to rule out Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock"), who has won this award twice (2008, 2009). He submitted the episode "Respawn," which takes place after Jack Donaghy's wife, reporter Avery Jessup (guest-acting nominee Elizabeth Banks), is kidnapped by Kim Jong-il; he is so distraught that he forces NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) to impersonate her. It was a surprise to many that he didn't opt for the episode "100," in which a gas leak causes Jack to hallucinate different versions of himself. Actors playing multiple roles are catnip to Emmy voters, and Baldwin won his second Emmy for a dual-role episode in which he played Jack and his doppelganger on a Spanish soap opera.
Rounding out the category is Matt LeBlanc, making his television comeback after unsuccessfully spinning off his "Friends" character, Joey Tribbiani, to his own series. On Showtime's "Episodes," LeBlanc plays a version of himself who is cast in the lead role of a popular British series being remade in America. In his submission, the season finale, he beds one of the show's writers (Tamsin Greig), and then fights with her husband (Stephen Mangan). Will Emmy voters be impressed by the performance of an actor playing himself? It's a factor that hasn't helped Larry David, who has never won for playing his curmudgeonly self on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
But it may not matter if Steve Carell is as unstoppable as the odds suggest. Are we overestimating him? Is the threat from Baldwin, Parsons, or C.K. stronger than we're anticipating? Make your predictions here, and then discuss the nominees in our message board.