Last year, Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”) was able to claim the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series thanks to his episode submission – a memorable turn where his character dresses up as Fizbo the clown.
But this year, in a category where four “Modern Family” actors are nominated, Stonestreet will have a tough time repeating, according to predictions made by Goldderby site users and editors. Instead, Stonestreet’s co-star Ty Burrell is the early favorite to win this tight race, currently garnering 38 percent of users’ votes and 55 percent of editors’ votes. Nipping at Burrell’s heels among users is Chris Colfer, who won the Golden Globe this year in the catch-all Supporting TV Actor race for playing Kurt on “Glee.” The oft-snubbed Ed O’Neill from “Modern Family” ranks third in the user vote — though he is ahead of Colfer among editors. Stonestreet is fourth, while “Two and a Half Men” star Jon Cryer and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who rounds out the “Modern Family” men, are afterthoughts.
One of the deciding factors in this race could be just how much voters value a truly comedic performance. That is because Colfer submitted a sample episode – “Grilled Cheesus” – that is light on laughs and heavy on drama. In the episode, Kurt’s father suffers a heart attack and Kurt, an atheist, confronts his own battle with the existence of God. The episode features a tear-jerking scene between Kurt and his comatose father and a tender rendition of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and Colfer gives a touching, emotional performance. However, there are almost no comic moments in it.
Contrary to Colfer, the four “Modern Family” men rely heavily on their comedic chops. Conventionally, when multiple actors from one project are nominated for the same award, vote-splitting often hurts their chances of winning. But at the Emmys it can actually improve your odds, because not only are voters judging you on your sample episode, they get to see your work in your co-stars’ reels as well.
That could be one of the reasons Felicity Huffman won Best Comedy Actress for “Desperate Housewives” in 2005; she was more prominently featured in her co-stars’ submissions than she was in her own. So in essence, each “Modern Family” man gets four episodes, and while viewing each submission voters might forget which actor they’re supposed to be watching.
Stonestreet was able to rise above the fray last year because his “Fizbo” performance was especially memorable. But this year, he doesn’t have a lot of screen time in his submission, “Mother’s Day,” in which he is upset that he’s considered the mother in his relationship with Mitchell (Ferguson). But “Mother’s Day” also gives O’Neill a chance to display some emotional range in a storyline where he gets weepy remembering his deceased mother.
O’Neill’s submission, “The Kiss,” is full of slapstick, but it also includes a heartfelt moment toward the end when he reconciles with his son Mitchell over not showing him enough affection when he was a child. However, “The Kiss” also gives Burrell some strong material as he also vies for Jay’s affection, while Ferguson and Stonestreet bicker about Mitchell’s aversion to PDA.
Ferguson submitted “Halloween,” an episode full of physical comedy in which Mitchell is shocked to discover he’s the only person to come to work in costume on Halloween. Mitchell hastily throws on his business suit over his Spider-Man costume, and after struggling to change his clothes unnoticed he ends up embarrassing himself in front of his co-workers.
But “Halloween” is also a strong showcase for Burrell, who panics over the security of his own marriage after the neighbors split up. In Burrell’s own submission, “Good Cop, Bad Dog,” he switches roles with his disciplinarian wife Claire (Julie Bowen) and forces his daughters to clean their bathroom. Phil takes the task a little too far – duct taping the girls’ computers shut and denying them food – and has a funny moment when he leaps on the girls’ car as they try to get away.
Ultimately Phil remains sympathetic because he realizes being the “bad cop” isn’t in his DNA. Elsewhere in the episode, Mitchell struggles to decide whether to attend a Lady Gaga concert by himself or tend to Cam, who is sick in bed. And in the third storyline, Jay has to bluntly reject a business proposal by an entrepreneur Gloria (Sofia Vergara) has brought home, but the old softy ends up adopting the entrepreneur’s dog.
Lastly there’s Jon Cryer, who won this category in 2009. He submitted “The Immortal Mr. Billy Joel,” in which Cryer’s character, Alan Harper, pretends to be his brother Charlie (Charlie Sheen), while Charlie is away having plastic surgery. Cryer has a few amusing moments, but with the negative buzz surrounding “Two and a Half Men” this year, it’ll be hard for Cryer to pull off a repeat victory.
This category has traditionally been rife to see repeat winners. David Hyde Pierce won four Emmys for “Frasier” (1995, 1998, 1999, 2004), Brad Garrett won three for “Everybody Loves Raymond” (2002, 2003, 2005) and Jeremy Piven recently won three in a row for “Entourage” (2006-2008). By that token, this year could be a keystone moment in this category. Is Stonestreet destined to dominate for years to come? Or can Colfer or one of Stonestreet’s co-stars make things interesting.