Emmys Inside Track: Who’ll win Best Comedy Actor — Louis C.K. or Jim Parsons?

Gold Derby’s Experts put Louis C.K. (“Louie“) out front to win Best Comedy Actor, following up on his recent victories at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards and Television Critics Association Awards.

Only rarely do stand-up comics win acting Emmys (Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr), but Louis C.K. submitted a strong episode to judges. In “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1,” he delivers a touching, self-deprecating speech while asking a bookstore worker out for a date. Emmy voters often rally around good speeches because they are consolidated acting showcases that are easily remembered and rousingly powerful.

Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory“) won in 2010 and 2011 and now has the second-best odds. His episode submission “The Habitation Configuration” features Parsons in a classic Emmy bait storyline: getting drunk. Voters are suckers for booze-fueled performances, including one Parsons gave in 2010 when he whipped off his pants while giving a slurred speech to an awards group. Unfortunately for Parsons, his drunk performance this year is subdued and brief by Emmy standards.

Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock“) recently reaped  his seventh consecutive Screen Actors Guild Award, demonstrating the actor’s impressive popularity with peer-group awards. Baldwin bagged Emmys in 2008 and 2009 and now faces his last chance for starring in this peacock laffer. His submitted episode is “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World,” in which his character searches for his replacement as president of NBC, finally selecting nitwit page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer). The explicit homages to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” are playful and humorous, but the episode almost positions Jack as a supporting character to Kenneth.

Showtime’s “Episodes” took last year off, so Matt LeBlanc was ineligible then, but now repeats his 2011 nomination. LeBlanc doesn’t have much screen times on his submission to the judges: the second episode from the second season, sometimes branded as “The Affair” by fans. LeBlanc’s character — a fictionalized version of himself, like Louis C.K. — spends the episode attempting to buy the forgiveness of a colleague with a new car after LeBlanc had an affair with his wife. The material provides little opportunity for emotional range and is essentially a single joke repeated.

The “Flight of the Phoenix” episode of “Arrested Development” entered by Jason Bateman provides him with more screen time than anyone else in the category, but he ranks fifth according to the Gold Derby collective. Bateman owes much of Gold Derby’s non-confidence in him to the low nomination haul that “Arrested Development” achieved upon its return to the Emmys after Fox cancelled it seven years ago. Even though “Flight of the Phoenix” does showcase Bateman’s comedic chops, the humor of “Arrested Development” may no longer suit the academy’s tastes.

Don Cheadle (“House of Lies“) won the Golden Globe last January, but he ranks last per Gold Derby on the Emmy racetrack. Although Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie,” 2010) and Toni Collette (“United States of Tara,” 2009) — both also on Showtime — proved that largely dramatic performances can win comedy Emmys, Cheadle doesn’t emote very much in “Hostile Takeover.”

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