Emmy episode analysis: Alec Baldwin (‘Saturday Night Live’) as Donald Trump is grilled over firing of James Comey

Alec Baldwin has this year received his 18th career Emmy nomination, his first for portraying President Donald Trump on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” This, along with his additional Reality Host bid for “Match Game,” marks Baldwin’s first nomination since the final season of “30 Rock” in 2013. The actor, who has two Emmy victories under his belt (Best Comedy Actor for “30 Rock” in 2008 and 2009), has submitted for voters’ consideration the 20th episode of the 42nd season of “SNL,” hosted by Melissa McCarthy.

In the episode’s cold open Trump sits down with NBC Nightly News’s Lester Holt (Michael Che), who grills the commander-in-chief over the firing of FBI Director James Comey. When Trump admits he dismissed Comey because of the Russia investigation, Holt is convinced he’s finally nailed the president, that is until he’s reminded that nothing matters anymore. Trump unabashedly declares himself a “serial tapist” on White House conversations and is paid a visit by House Speaker Paul Ryan (Mikey Day), summoned to deliver ice cream (two scoops, not one) to the president.

In a later sketch, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (McCarthy), dismayed over reporters’ questioning of the president’s treatment of him, embarks on a road trip — his podium in tow — to see his boss. Spicer at last tracks down Trump at a New Jersey golf course, and sparks fly as the two embrace for a very passionate kiss.

Will this episode score Baldwin his third Emmy victory? Let’s dive into the pros and cons.

PROS

Baldwin’s spot-on portrayal of Trump (previously played over the years by Phil Hartman, Darrell Hammond, Jason Sudeikis and Taran Killam) was among the most discussed, celebrated and topical performances of the television season. The turn made such an impact, Trump himself weighed in on the portrayal via Twitter, albeit to say Baldwin’s performance “stinks” and that the “boring and unfunny show” (that Trump himself hosted in November 2015) should be cancelled.

In this episode specifically, Baldwin is very funny in the cold open as, beyond sparring with Che, he claims to have invented the phrase “priming the pump,” not in reference to the economy but rather as a sexual guide for his wife. Also plenty memorable is the heated embrace between Baldwin and McCarthy, as the former fervently declares Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant) “doesn’t have your special spice.”

With 18 nominations and two victories under his belt, Baldwin is a bona fide Emmy favorite. Also no doubt a positive is that “SNL” has proven very successful in scoring acting wins in recent years, with the likes of Kate McKinnon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, among others, picking up prizes for their performances over the last few years. This is after a 16-year dry spell (between Dana Carvey in 1993 and Fey and Timberlake in 2009) with no acting victories at all for the series.

CONS

While Baldwin makes the most of his screen time (about seven minutes in total), he’s missing in action for the vast majority of this episode, which is much more a showcase for its Emmy-nominated host.

Given the buzz around his performance, his limited screentime may not be a fatal problem, but if submissions carry significant weight here then 2016 winner Louie Anderson (“Baskets”) and Titus Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), both of who have more screen time than Baldwin, may benefit. Also in contention are a pair of actors — Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) and Tony Hale (“Veep”) — who too are proven Emmy favorites in Best Comedy Supporting Actor and cannot be counted out.

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on September 17. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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