Emmy episode analysis: Tony Hale (‘Veep’) returns home for disheartening 40th birthday

In the last 15 years Tony Hale has starred on two of TV’s most acclaimed comedy series, first on FOX and Netflix’s “Arrested Development” and now on HBO’s two-time Emmy-winning Best Comedy SeriesVeep.” Hale won two Emmy Awards (2013, 2015) out of four consecutive Emmy nominations for his role as the indispensable yet slightly inept bag man Gary Walsh to the now-former President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Now Hale contends for his fifth straight year in the Best Comedy Supporting Actor category. Should he win his third Emmy next month, he would join the legendary likes of Ed Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), Art Carney (“The Jackie Gleason Show”), Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”), and Michael Richards (“Seinfeld”), who all took home three trophies in this category.

In addition to his five Emmy nominations and two wins, Hale has earned seven Screen Actors Guild Award nominations as a member of the ensemble casts of “Arrested Development” and “Veep” as well as three Critics’ Choice TV Award nominations for his current role on the HBO political satire.

In “Judge,” the episode Hale submitted for Emmy consideration, Selina and her team travel to Gary’s hometown of White City, Alabama, to attend his big 40th birthday party. Gary’s meticulous plans for his celebration go awry, though, when Selina commandeers the event to try to woo a potential donor for her library.

Could Hale take home his third career Emmy this year? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of his submission.


Hale submitted one of his best episodes of the season to Emmy voters. In “Judge,” Hale gets to showcase different sides of Gary’s personality as he interacts with his parents and colleagues, including his overabundant love for his mother Imogene (Jean Smart) and his timidity around his domineering father Judge (Stephen Root). The episode also features a strong arc and a number of standout scenes for Hale opposite Louis-Dreyfus. Before his party Gary tells Selina a personal, sentimental story about a hunting trip he and his father took when he was young, which Selina promptly steals when she gives Gary’s toast in order to appeal to her potential donor. Hale’s look of betrayal is heartbreaking and adds a layer of sympathy for Gary amid all of his funny and familiar character traits.

Emmy voters clearly love Hale’s character and performance on “Veep,” and his submission this year harkens back to his most recent winning submission “East Wing,” in which Gary loses his cool in an argument with Selina. Even though Hale doesn’t trade barbs with Louis-Dreyfus in “Judge,” this time around he spars with Stephen Root when Gary finally confronts his drunken, belligerent father at his party in a funny and rousing outburst. As in “East Wing,” “Judge” also sees Gary and Selina reconcile at the end of the episode over a homey barbecue meal in an endearing scene between Hale and Louis-Dreyfus.

Even though Hale hasn’t maintained as strong a grip on this category as co-star Louis-Dreyfus has in Best Comedy Actress, with losses to Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) in 2014 after his first win and to reigning champion Louie Anderson (“Baskets”) in 2016 after his second victory, this category has seen many contenders reenter the winner’s circle after sitting out a year or so, including four-time winner David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”), Richards, and Garrett.


Although the television academy awarded Hale twice before for this role, voters may opt to “spread the wealth” this year and honor a different contender from the intensely competitive Comedy Supporting Actor line-up, which includes two-time Emmy winner Alec Baldwin for his topical, buzz-worthy turn as candidate-then-President Donald J. Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” three-time nominee Tituss Burgess for his strongest season yet on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and previous victors Burrell and Anderson.

Not only will Hale face off against the above formidable competition, but he will also contend with his co-star Matt Walsh, which could lead to a split in the vote from “Veep” supporters. If voters who enjoy “Veep” want to acknowledge a different cast member for the show’s sixth season, they may choose to award Walsh, an industry veteran and now two-time Emmy nominee who has yet to take home the trophy.

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