Emmy episode analysis: Molly Shannon (‘Will & Grace’) returns as crazed stalker Val in ‘There’s Something About Larry’

Molly Shannon returns to the Emmys thanks to her portrayal of the psychotic neighbor Val on “Will & Grace.” Though the character was a fan favorite during the sitcom’s original run, Shannon had to wait until the current revival to snag an Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Guest Actress for this infamous role.

This bid marks Shannon’s third career nomination, having previously competed in this same category for “Enlightened,” and in the now-defunct Best Individual Variety Performance category for “Saturday Night Live.” Hoping her third time is the charm, she has submitted the episode “There’s Something About Larry” for Emmy consideration.

In the episode, Jack (Sean Hayes) borrows Karen’s (Megan Mullally) car so he can supplement his income by becoming a Lyft driver. But as soon as he and Karen hit the road they hit Val. Literally. The dreaded neighbor from hell winds up splayed across the windshield. When the duo escort her back to her apartment Val quickly traps Karen inside for a heart-to-heart and hair-braiding session.

Jack later sneaks into Val’s apartment, which is when he discovers a stalker-ish shrine to Karen and realizes the entire accident was Val’s latest scheme, a desperate attempt to sneak into Karen’s life. This leads to a hysterical confrontation where Val ties up Jack before confessing her idolization of Karen.

Will this episode finally land Molly Shannon an Emmy Award?

PROS

Shannon is a beloved industry veteran. Given that this is her third nomination, and for one of her classic characters no less, voters may feel like it is finally time to reward her.

The role is highly physical, which lends itself to memorable moments that only a performer like Shannon can deliver. A scene in the elevator where Val writhes in pain while emitting orgasmic moans (prompting Val to clarify, “My pain and pleasure centers overlap. I’m in a medical journal.”) is the funniest moment of the episode.

CONS

Val’s storyline is more of the B plot of the episode. The bulk of the running time is spent with Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) dealing with a needy friend. This leaves Shannon with scarce screen time when compared to her Emmy competition, particularly Tina Fey and Tiffany Haddish, who dominate their 90-minute episodes as hosts of “Saturday Night Live.”

While few performers can match Shannon’s zany physical comedy, this particular script often tasks her with setting up laugh lines for her scene partners. It can be hard to win a comedy Emmy if an actor gets more setups than punchlines.

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