Emmy Experts Typing: Steve Martin and Martin Short (‘Only Murders’) vs. past champs

Welcome to Emmy Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Emmy race — via Slack, of course. This week, we look at Best Comedy Actor, which features two former champs and a legendary duo from a show that is currently airing.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! We’re not yet at the Dog Days of Summer, but the weather certainly feels like it here on the East Coast, where temperatures have hit Mars-levels all week. But — watch this transition — nothing is hotter right now than Best Comedy Actor, where Bill Hader holds a slight edge over Jason Sudeikis in our overall odds (my upset choice, Steve Martin, remains in a distant third). This week, Apple brought the “Ted Lasso” cast to Los Angeles for a joyous FYC event and it feels like the show has gotten a renewed bump of coverage at just the right time. Everyone loves “Ted Lasso” and it could be argued that the only reason it slightly underperformed in its overall nominations (particularly in writing and directing) is because of recency bias. And yet even with that, “Ted” still grabbed 20 nominations, more than any comedy series, and multiple surprise acting bids as well. Which makes it seem likely that Sudeikis would win a second straight Best Comedy Actor award — except neither of us are predicting that outcome. We both have Hader taking his third Emmy for “Barry.” To me, it just seems like while “Ted” is the top comedy series pick, Hader as his own entity is as beloved if not more so. As we have discussed previously, it was Hader who got a sidecar Best Comedy Guest Actor nomination for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — the only actor singled out from its Emmy-nominated season — while Sudeikis, who seemed like a slam dunk for his hosting return to “SNL,” was ignored in the guest category. Conspiracy Chris also thinks “Barry” is basically Hader — he is going to win directing and he’s a writing nominee as well — and while Sudeikis is a driving creative force behind “Ted Lasso,” the whole of that series is greater than the sum of its parts. So that means  Hader can win for “Barry,” which would be an acknowledgement of “Barry” in a major category, while “Ted Lasso” can win series. Does that make any sense? Help me, Joyce, before I get heat stroke.

joyceeng: “Barry” is my fave, so you know I am not going to disagree with you, but everything you laid out is my thinking as well. “Ted” also got 20 nominations last year, so it didn’t underperform if you go by the total. But it did drop off in writing and directing while overperforming in acting, and I think the latter is why many folks have renewed confidence in Sudeikis repeating. They’ll likely point to “Ted’s” Sarah (Niles) making it in over “Barry’s” Sarah (Goldberg, an egregious snub I will never forgive voters for) as a sign that Sudeikis will win, but I think that is neither here nor there when it comes to Phase 2. (Those extra acting noms would help it more for series, I feel.) “Ted” is obviously the most visible and popular comedy, and, like you’ve suggested, a lot of the focus of and affection for the show has pivoted to the ensemble from Ted himself. That’s probably why it scored so many acting noms, facilitated by the unlimited ballot. But at the winner stage, it’s about passion and you have to pick one name. You can adore the entire “Ted” ensemble but find someone else on another show to be better. And like we said the other day, Hader feels like he just has a lot of individual passion as a creative force. Not only is he “Curb’s” only acting bid, but the show had zero (0) acting noms last time, and he did nab that easy guest bid for hosting “SNL” in 2018 that Sudeikis missed out on. “Barry” is very much Hader’s baby with his specific vision and cinematic eye, and the discourse was louder than ever this season about his triple threat skills as an actor, director and writer. But everyone in this category is lucky that submissions don’t matter anymore because otherwise Martin would be winning in a walk. He submitted the “Only Murders in the Building” finale, “Open and Shut,” and if this were the tape system, this race would be open and shut for him. I know you would concur.

SEE Emmy Experts slugfest: Can ‘Succession’ and ‘Hacks’ avoid vote-splitting in the guest races?

Christopher Rosen: I haven’t done it yet, and probably won’t, but if I was in the business of making no-guts-no-glory picks, Martin would be my winner here. I just think there is a huge amount of affection for him as a performer — and while the academy might not be very sentimental, he also has the goods. Like you mentioned, his submission episode is incredible and the fact that “Only Murders in the Building” is airing now and crushing it leads me to daydream about an upset win. It would be his first in more than 50 years. Maybe the academy isn’t sentimental, but they do know what good TV looks like and his speech would be good TV. But I guess a reason why Martin isn’t really a serious threat, at least according to our odds, is his co-star: Martin Short. I trolled you off-typing earlier today by saying Short was a supporting actor to Martin’s lead. That’s not really true, and that’s proven out by his arc in Season 2 of the Hulu comedy. You’ve mentioned before how he has a lot of good material coming up — can you imagine a scenario where Sudeikis and Hader split their votes, and then Short actually steps up to overcome Martin?

joyceeng: You and your Short bias. Name a more iconic duo. I admire your overconfidence in Martin as THE choice of the “Only Murders” duo — again, I’d feel the same way if this were the tape system — but I believe it’s more split in reality. My recollection of the vibe when the show was airing last year was that lots of people prefer Short, and I think it was the finale, in which Martin absolutely served, that really leveled the playing field between them. They’re two different but equally hilarious and, ahem, lead performances, so YMMV. And sure, Martin hasn’t won an Emmy since 1969, but it’s not like Short is swimming in Emmys either. He only has two wins and neither was for acting. I doubt anyone even knows he won Best Variety Special for the Mel Brooks AFI tribute in 2014. Maybe Martin can win Best Music and Lyrics next year for Charles’ heavily sampled 1989 banger “Angel in Flip-Flops,” a top 83 hit in Germany until the Berlin Wall came down. I am not going to predict a Short upset (yet), but if voters don’t (re)watch the submissions (and really, who has the time?), Oliver is the louder, wackier character and they might have a better general memory of that from Season 1, never mind the fact that they could be watching Season 2 right now too. That’s the other thing. How much will Season 2 help either of them?

SEE Emmy Experts Typing: Can Melanie Lynskey and Rhea Seehorn take down a pair of former champs?

Christopher Rosen: I actually don’t know — and the more I watch, the more I think Season 2 will actually help the show itself more than either Martin or Short. “Ted Lasso” remains the top choice and we’ve kind of focused in on “Hacks” as the alternate pick. But “Only Murders” seems more palatable than “Hacks” for voters, especially when “Hacks” — like “Barry” with Hader — is basically positioned as the Jean Smart show. That makes me wonder: If “Murders” sticks the landing (its final episode debuts the day after voting closes, but also screeners?), could it leave voters on such a high note that the show topples “Ted”? I guess that’s a topic for another typing. But I’ll leave you with the last word here while I get another iced tea.

joyceeng: Any screeners would be for press, not the entire TV academy, and the maximum finale coverage would be after it airs, so I don’t think that’s relevant. Different situation since it was the favorite and also not a murder mystery, but “Ted” had barely aired half of Season 2 last year when voting went down, and we both agree that the sophomore installments buoyed Brett Goldstein to a win. I don’t know about series, but Martin and Short are both firing on all cylinders this season — the latter had a great showcase this week with “The Tell” — so I guess if you’re really into Season 2 of “Only Murders,” you might be inclined to vote for one of them. But, remember, they too have Hader winning.

Emmy odds for Best Comedy Actor
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