August 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm #222784
More times than not, likeable characters win the Emmy.
Many perennial (and some one-time-only) nominees have lost simply because their characters are unlikeable: Jason Alexander, Larry David, Steve Carell, January Jones, Chris Colfer, Charlie Sheen, Jane Kaczmarek, Peter Boyle, etc.
This is the main thing that I think is going against Laura Linney this year, who’s character on The Big C seems vicious to me in the Pilot. I think it will also hurt others this year.
Can you think of people who have had vicious and unlikeable characters in the past and have failed to win? Do you think this factor hurts anybody else this year?August 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm #222786
Bryan Cranston has won 3 times with an arguably unlikeable character so I don’t think it matters much.August 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm #222787
Linney’s character has cancer. You can be a meth-making murderer and still win an Emmy as long as you have cancer. Bryan Cranston has gotten progressively less sympathetic as Breaking Bad goes on, yet Emmy voters love him as much as ever.
Drama winner Kiefer Sutherland had been known to resort to torture, among other morally questionable strategies, to save the day on 24. James Gandolfini lied, cheated, and killed on The Sopranos and won three times. Glenn Close plays controlling and sometimes downright evil on Damages and won two years in a row.
In comedy, Edie Falco popped pills and committed adultry, but still won for Nurse Jackie last year. The always obnoxious Ricky Gervais refused to do a gay kiss in the episode that won him an Emmy for Extras. I thought the episode would totally put off Emmy voters, however funny it might have been. Though Jeremy Piven wisely submitted sympathetic tapes for Entourage, Ari Gold is hardly the most sympathetic character.
On the miniseries and movie side, Al Pacino in Angels in America comes to mind even if his character is dying. A couple decades ago, Barbara Hershey hacked somebody to death on-screen in A Killing in a Small Town. A more bubbly Holly Hunter in The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom pays to kill a high schooler.
Can playing a jerk hurt your chances? Totally. But I don’t think it’ll impact Linney.August 26, 2011 at 8:45 am #222788
I guess this argument can go either way. To steal an example from above, remember that Glenn Close won an Emmy for the pilot of “Damages”, in which she had a dog killed. It doesn’t get much more unlikable than that.
Evan Rachel Wood’s Veda Pierce is pretty diabolical. She very well could win. Winslet’s character is not much of a treat either, but she’s basically a lock.
As for Linney, I wouldn’t say she’s TOO unlikable in the pilot (later in the series….absolutely). But that shouldn’t effect her much.August 27, 2011 at 7:35 pm #222789
Bryan Cranston’s character has become unlikable over the years, but at the Emmys disease trumps unlikable, because disease makes an unlikable person more sympathetic. If you’re a bad person but suffer for your sins (like Al Pacino in “Angels in America”), or if you behave badly because of your disease (Laura Linney, Bryan Cranston), then voters still give you a hug. Compare that to Steve Carell, who submitted “The Injury” in 2006 where he behaved badly because of a burned foot. Unlikable and unsympathetic. Deadly combo.August 27, 2011 at 7:50 pm #222790
Also, I think it’s safer to be unlikable in a drama than in a comedy. Hollywood loves a big, juicy villain played in a big bold flashy performance. Just look at the Oscars: Charlize Theron in “Monster,” Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood,” Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds,” Mo’Nique in “Precious,” Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland.”
That helped James Gandolfini. And it helps Bryan Cranston. Voters fell in love with his “Breaking Bad” performance when he was a desperate father with cancer. Now that he’s become more sociopathic, they still love him because he’s a respected thespian playing a big, bold, juicy villain role. That might help Margo Martindale too, who plays an unlikable character on “Justified” but does so with grand dramatic style.
Compare that to Steve Carell and Larry David. Their characters are often jerks, but they don’t have the actorly gravitas that make voters applaud their performances. They’re not calling attention to their acting chops. They just seem like jerks.
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