Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s 2010 Emmy coverage. Here’s his scorecard assessing the Outstanding Lead Drama Series Actor race:

JIM PARSONS, THE BIG BANG THEORY

Why He Got Nominated: Because he’s widely regarded in the Hollywood creative and critical communities as the funniest guy on TV as CBS/Warner Bros TV’s Big Bang nerd Sheldon Cooper. That isn’t necessarily enough to land him the Emmy. He’s also got to convince the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. But it’s a good start.

Why He Has To Win: It’s the 2nd consecutive nomination for Parsons after having been previously snubbed, and his submitted episode “The Pants Alternative” is a showcase for his uproarious drunk scene. A lot of people had predicted he’d win a year ago, but Alec Baldwin snatched it away. This time, Parsons has the advantage of being a fresh face and a guy who is perceived to have paid dues (at least some). “He’s the guy who should win because he’s right now the consistently best sitcom lead week in and week out,” believes one producer.

Why He Can’t Possibly Win: Some will resent the fact that Parsons threatened to hold out and break ranks with his co-stars in seeking a raise far greater than the $100,000 per episode offered by Warner Bros TV ($250,000 per according to some reports). This is also the most competitive acting category at this year’s Emmys, with Parsons having to knock off both a 2-time category winner (Baldwin) and a three-timer (Tony Shalhoub).

ALEC BALDWIN, 30 ROCK

Why He Got Nominated: You couldn’t have this category and not nominate Baldwin since his 30 Rock alter ego Jack Donaghy has been an NBC character for the ages. Actually, one of the few successful NBC characters these days. It’s his 8th performance nomination at the Emmys, and his 4th in succession for Rock.

Why He Has To Win: He’s won twice in a row here, bidding for the three-peat. It won’t hurt him with the showbiz crowd that he co-hosted (with Steve Martin) this year’s Oscars – for which Baldwin also was nominated in the Emmys’ special class program. Whatever issues voters may have had with him over his notorious personal behavior and past threats to quit the show have long since disappeared. The guy is now a somewhat beloved figure both on-set and with the Industry. Once Emmy voters find something/someone they like, they tend to stick with it year after year.

Why He Can’t Possibly Win: This wasn’t his strongest year on 30 Rock, which has been around long enough to take on a “been there, done that” vibe. The TV Academy could figure Baldwin has been honored sufficiently and it’s time to spread the wealth around.

TONY SHALHOUB, MONK

Why He Got Nominated: The TV Academy doesn’t know how not to nominate Tony Shalhoub. This is his 8th nod in succession for USA Network’s Monk, proof that OCD humor is still a hit with this crowd. Plus, they couldn’t snub Shalhoub for his show’s final season.

Why He Has To Win: There seems to be growing sentiment to give it to Shalhoub as an appreciative parting gift. He already won in 2003, 2005, and 2006, and there’s precedent for rewarding an actor for the swan song of an iconic role (with Sarah Jessica Parker winning for the final season of Sex and the City and Kelsey Grammer the last year of Frasier). Shalhoub also submitted the 2-part, 2-hour Monk finale for consideration, whereas the competition has just a single half-hour for judging. That’s a huge advantage in itself.

Why He Can’t Possibly Win: One fellow actor concludes, “We all love Tony, but even he was embarrassed the last time he won. He’s really honored by it all but isn’t so greedy to think he should win for a fourth time.” He may not have a choice, of course. And Parsons figures to be awfully hard to beat this time.

STEVE CARELL, THE OFFICE

Why He Got Nominated: Carell is a hugely popular guy who is beloved throughout Hollywood, a wonderful actor to have on set along with a comic talent. It’s as simple as that. This is Carell’s 5th consecutive Emmy nod for NBC’s The Office. He doesn’t have a problem getting nominated. It’s the winning part that has proven the hurdle.

Why He Has To Win: Did I mention the Industry loves this guy? With the news that he’s going to be leaving the series after next season, Carell could attract support at last for bringing home that elusive trophy.

Why He Can’t Possibly Win: The fact that he’s soon departing The Office could mean Carell has to wait for his final season to snag the Emmy. Plus, some think the series is past its expiration date already, which means Steve should have won when The Office won in 2006.

LARRY DAVID, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM

Why He Got Nominated: The Jews and everybody else who make up the TV community adore Curb and want to make sure Larry understands they’ll be crushed if he ever decides to fold up the long-running HBO show for good.

Why He Has To Win: The most persuasive argument for finally giving him the Emmy is the fact he’s now been nominated a 4th time for his acting and 9 times overall without a win. Plus, it helps that he has fuck-you money and never has to work another day in his life — but still does anyway. And the Industry is dying to hear his acceptance speech. As a producer surmises, “It would probably be the most politically incorrect thing imaginable, like telling people they were crazy, dropping the Emmy on the stage, and walking off. That’s why I’m voting for him.”

Why He Can’t Possibly Win: Many don’t think he’ll receive an Emmy until he announces it really is Curb’s final season. Then all bets are off. But it’s also true that Larry remains a polarizing a figure in Hollywood, with people either adoring him or loathing him with every fiber of their being. It doesn’t help that he has fuck-you money and never has to work another day in his life. That doesn’t necessarily make for a winning formula.

MATTHEW MORRISON, GLEE (FOX – Ryan Murphy TV with 20th Century Fox TV)

Why He Got Nominated: Morrison’s character Will Schuster is one of the big reasons why Fox/20th TV’s Glee struck such a chord during its maiden voyage in primetime. Nearly all of the primary cast was nominated.

Why He Has To Win: Only if it’s the biggest upset in Emmy history. But the TV Academy is an unpredictable bunch. You never know.

Why He Can’t Possibly Win: It’s Morrison’s first-ever Emmy nomination for a role that doesn’t scream “funny”. That’s simply too high a bar in this very competitive category for him to have a decent shot. But there’s always next year. Or the year after that.

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