Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
It’s hardly a secret that the cast of ABC’s Modern Family have owned this category the past three years, winning each time. But the surprise this year is that the guy who has carted off two of those three Emmys – Eric Stonestreet – curiously wasn’t even nominated this time. So what has been four nominees is now just three: Ty Burrell (who won in 2011), Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ed O’Neill. That trio will be competing with one returning nominee in SNL’s Bill Hader (who departed the show this past season) and a pair of first-timers in Tony Hale of HBO’s Veep and Adam Driver from the same network’s Girls. While the smart money remains on one of the Family nominees winning, it’s very much a wide open race.
SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR
Why He Could/Should Win: Besides having won once before, Burrell enjoyed a banner year as Phil Dunphy on Family, including a spectacular turn opposite guest star Matthew Broderick in one memorable episode.
Why He Could/Should Lose: The fact his show’s vote is split three ways leaves Burrell cloaked in uncertainty. One of his winless costars could take it home.
Related: EMMYS: Comedy Series Overview
Why He Could/Should Win: It may just be his turn. Eric Stonestreet won twice (including last year) and Burrell once. If there’s any fairness in this game, Ferguson is not only due but indeed overdue for his work as Mitchell Pritchett.
Why He Could/Should Lose: There isn’t any fairness in this game. The Emmys unfortunately don’t work that way.
Related: EMMYS: Comedy Lead Acting Handicap
Why He Could/Should Win: His nod for portraying VP’s assistant Gary Walsh on Veep was a bit of a surprise, but only a bit. Hale brings loads of deadpan wit to the role.
Why He Could/Should Lose: He’s too often overshadowed on a series where star Julia Louis-Dreyfus commands the spotlight.
Ed O’Neill, Modern Family (ABC)
Emmy History: Three nominations. No wins.
Why He Could/Should Win: It’s a little bit criminal that O’Neill hasn’t yet won this thing, if for no other reason than he makes us believe he’d really be married to Sofia Vergara.
Why He Could/Should Lose: His Modern Family costars are so good, and so nominated opposite him.
Why He Could/Should Win: Hader’s got an outside shot for his sketch work on SNL, with voters possibly looking to reward him on his way out the door. It’s his second consecutive nomination in the category.
Why He Could/Should Lose: He isn’t a regular on Modern Family. Too bad.
Adam Driver, Girls (HBO)
Emmy History: First nomination.
Why He Could/Should Win: Driver is the guy whose character has sex with Lena Dunham on Girls, and he’s so good at being a jackass that you forget he’s acting.
Why He Could/Should Lose: He needs to pay his dues with a few more noms before the trophies start to come.
SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS
Julie Bowen of Modern Family will be bidding for her third consecutive Emmy in the category, which this year swells to seven nominees. But of equal interest will be whether Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock can land her first win on her fourth nomination. It’s surprised the experts that Krakowski hasn’t been honored. But of course, there are no guarantees at the Emmys. Just ask Bowen’s castmate Sofia Vergara, still looking for her first win for Family. Then there is Jane Lynch, who won for Fox’s Glee in 2010 but failed even to land a nomination a year ago. Also in the race are repeat nominees Mayim Bialik for CBS’s Big Bang Theory and Merritt Wever for Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, along with first-timer Anna Chlumsky for HBO’s Veep.
Why She Could/Should Win: Krakowski has submitted the hour-long 30 Rock finale for consideration, during which she steals scenes and even sings. Four actresses have recently won in the category for shows in their final seasons, including Megan Mullally (Will And Grace) and Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond).
Why She Could/Should Lose: She hasn’t won yet, and Bowen remains a formidable foe.
Julie Bowen, Modern Family (ABC)
Emmy History: Four nominations. Two wins.
Why She Could/Should Win: They like her, they really like her – a lot. And if Bowen has been honored twice in succession for her portrayal of the wacky Claire Dunphy, nothing is stopping her from making it three.
Why She Could/Should Lose: The feeling may well be that they’ve already loved up Bowen and it’s time to share it with others.
Why She Could/Should Win: It’s generally agreed that Bialik’s work as geeky scientist Amy Farrah Fowler has helped to drive Big Bang to a new level, as evidenced by her second nom in as many years.
Why She Could/Should Lose: Too many other worthy nominees in a fiercely competitive race.
Why She Could/Should Win: If you’re going to spread around the wealth and still keep the Emmy in the Family family, Vergara is the way to go.
Why She Could/Should Lose: Some see her work as zesty Latina Gloria Pritchett as a mite caricature-ish. Or perhaps that’s the point.
Anna Chlumsky, Veep (HBO)
Emmy History: First nomination.
Why She Could/Should Win: Chlumsky gets to deliver sassy, self-assured lines as VP chief of staff Amy Brookheimer in the kind of fresh performance voters eat up. Getting noticed while working alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus is no easy task.
Why She Could/Should Lose: She’s too new and too little-known. Maybe next time.
Why She Could/Should Win: Lynch has already won here once, and she rebounded with a nom this year in spite of Glee’s inherent coolness deficiency. Never bet against Sue Sylvester.
Why She Could/Should Lose: Actually, if you’re going to bet against Sue, this is probably the year to do it.
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Emmy History: Two nominations. No wins.
Why She Could/Should Win: Sometimes, the longest shot on the board pulls off a shocker, and she is now a known enough commodity to land here two years running.
Why She Could/Should Lose: Nurse Jackie is no longer on anyone’s buzzworthy radar, and unfortunately the same goes for Wever.