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Emmys Preview: Can Anybody Keep Bill Hader from a Repeat Win?

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy seems likely to be yet another Barry bloodbath.
  • Bill Hader stars in Barry (HBO)
    Bill Hader stars in Barry (HBO)

    The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards are coming at us in just a short few weeks. And whether you're gearing up for an office pool or just playing a private game of "toldja so" with the know-it-alls on Twitter, it's good to know how the races are shaping up. It's so much better to go into an awards show being able to tell the favorites from the underdogs. Then, when a Melissa McCarthy or a Merritt Wever or a Kyle Chandler end up winning, you'll have an even better appreciation of what this moment means to the people involved.

    With that in mind, Primetimer is going to break down this year's major Emmy categories. Who are the favorites? The underdogs? What's the story for each of these races?

    Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy hasn't been this interesting in a long time, at least when it comes to the nominees. The mix of A-List veterans like Michael Douglas, comedy legends like Eugene Levy, and Emmy faves like Ted Danson and Don Cheadle make up for a very competitive field, with 71 total Emmy nominations between them. We'd like to be able to say that with a field this strong, it's anybody's race; but that's not the truth. The truth is this is very close to being a one-man race.

    Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series

    • Anthony Anderson in black-ish
    • Don Cheadle in Black Monday
    • Ted Danson in The Good Place
    • Michael Douglas in The Kominsky Method
    • Bill Hader in Barry
    • Eugene Levy in Schitt's Creek

    Last Year's Winner: Bill Hader parlayed the first season of his hitman comedy Barry into an Emmy win.

    Nominees' Pedigree:

    • Bill Hader: 20 Besides being the most recent Emmy winner of the bunch, Bill Hader also has the most nominations you'd never expect. He's a whopping 20-time nominee (!), including five as a producer on South Park, three as a producer on Documentary Now!, four as a performer on Saturday Night Live, and eight nominations in acting, writing, directing, and producing for Barry.
    • Ted Danson: 17 Danson went empty-handed for years before picking up two wins (both for Cheers, in 1990 and 1993.
    • Eugene Levy: 11 Before getting nominated twice this year for Schitt's Creek (Actor and Comedy Series), Eugene Levy's most recent Emmy nominations came in the early '80s, when he racked up a total of 9 nods for the seminal Canadian sketch show SCTV.
    • Don Cheadle: 9 He's previously been recognized for four straight years for House of Lies and, before that, on shows like ER and TV movies like The Rat Pack
    • Anthony Anderson: 8 This is Anthony Anderson's 5th consecutive Best Actor nod for black-ish in addition to three Outstanding Comedy Series noms for the show, for which he is a producer.
    • Michael Douglas: 6 This is Michael Douglas's 6th nomination, having won once, in 2013, for playing Liberace in Behind the Candelabra.

    The Frontrunner: The awards experts at Gold Derby have come down decisively in this case that Bill Hader is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champion. Which makes sense, considering everything about Barry (the show and the character) got kicked up a level in season 2.

    The Likeliest Spoiler: Michael Douglas winning the Golden Globe would seem to place him in stalking-horse position, but the Globes go for the newest and starriest options. The Emmys seem more likely to opt for an old fave like Danson.

    The Feel-Good Long-Shot: A win for beloved character actor Eugene Levy for the show he makes with both his son, Dan Levy, and longtime collaborator Catherine O'Hara would make for a great Emmy moment.

    Stat to Chew On: With this being the last Emmys of the 2010s, this will be the first decade in Emmy history that either ABC or NBC will fail to win in this category, unless Anthony Anderson or Ted Danson, respectively, win this year.

    Prediction: In this case, the experts know what they're talking about. Not only did Bill Hader give an emotionally complex performance that brings comedy and drama, but the Emmys have been hugely generous to Barry in general. This one seems secure.

    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Barry, Bill Hader, Don Cheadle, Eugene Levy, Michael Douglas, Ted Danson