Emmy Circuit: Will Guest Actor Juggernaut ‘Saturday Night Live’ Take Home the Top Prize?

Traditionally, the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category is not full of surprises. The standards (“Saturday Night Live,” chief among them) usually make at least one appearance on the nominations list, often more. While the depth of performances in this category is impressive and it’s a remarkably competitive field, the lion’s share of the nominees come from a roster of safe and reliable comedies.

Exit Strategy

With “Veep” ending its seventh and final season on a high note, it seems like a great candidate to walk away with some Emmy love. Dan Bakkedahl as the delightfully monstrous Roger Furlong would be a prime choice — he’s been used sporadically on the show for years and his penchant for sadistically humiliating his Congressional aide has always been a bizarre sort of highlight on the show.

Look for “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to also get attention for its final season. Although the show deteriorated in quality as it went on and couldn’t match the triumphant note it began on, it was largely well-received and Emmy voters may want to take one last opportunity to reward “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. Zachary Quinto as Eli Rubin, the amoral, secretly blind talent manager love interest of Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) stands out as a likely choice.

We’ve also (finally) said goodbye to “The Big Bang Theory” after an astonishing twelve seasons. It has two well-regarded Hollywood actors with the potential to be nominated — Sean Astin as Dr. Pemberton and Bob Newhart as Arthur Jeffries/Professor Proton, a role for which he has been nominated for three times and won once.

Network Contenders

It’s barely an exaggeration to say that there are three sure things in life: death, taxes, and “Saturday Night Live” receiving at least one nomination every year for Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last time it was locked out of the category, and since then it has received fourteen nominations, winning four times (Justin Timberlake in 2011, Jimmy Fallon in 2012 and 2014, and Dave Chappelle in 2017, respectively). And why not? The show is tailor-made for this category — each week there’s a new guest who has material written specifically for their own unique talents. The most likely candidates for this year seem to be Adam Driver and John Mulaney.

But networks tend to do well in this category. We could also see nominations for Marc Evan Jackson or Stephen Merchant on “The Good Place”, and Lin-Manuel Miranda or Craig Robinson on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

Freshman Fire

It’s a little more difficult for first-year comedies to make a massive impact at the Emmys — a lot of times comedies, even beloved ones, take a few years to really find an audience and receive critical acclaim. The most likely contenders from new shows would be Waris Ahluwalia as Wardog on Netflix’s “Russian Doll” or Nick Kroll as Simon the Devious on the television adaptation of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s irreverent vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows.” Either would be a long shot, but stranger things have happened.

Cable Contenders

Will “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” have another great showing at the Emmys this year? We could see nominations for Luke Kirby as the lightly sardonic Lenny Bruce, or Rufus Sewell as an eccentric modern artist, Declan Howell in this lineup of nominees.

“The Kominsky Method” did well last year as a freshman drama, and audience favorite Danny DeVito as Dr. Wexler is a strong potential candidate for this category. He was nominated in this category back in 2004 for a guest appearance on “Friends.” We could also see some love for Peter Gallagher as Nick Skolka in “Grace and Frankie” — a nomination for him here could make up for the fact that he was never nominated for his work on “The OC” but clearly should have been.

Current Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Predictions

  1. Adam Driver, “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
  2. Marc Evan Jackson, “The Good Place” (NBC)
  3. John Mulaney, “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
  4. Luke Kirby, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
  5. Dan Bakkedahl, “Veep” (HBO)
  6. Bob Newhart, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

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