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Emmy Circuit: Bill Hader Looks to Win Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Again for HBO’s ‘Barry’

Bill Hader in HBO's "Barry"

Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series. We are now in the Emmy post-nomination phase, where we watch all the nominated Emmy episodes and predict their chances of winning. The Creative Arts Emmy winners will be revealed Saturday, Sept. 14 while the Primetime Emmy Awards aires on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. Tune in week after week as we tackle all things Drama, Comedy. Limited Series and Variety.


With life often filled with drama, comedy can be a welcome relief. Whether connecting with a family man or a hitman, or watching a person lose their sanity or their money, if the stories are funny the audience will come along for the ride. This year the Television Academy has nominated six actors of excellence for their respective comedic performances. Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series features a number of seasoned performers in distinct roles. Their shows are original and thought-provoking. Their performances leave the audience not only smiling, but intrigued for what’s to come. Audiences who want more need not worry. Each of these men vying for gold will be back for another season.


• Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish” – Episode: “Purple Rain”
• Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” – Episode: “365- Pilot”
• Ted Danson – “The Good Place” – Episode: “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”
• Michael Douglas – “The Kominsky Method” – Episode: “An Actor Avoids”
• Bill Hader – “Barry” – Episode: “The Truth Has a Ring to It”
• Eugene Levy – “Schitt’s Creek” – Episode: “Rock On!”

Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish” – Episode: “Purple Rain”

Black-ish dedicating episode to Prince
Credit: Kelsey McNeal

Episode Synopsis: “The family is shocked to learn that Jack and Diane are not familiar with the iconic music of Prince; each member of the family works to explain Prince’s tremendous impact on their lives through his music.” (From iMDb)

When a sitcom has the ability to transcend comedy and touch on issues vital to the public discourse, it is the viewers who win in a big way. Laughs and lessons are equally important, keeping the audience entertained, but asking them to think beyond the half-hour. ABC’sBlack-ish” has proven to be a win with audiences over the last five seasons. Executive Producer and star Anthony Anderson plays Andre Johnson, an advertising executive trying to balance family life and work life while navigating the socio-political sphere.

This recent season saw “Black-ish” celebrate its 100th episode. The series took a unique approach at marking this milestone by honoring the genius of Prince. In the episode, each family member shares how the “Kiss” singer impacted his or her own life. And on a purely fun note, the actors also get to don some of Prince’s most memorable looks while singing his hits.

Anderson has chosen to submit this musical episode for Emmy consideration. “Purple Rain” is undoubtedly one of the best of the season. Anderson gets to show off some crazy dance moves and deliver some classically dry one-liners. However, this is less a showcase for Anderson and more a homage to the entire ensemble, which is one of the finest on television. This episode’s ensemble nature may hurt Anderson’s chances to be singled out.

Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” – Episode: “365- Pilot”

Don Cheadle in “Black Monday”

Episode Synopsis: “A group of outsiders takes on the 1980s old-boys club of Wall Street.” (From iMDB)

Since its premiere in January, “Black Monday” has been plagued by mediocre reviews. The show spares no expense bringing every detail of the late 80s to life with magical results. This flashy, over-the-top look transports the audience to another time and place. But no matter how spot-on the production design is, the series lacks direction. With the show’s wheels often spinning, there is still one reason to watch this Showtime series: Don Cheadle. He heads a capable cast that includes Regina Hall, Andrew Rannells and Paul Scheer.

“Black Monday” tells a fictionalized, behind-the-scenes story of the 1987 U.S. stock market crash. Cheadle plays Maurice “Mo” Monroe, a rich and wacky broker at the center of a hodgepodge group of market players. Per usual, Cheadle does not disappoint. He is such a strong actor that he creates a dynamic character with not much to go on. His performance has been deservedly singled out and is the show’s only shot at an Emmy. This nine-time Emmy nominee has yet to hear his name announced as winner, and sadly this losing streak is not likely to snap on September 22.

Ted Danson – “The Good Place” – Episode: “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”

Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in “The Good Place”

Episode Synopsis: “Eleanor recalls some forgotten events from her past.” (From iMDB)

Ted Danson is no stranger to the Emmys. For eleven years, Danson played America’s favorite womanizing, alcoholic, ex-Red Sox pitcher Sam Malone on NBC’sCheers.” During the run of this landmark series, Danson scored an Emmy nomination every year, with wins in 1991 and 1993. In a lesser performer, playing such an iconic character would have been hard to shake off. But he has managed to have a hearty television career in the years since “Cheers’” last call, appearing in such shows as CBS’sBecker” and “CSI,” and FX’sDamages,” wracking up six more Emmy nominations in the process.

Danson found his way back to NBC with the hit show “The Good Place.” In the first season he portrayed overly positive, bow-tie wearing, afterlife architect Michael. As the series has progressed, Danson’s character has become increasingly layered. As Michael’s true motives are unmasked, Danson appears to be having more fun with the role, and he and co-star Kristen Bell have an undeniable chemistry. This last season was Danson’s best yet, as he is an absolute joy as a demon in “recovery.” A far cry from “Mayday” Malone, but just as fabulous.

Michael Douglas – “The Kominsky Method” – Episode: “Chapter 1: An Actor Avoids”

Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin in “The Kominsky Method”

Episode Synopsis: “As Sandy gets to know a new student better, he puts off visiting an old friend who wants to see him. Norman copes with a difficult issue at home.” (From iMDB)

Academy Award winner Michael Douglas has found a television home on the Netflix comedy “The Kominsky Method.” This new Chuck Lorre comedy series is a bit of an odd duck in regards to storytelling. The series does not seem sure that it is a comedy, and Douglas’ performance follows suit. Aging takes center stage as both a catapult for laughs and pity. Everyone knows that getting older is challenging and takes a toll not only on the body, but also on the psyche. During “Method,” Douglas and the dryly comical Alan Arkin commiserate together.

For this year’s Emmys, Douglas has submitted the pilot episode to showcase his work. “An Actor Avoids” introduces Sandy Kominsky, a sought-after acting teacher, as he navigates the “downhill” part of life with his friend and agent Norman (Emmy nominee Arkin). From his swaggering Jack T. Colton in “Romancing the Stone” (1984) to his calculating Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” (1987), Douglas has never struggled with likability. Even though his Kominsky complains through most of the episode (and the series), he remains ever charismatic. Should this seasoned, innate Douglas trait (his father, actor Kirk Douglas, has it too) score him a win for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series? We will have to wait and see.

Bill Hader – “Barry” – Episode: “The Truth Has a Ring to It”

Bill Hader in “Barry”

Episode Synopsis: “Gene helps Barry get into character as he prepares for his big scene with Sally; Sally resolves to embrace her truth; Noho Hank prepares for a big night with his newly trained men; Fuches goes on a mission.” (From iMDB)

Bill Hader, last year’s winner in this category, is nominated again for his performance of the title character on “Barry.” HBO’s much-loved series about a hitman trying to break into the Hollywood acting scene is uproarious fun. The show has scored five acting nominations this year alone. Series stars Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, Anthony Carrigan and Sarah Goldberg are all hysterical in their perspective parts and undoubtedly deserve recognition.

But Hader, who also writes, directs and produces, is the reason the show rises above the fray. Audiences are enraptured with Barry’s story because of the vulnerability Hader conveys. He manages to strike the perfect balance of the franticness of man in over his head, but also the hopefulness that comes with being on the cusp of a better life. Despite how audiences should feel, Hader has made Barry a sympathetic character. Viewers relate to Barry’s core predicament of finding one’s nook in this chaotic world. The show may be a comedy, but Hader is well versed in the full range of human emotions. Look for a repeat win.

Eugene Levy – “Schitt’s Creek” – Episode: “Rock On!”

Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Annie Murphy and Dan Levy in “Schitt’s Creek”

Episode Synopsis: “Moira and the Jazzagals take Jocelyn out for a night at the casino, while Johnny tries to navigate an awkward conversation with Stevie about intimacy in the workplace.” (From CBC)

Since 2015, the Canadian television series “Schitt’s Creek” has been airing on Pop TV in the United States, slowly gaining fanfare. And after five seasons, the show has managed to break into the Emmy fold with four nominations, including one for Eugene Levy for his performance as Johnny Rose. Johnny and Moira (Emmy nominee Catherine O’Hara) Rose lose their fortune and are forced to move with their adult children to a town they bought as a joke years earlier.

Levy and O’Hara have a long history of appearing together in Christopher Guest films and are well-versed in the peculiar. Their history matters because in “Schitt’s Creek,” it is impossible to mention one actor without the other. Their lengthy working relationship is probably one of the reasons Levy and O’Hara are magic together on screen. They play off each other with the ease and comedic grace that can only come from years of experience. If this was a duo category, they would take the cake. A Levy win, or an O’Hara win for that matter, would be the surprise of the night. But their nominations alone will most assuredly raise awareness of this little series that everyone should be watching.


  1. Bill Hader – “Barry” – Episode: “The Truth Has a Ring to It” 
  2. Ted Danson – “The Good Place” – Episode: “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”
  3. Michael Douglas – “The Krominsky Method” – Episode: “An Actor Avoids”
  4. Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish” – Episode: “Purple Rain”
  5. Eugene Levy – “Schitt’s Creek” – Episode: “Rock On!”
  6. Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” – Episode: “365- Pilot”

WILL WIN: Bill Hader – “Barry” – Episode: “The Truth Has a Ring to It”
SHOULD WIN: Bill Hader – “Barry” – Episode: “The Truth Has a Ring to It”
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: John Goodman – “The Conners”

What do you think will win Lead Actor in a Comedy Series this year? Let us know in the comments below. 


What do you think?

Written by Jessica White

Jessica White studied film and theater at California State University, Sacramento graduating in 2009 with a B.A.. Upon graduation, she shifted her focus towards healthcare and became a dentist, graduating from the Oregon Health and Science University in 2017. She is actively serving in the United States Navy overseas, but continues to feed her passion for the visual arts, her first love.

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