One of the great mysteries in life is how Emmy voters decide who the best actor is year after year. Why are certain individuals nominated again and again, never snagging that coveted statue, while others win the award many times over?
The most glaring example of a perennial Emmy loser is Martin Sheen for his portrayal of President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing. From 1999 to 2006, Sheen was nominated six times. He managed to make Bartlet likable and human, yet invest the character with a dignity that was undeniably presidential. Still, the prize remained elusive.
More recently, stellar actors like Hugh Laurie, Steve Carell, Jon Hamm, and Michael C. Hall have fallen prey the dastardly Sheen Syndrome. 2011 marks Carell’s final shot at the comedy actor prize, having ended his run on The Office this season. It is his sixth nomination, matching Hugh Laurie’s record almost year for year.
Carell’s Michael Scott is a character who, in a less proficient actor’s hands, might have come off as unfunny and irritating. While Scott was never entirely likable, Carell made him amusing and sometimes even sympathetic. Carell shouldn’t leave the field without bringing home the gold.
Jon Hamm is currently the critics’ pick to click for the dramatic actor win (since Breaking Bad’s three-time winner, Bryan Cranston, is not eligible this time around). After four nominations and zero wins, the consensus is that this is Hamm’s year. His portrayal of the mysterious, charismatic adman, Don Draper, is moody and occasionally melodramatic, but Mad Men is that kind of show. Although the character is intense, ambitious, too attractive for his own good, and a womanizer, the audience roots for him. Certainly this has much to do with the writing and also with Hamm’s remarkable talents for making this cad an audience pleaser.
Michael C. Hall’s serial killer, Dexter, is a character who is amiable and charming, someone you’d hang out with if you didn’t know about his “dark passenger.” He makes this sociopath frightening only when he has to be, which is no easy feat. Could the reason he hasn’t won after four times at bat is because he makes it look too easy?
The same could be said for Hugh Laurie whose portrayal of Dr. Gregory House is nothing less than astonishing. For seven seasons he has made this brilliant misanthrope something more than the sum of his parts. He has managed to make House human and someone the audience truly cares about. His character is crippled, psychologically and physically, and addicted to Vicodin. As many times as House has tried to change his lot, he falls back into the same unfortunate routine.
Laurie’s masterful way with this character has kept viewers from giving up on him, which after all these years is really saying something. It seems almost criminal that after six nominations, he still has yet to claim the prize. If I had a vote that counted. it would be for Laurie, who should have won the award years ago.
This is just a small sampling of actors who've been nominated more than once, and have yet to win an Emmy. Other deserving actors were shut out of the proceedings entirely - “snubbed,” as they say. Proof that in Hollywood, as in the "real world," life just ain’t fair.