WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: One needn’t be a fan of America’s pastime to enjoy Azaria’s work as the titular drunken, drug-addled baseball announcer. We’ve yet to tire of Brockmire’s debaucherous antics, thanks in part to the pathos he brings to the role. Look no further than his delivery of a hate-filled eulogy at his father’s funeral, or his ability to wax poetic about America’s transition from a “boob nation” to an “ass nation,” and you’ll understand why Azaria is part of the Emmy discussion.
TED DANSON, THE GOOD PLACE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: We’ve watched Danson on TV for decades now… but we’ve never seen him have this much fun. He was like a kid in a candy store in Season 2 of NBC’s afterlife comedy, as Michael gleefully toyed with Eleanor and company before eventually joining forces with them (Team Cockroach!) and forming authentic friendships with the people he once tortured. Leave it to an all-time TV great to give us a deliciously complex character: an immortal demon who’s also deeply human.
DONALD GLOVER, ATLANTA
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: As aspiring music manager Earn, Glover is often Atlanta‘s unflappable straight man, playing it cool while a never-ending parade of crazy people walk through his life. But Glover found spots to go deeper in Season 2, as Earn took a hard look at his own shortcomings. That’d be enough to earn him a nod, but his uncredited work in the standout “Teddy Perkins” episode — unrecognizable under layers of makeup as the supremely creepy title character — absolutely cinched it.
BILL HADER, BARRY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Not surprisingly, the SNL alum was plenty funny in HBO’s freshman comedy, playing the titular hitman who discovers an endearingly goofy love of acting during an L.A. mission. But Hader revealed an undercurrent of sadness inside Barry, too, flexing serious dramatic muscle as Barry grappled with the deadly consequences of his day job. The whole show was a tricky balancing act, but Hader’s versatile lead performance held it all together — and left us eager for an encore.
DYLAN MCDERMOTT, LA TO VEGAS
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Having hit the jackpot with the role of cheesetastic Captain Dave, McDermott went all in, creating a character who was so giddily goofy, he bordered on caricature. But the miracle of his performance — and the reason Emmy voters should take note — is that it wasn’t just silly. On a dime, he could rein it in and make us care for Dave as much as laugh at him.
CHRIS MELONI, HAPPY!
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Performances don’t get any go-for-broke-r than Meloni’s as hard-drinking hitman Nick Sax. Whether Syfy’s bizarro comic-book adaptation called for his embittered alter ego to befriend a cheerful imaginary unicorn or endure the ultimate violation, Meloni went there — and beyond — with such fearlessness that Emmy voters would have to be as insane as the show itself not to recognize his work.