‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ guest spot could win Hank Azaria Emmy #7

Hank Azaria has built his career on two pillars: as a voice artist on “The Simpsons” and as a guest on a slew of hit shows from “Friends” to “Ray Donovan.” And with his recent turn on the fifth and final season of Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Azaria has delivered another masterclass in guest-acting.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” follows Rachel Brosnahan as the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel, who embarks on a career in stand-up comedy after her husband (Michael Zegen) leaves her. Over the show’s five seasons, she experiences the ups and downs of said career with the help of her manager, Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein). Toward the end of season five, Midge is closer to seeing her career truly take off as she works in TV after she is hired to write for “The Gordon Ford Show” in the season premiere. And that’s where Azaria comes in.

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Azaria plays comic TV actor Danny Stevens who, in episode seven of season five (“A House Full of Extremely Lame Horses”), guest stars on “The Gordon Ford Show” (a guest-actor guest-acting on a show by playing a guest-actor guest-acting on a show). We get to see Azaria become a TV star of the 1960s — and Azaria relishes the opportunity. He has a ball playing the character and uses his versatility and comedic chops to full effect here.

This is the only episode he appears in but it’s a vital role. His character offers Midge a writing job, which leads to Gordon Ford (Reid Scott) raising Midge’s salary to match the male staff’s. It’s another memorable role for Azaria, as critics have noted.

Sarene Leeds (Vulture) wrote: “The first opportunity comes courtesy of popular sitcom star Danny Stevens (Hank Azaria), who tries poaching Midge after she single-handedly coaches him before a funny-yet-poignant appearance on ‘The Gordon Ford Show.'”

Mary Littlejohn (TV Fanatic) explained: “Hank Azaria, as Danny Stevens, had a much heftier role. While he leaned slightly into the caricature of the comedians of the era, he balanced out with some real humanity in his interview with Gordon, his appraisal of Midge’s talents, and the surprise end credits sequence.”

Christian Angeles (The Work Print) observed: “This episode also features a surprise cameo with Hank Azaria, who plays TV star, Danny Stevens. Kudos to Hank Azaria for reminding us what ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ does so well: Emotion.”

Our odds currently have him just outside of our predicted six Best Comedy Guest Actor nominees: Adrien Brody (“Poker Face”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Abbott Elementary”), Pedro Pascal (“Saturday Night Live”), Luke Kirby (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Steve Martin and Martin Short (“Saturday Night Live”), and Nathan Lane (“Only Murders in the Building”).

But those half dozen fellows better watch out for Azaria, who is a king of guest appearances and has reaped four bids to date. Two came for comedy — one in 1998 for “Mad About You” and one in 2003 for “Friends.” And two came for drama — both for “Ray Donovan.” He won in 2016 and was nominated again in 2017. He’s a beloved guest actor who has found success in both sides of the Emmys — comedy and drama — so don’t count him out here. He’s got proven Emmy’s credentials in this category.

In fact, he’s got proven credentials full stop — he’s a decorated performer with six Emmy wins to his name. Along with that “Ray Donovan” victory, he also won Best TV Movie/Limited Series Supporting Actor in 2000 for “Tuesdays With Morrie” as well as four awards for Best Voice-Over Performance for “The Simpsons” (in 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2015). This is a tried-and-tested performer who Emmy voters love. Underestimate his chances here at your peril.

What only boosts those chances is the fact that this is “Maisel’s” final season. The show has been awarded 20 Emmys so far (including a Best Comedy Series win in 2018), so voters clearly love this series. They will want to take this one last chance to reward a show that they have enjoyed so much over the past five years. We expect it will get nominated in multiple categories, including Best Comedy Series, Best Comedy Actress for Brosnahan, Best Comedy Supporting Actress for Borstein, Best Comedy Supporting Actor for Tony Shalhoub, and Best Comedy Guest Actor for Azaria’s competitor, Kirby. If voters do indeed give this show one last dance, Azaria could get swept along for the ride.

You might think that Kirby being up for the same category might hurt his chances, but that’s not the case. In every one of the last 10 years, two or more actors have been nominated for the same show in this category. Sometimes, multiple shows receive multiple bids in this category.Recent examples include James Lance and Sam Richardson in 2022 for “Ted Lasso;” Kirby (winner) and Rufus Sewell in 2019 for “Maisel;” and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bryan Cranston in 2018 for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “Saturday Night Live” regularly reaps multiple bids in this category, too. Emmy voters aren’t afraid to double up here, so Azaria could benefit from this trend.

Plus, the role itself helps. Filmmakers and TV creators love things about themselves — and Azaria plays a TV legend. They might not be able to resist an actor playing the sort of TV star that so many of these voters likely grew up watching. The nostalgia of the whole thing alone may be enough to entice them. There are so many avenues for Azaria to get nominated, it’s odd he isn’t higher up in our odds chart. If he does get in, it will be the least shocking “upset” of all time. Watch out.

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