Deadline TV contributor Ray Richmond files this report:

It hasn’t happened during his first five tries, not even in 2006 when his NBC sitcom The Office earned an Emmy for top comedy series. Steve Carell was favored that year to win Lead Actor in a Comedy as well. But instead, it went to Tony Shalhoub for USA Network’s Monk. And then to Ricky Gervais for HBO’s Extras in 2007; to Alec Baldwin for NBC’s 30 Rock in 2008 and 2009; and last year, to Jim Parsons for CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Carell was nominated each time. Which brings us to 2011, and Carell’s last opportunity to bring home the Emmy as the doofus boss Michael Scott, in a role originally played by Gervais on a series originally conceived in Britain. Will this be Steve’s year? If it’s based solely on merit, yes, according to The Office showrunner and fellow performer Paul Lieberstein who says, “He certainly deserves it. I don’t think anyone on television has done as much as Steve has for The Office. No one has consistently driven both comedy and heart the way he has from moment to moment on this show. He can draw you in with tears and, at the same time, make you laugh with a joke. You can go to him as the biggest buffoon and the smartest guy in the room on the same page and make you believe both of them. He’s just so enormously talented that he has my vote.”

Much depends on episode selection and his acting in it—not perceived past slights. The presumption is that he’s submitting either: his proposal to Holly (Amy Ryan); or, the super-sized farewell entitled “Goodbye, Michael,” which showed Carell giving a nuanced, even subdued, performance. Also in his favor is that he’s well-liked within the industry for being a good soldier and an upstanding guy who fulfilled his full contractual obligation to The Office, despite emerging as a feature lead years before. He no doubt could have gotten out of his TV deal early if he’d pushed it. But he stayed the course and did the right thing. That loyalty can’t help but work in his favor right now.

So he has some momentum on his side, and certainly much sentiment, and maybe even a little embarrassment in the fact that he hasn’t been honored with an Emmy yet. This character he’s playing is one for the ages, and the TV Academy is sensitive to the possibility that yet another generation will look back in disbelief that Steve Carell, like, say, Jackie Gleason, never won TV’s top prize for that. But the voters are notorious for refusing to buy into that whole “last chance” idea, no matter how overdue a performer may be perceived. John Goodman was nominated seven consecutive times for Roseanne without winning, and didn’t even earn a nomination for that sitcom’s final two seasons. Jerry Seinfeld was nominated in vain during five consecutive years for Seinfeld, including for the show’s widely watched wind-up. And Martin Sheen received six
nominations over the course of The West Wing and never won, not even in the show’s much-buzzed swan song.

Standing in Carell’s way are a long list of competitors, especially Baldwin and Parsons— winners of the prize in the lead acting category the past three years—because the TV Academy has a tendency to re-honor previous honorees, underscored by Shalhoub’s three triumphs for Monk. If anyone is seen as this Emmy category favorite at this early stage, it would probably be reigning champ Parsons, pending the quality of his acting in the submitted episode. Then again, as one Academy member readily admits, “I’ll be voting for Steve this time, and I say that before even seeing his submission. And I’ll bet I’m not the only one who feels that way.”