Emmy episode analysis: Dev Patel (Modern Love) in ‘Cupid’

Dev Patel earned his first career Emmy nomination last month in Best Comedy Guest Actor for his role on the Amazon anthology series “Modern Love.” In his nominated episode, “When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist,” he plays Joshua, the developer of a dating app with a complicated romantic history of his own. Will the first time be the charm for the British actor at these awards?

“Cupid” is a standalone 30-minute rom-com in which Joshua is interviewed by a reporter, Julie (Catherine Keener), about the launch of his app. At the end of their interview, she asks him if he himself has ever been in love, which leads him to tell her the story of his relationship with Emma (Caitlin McGee). We see their love story in flashbacks, including the moment when they broke up after Emma confessed that she cheated on him. But Joshua eventually realizes that he’s still in love with her, and after Julie’s article is published, Emma seeks him out and they reunite.

So is this episode a winner? Let’s consider the pros and cons:

SEEComplete list of 2020 Emmys episode submissions revealed

PROS

The benefit of being nominated for an anthology is that Patel gets to be the leading man of his episode, playing out a complete character and story arc full of empathy, humor, heartbreak and reconciliation. Other actors in his category don’t get to tell an entire story.

“Saturday Night Live” is always a force to be reckoned with in this category, having won five times since 2009, but that sketch comedy has three nominees (Adam Driver, Eddie Murphy and Brad Pitt), so there’s a chance they could split the vote, opening the door for Patel.

Patel is only 30, but he has already developed significant industry cred, starring in Best Picture Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) when he was a teenager, then earning an Oscar nomination of his own for “Lion” (2016).

The actor plays the title role in “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” which premiered in the US on Aug. 28 while Emmy voting was still underway. So he could get an extra boost from the positive notices that film has been getting.

SEE2020 Emmy nominations list: All the nominees for the 72nd Emmy Awards

CONS

Patel is off-screen for a large stretch of his episode that focuses on his co-star Keener’s storyline. And when your episode is only 30 minutes long (compared to the 90-minute episodes of “SNL” he’s up against), every minute counts.

This is an understated performance up against “SNL” hosts Driver and Murphy, who get to play multiple broad comic characters in their sketches. Might his subtlety be overlooked in favor of the belly-laugh performances of those rivals?

Patel is the only Emmy nomination for “Modern Love,” which indicates more limited support from the television academy compared to “SNL” (15 nominations) and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (20 nominations), for which Luke Kirby contends again after winning last year. It’s possible this anthology series will fall under some voters’ radar.

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