Though there's often a drought of exceptional leading actor performances out there, with the ever-expanding onslaught that is cable, options are everywhere, and these were my favorite of the lead gents:
#1: Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights - Though NBC was hesitant to give this show its proper full run, thank goodness for DirecTV's confidence in this quality drama, easily one of the all-time best. Sporting magnificent chemistry with on-screen wife Connie Britton and a sneakily soft-hearted approach to his coaching style, coach Eric could've been one-note, but Chandler made him a father, husband, and mentor, among many other facets. For me, he scores his second win in this category in a row!
#2: Steve Carell, The Office - It's frankly amazing that NBC was able to hang on to the burgeoning star for so many years, but thank goodness we got seven seasons of Michael Scott. The Office boasts a great supporting cast, but Carell has always been the leader of the pack. His timing is obviously fantastic, and his swan song, namely his sunset walk with Holly Flax and the final Dundees (tear), made for one great send-off.
#3: John Krasinski, The Office - The poor man is one of the losingest people ever at my humble little awards show (been nominated in this category the past seven years in a row sans win), but that's not to say that Jim Halpert hasn't brought the even-tempered, subdued humor week after week, keeping the often over-the-top Dunder Mifflin antics a little grounded in the madness. And he's taken the reins of leading the cast without Carell quite nicely. Maybe next year Jimmy!
#4: Ed O'Neill, Modern Family - His Jay Pritchett serves a similar function as Krasinski's - amidst the mayhem of the big performers around him, he's the quiet force that manages to pull out the most intelligent and most even-mannered laughs consistently. He's come a long way from the hammy, goofball Al Bundy, and I couldn't be happier. And anyone that can make his May-December on-screen marriage seem so totally natural is a talent indeed.
#5: Oliver Platt, The Big C - Though it's unclear what his role will be in season three of the show, Platt managed to take a character that could've been easily one-note - the sideline husband to the central, cancer-stricken character - and made it an interesting take on real-life struggles of today. The writers blessed him with a job-loss storyline, and he handled it with great realism.
#6: Lucas Neff, Raising Hope - A nominee last year, he just barely missed the mark for 2011. In one of the best casts on TV (that isn't even getting watched, no less) he's the central character, the doltish lug who's tryst with a serial killer left him and his white trash family with a bundle of joy to raise. Jimmy Chance is sweet-natured and well-meaning, and he's got one of the best and most buyable on-screen parental relationships with mom and dad Bert and Virginia.
#7: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory - Though the show has exploded in popularity the last few years, Big Bang had a little dip in 2010 and even early 2011. But an infusion of great new material and a resurgence in the brilliant cast's performing has made Parsons a great new version of himself playing Sheldon Cooper. His interactions with castmates Mayim Bialik and, as always, Kaley Cuoco, totally make the show for me.
#8: Sean Bean, Game of Thrones - It's indeed hard not to talk about the character without incredible amounts of spoiler alerts, but I'll do my best. Ned Stark is such a stock-seeming character amidst a cast of dozens of medieval players. But as the family man with an even head and a good heart, he's the only one offsetting the conniving, evil tendencies of the people around him. It's great to see Bean, who had an evil sideline role himself in Lord of the Rings, play the hero, and he does it so well.
#9: Damian Lewis, Homeland - Though Claire Danes often owns the show, it's surprising how believable Brit Lewis is as the mysterious American soldier she's investigating. From bad decision to worse decision, he's taken a ride by Danes's Carrie, and the sinister secrets hiding behind his eyes are made evident by the nuanced performance he gives. The leads in this show work wonders with the great teleplays, and Lewis is a big part of that.
#10: Will Arnett, Up All Night - Though it's been written off as a throwaway one-season sitcom, a supremely talented cast makes what could've been a tedious concept at least at times uproariously funny. And it's arguably only gotten better as the 2011-12 year has progressed. In a breath of fresh air, Gob Bluth himself plays Chris as a decent, happy, loving human being - which is kind of a departure from Arnett's usual tactless schemers. He and Applegate make a great TV couple, and I think that you all should consider tuning in to see why.