'Modern Family' faces Emmy dilemma

Cast must decide who will be submitted for lead, supporting

The evergreen Emmy question about how to deal with an ensemble is coming to a head on ABC's "Modern Family," whose cast is nearing a decision on who, if anyone, will be submitted as a lead actor and supporting.

With the April 30 deadline approaching, insiders say four scenarios are being mulled: Either all six adult regulars (Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill, Sofia Vergara and Eric Stonestreet) will compete as leads; all will go supporting; everyone will go supporting except O'Neill, who as the only major pre-"Family" star could separate himself as lead; or Burrell and Bowen, as the show's "traditional" parents, will go lead and the rest supporting.

It's a tough choice, and recent Emmy history offers little guidance.

"Friends" is perhaps the last true ensemble comedy to break out like "Modern Family" has. Its cast members initially were nominated only in the supporting category; Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer picked up noms in 1995, with Kudrow winning in 1998. But in 2002, co-stars Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc squared off for lead actor; both were nominated but lost to Ray Romano. Perry then stepped back to supporting while LeBlanc stayed in lead; neither ever won.

But when fellow "Friends" co-star Jennifer Aniston moved to lead in 2002 after a pair of supporting noms, she brought home the Emmy.

Even if the "Modern Family" cast opts to run against each other, multiple noms and even a win are possible. In 2005, "Desperate Housewives" scored three lead actress (comedy) nominees in Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman; Huffman ended up winning.

Same goes for supporting. In 2002, "The West Wing" fielded four of the six contenders in supporting actor (drama), and the show's John Spencer won. In 2004, "Sex and the City" fielded three of the five nominees for supporting actress (comedy), and Cynthia Nixon won for the show. Between 2002-05 "Everybody Loves Raymond" co-stars Peter Boyle and Brad Garrett paired up in the supporting actor (comedy) lineup, with Garrett winning three of the four times.

More recently, however, "30 Rock" co-stars Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer faced off in the supporting actor (comedy) category last year but came up empty. Also last year, "SNL" co-stars Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig both earned supporting actress (comedy) noms, but neither won.

How will "Modern Family" go about it? The producers are leaving it to the cast members to decide.