Tom Wilkinson and Bob Balaban are MVPs

EntertainmentTelevisionBob BalabanHBO (tv network)Benjamin FranklinAcademy AwardsNo Country for Old Men (movie)

TOM WILKINSON had better win an Emmy this year. Me, I'd go with the leading role in a miniseries or movie nomination -- his portrayal of James Baker in HBO's "Recount" -- over the supporting one -- as Benjamin Franklin in HBO's " John Adams" -- although there's really no good reason why he couldn't win both. Playing two such disparate Americans (and Wilkinson is British for gosh sakes) should put a person in the running for some sort of congressional medal and heaven knows the man is due.

Year after year, Wilkinson gives some of the finest performances seen in television and film, including an unlikely stripper in "The Full Monty," the grieving father in "In the Bedroom" and the transgender Ruth in "Normal." Nominated for an Oscar last year for his unbelievable performance as a corporate lawyer gone mad in " Michael Clayton," he lost to " No Country for Old Men's" Javier Bardem, whose soulless killer may have been a more startling character but was much less nuanced. Even when he's got five lines as a bad guy -- in " Batman Begins" -- he's always one of the best things on the screen.

What Wilkinson deserves is not so much an Emmy as a Most Valuable Player award. He and Bob Balaban, who is also a dual nominee this year -- for the supporting role of Ben Ginsberg in "Recount" and as director of HBO's "Bernard and Doris." Balaban is also one of those actors who shows up everywhere -- the rubber-band-snapping investigator in "Absence of Malice," the cloddish American filmmaker in "Gosford Park," William Shawn in "Capote" -- and manages to quietly steal every scene he's in.

Maybe it seems like the last thing we need is another entertainment award, but when guys like Wilkinson and Balaban are walking around statueless, something's just not right.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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