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Fewer Grumbles About Daytime Emmy Voting

Changes fix some flaws in the system 2/13/2005 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Until recently, one of daytime's biggest headaches was the Emmy
nomination process itself: Soap stars and producers didn't think the process
worked.

Until 2003, the cast and crew of each soap determined who received an
Emmy nomination. But critics of the system believed that cast-heavy shows
garnered the most nominations simply based on their numbers of voters,
effectively creating a form of bloc voting. Actors then voted for nominated
peers, and those with the most votes were part of the final Emmy ballot.

“The large shows had the advantage,” says a West Coast publicist.
“It seemed to be a popularity contest about which actor got the most votes to
be in a position to win an Emmy.”

The grumbling grew loud enough to force the National Academy of
Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) to change the nomination process. Now
each soap initiates its own voting, with the top two vote-getters in each
acting category becoming that show's entry for an Emmy nod. Those actors then
send 30-minute reels of their work to a judge's panel of NATAS members, as
well as cast members from each of the 10 soaps. Votes are cast for the best
five performances, and those actors become the Daytime Emmy nominees.

“It's always been controversial how nominees, and ultimately
winners, were chosen,” the publicist adds. “I don't think you can find a
system that pleases everyone.”

While no show can now dominate the Emmy ballot, that doesn't mean
that, once the envelope is open, there isn't a groan of outrage or gasp of
disbelief.

“There have been some odd choices,” another well-placed publicist
points out. “Sometimes, you're left shaking your head.”

Soap fans till talk about All My
Children
diva Susan Lucci's 1999 win, after 19 futile attempts to
secure the golden prize. She may be soap's most recognizable face, but other
soap stars have been underwhelmed by her acting chops.

Good reels and good gaffes

Some explain her win as the result of a great tape. “She had a good
reel that year. She deserved the award,” says publicist Thom De Lorenzo,
whose client Heather Tom (One Life To Live
and The Young and the Restless) has two
statues. “Susan should have won, if only because she was a
lady-in-waiting.”

Technical gaffes in Emmy history have also provided their fair share of
jaw-dropping moments. Five years ago, when The Bold
& the Beautiful
stars Justin Torkildsen and Adrienne Frantz
presented the lead-actress award, they called out fellow castmate Susan
Flannery's name. But daytime talk diva (and Emmy winner) Rosie O'Donnell,
who stood backstage with co-host Lucci, was certain she had heard Lucci's
name. She urged the All My Children star to
sprint on stage to accept her award. The orchestra didn't help matters when
it began playing the AMC theme song. Even a
stage manager was directing Lucci to the pulpit. Fortunately, Flannery got to
the Emmy first, but Lucci's awkward moment was caught on camera and seen
during the broadcast.

The award Y&R didn't win

Some gaffes occur offstage. When Y&R's writing team heard its name called in
1986, the thrill spilled over into the streets of Manhattan following the show,
recalls head writer Jack Smith. “We partied all night. We walked the streets
of New York, holding our Emmys high.”

The next morning, after a night without sleep, Smith got a phone call
from then-head writer and multiple Emmy winner Bill Bell. “He told me it was
all a mistake, that the writing award really belonged to the team at
Guiding Light,” Smith recalls. “I
thought Bill was joking.” He wasn't, and GL was presented its award privately, away from the
glare of the lights, cameras and applause the writers deserved.

But Smith kept the statue anyway. “It's not inscribed, but it
hangs—upside down—in my home.”

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