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New Ways to Win

Daytime Emmys change categories, launch online voting this year 3/28/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern

You can just about bet on this: There will be some new faces winning Daytime Emmy Awards this June.

Maybe that would have happened anyway, but it’s especially likely now because the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) this year is changing the nomination process and adding categories it never had before.

Probably the biggest change is NATAS’ new Web portal at www.daytimeemmys.tv. There, the Academy has automated most of the nominating and voting process.

Judging for the Daytime Emmys—which will air live on ABC from Hollywood’s Kodak Theater on June 20 and will be produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss’ White Cherry Entertainment—started March 24 and runs through April 11.

To be considered, producers submit DVDs of their show’s chosen episode to the Academy, which then will distribute the DVDs to the panel most knowledgeable about the category. Nominations will be announced live on ABC’s The View on April 30.

EMMY GETS A COMPUTER

In years past, nominations were made by paper ballot, which went out to all members of the Academy. Voters checked off their selections, but were not required to have seen any particular show before voting.

“That paper ballot was not necessarily based on anyone’s knowledge of the industry or the category,” says Brent Stanton, NATAS’ executive director.

That’s all changed. “What we’ve created this year is one blue-ribbon round.” Stanton says. “Generally, people love it because it means their material is being viewed from the very beginning of the voting process. Some programming that previously may not have even been known by the judges can now get viewed and nominated.”

In the past, once the paper ballots were returned, the top five vote-getters in any category became the nominees. From there, nominated shows entered video tapes or DVDs to be watched by select blue-ribbon panels, comprised of people who worked in those categories. The panels would then select the finalwinner.

This year, much of this process is automated online and then streamlined. “Academy members can volunteer online to become a judge,” says Stanton. “They are then assigned to panels. They receive their DVDs, which they can watch at home, and they can access their ballotsonline.”

The panels, which are comprised of at least 20 people each, then vote. They come up with five nominees; the top vote-getter wins.

Stanton would like to have the entire process conducted online as early as next year, with judges watching entries over the broadband Internet, but at the moment not enough of the Academy’s members have the technology to make that work. “We wouldn’t want to exclude people who didn’t have adequate bandwidth or availability to view the episodes, but it’s growing,” he says.

MAKING AWARDS MAKE SENSE

NATAS also has added two new categories that the daytime TV community has received enthusiastically. The court genre finally is getting its own category after having to enter for years under special-class programming, which put shows like CBS’ Judge Judy up against NBC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, making for a strange comparison at best. And there was really no category in which to place content like TruTV’s plethora of court and legal shows.

“There are a number of well-known figures that have emerged as pretty serious players in the judge world,” says Peter Price, NATAS’ chairman. “Our national awards committee watched these important shows emerge and decided they were deserving of a bright light in their own category.”

Daytime’s judges couldn’t agree more. “I think it’s about time that they created a category for the most dominant television genre in daytime,” says Judge Greg Mathis of Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis. “I think it’s important that all of these great shows are rewarded.”

“The mystery to me is why it wasn’t a category to begin with,” says Judge Marilyn Milian of People’s Court from Warner Bros. “People’s Court created this whole genre almost 25 years ago with Judge Wapner, and it’s been a staple of daytime ever since.

“An Emmy is one of the greatest honors you can get in television.” Milian says. “I would like to win one on behalf of Stu Billet, the creator of People’s Court. Without him, there would be no other court shows.”

Even the genre’s doyenne, Judge Judy Sheindlin, has gone without an Emmy for the 12 years she’s been on the air even though Judge Judy has been nominated each year it’s been on and is the only syndicated daytime show—of any sort—whose ratings this year have improved over a year ago.

“I have always been glad that we were nominated, no matter what category we were nominated in,” says Randy Douthit, Judge Judy’s executive producer. “I’m delighted that we have the new category. It might give us a better chance.”

The Academy also decided to split talk shows into two categories, entertainment and information, after Stanton attended some behind-the-scenes panels last year featuring CBS’ Dr. Phil.

“We wanted to define the production differences between the shows,” Stanton says. “There are shows that are geared toward pure entertainment, like Ellen, and then there are those like Dr. Phil that have a very different production value and a whole system of follow-up in place.”

“We don’t really do celebrity interviews. We don’t do variety. Dr. Phil certainly can’t dance and that would be a frightening thing for all to see,” says Carla Pennington, the show’s executive producer. “We are really helping people so the bar is set a little bit higher for us in terms of our responsibility for all of our guests. Our production staff goes into a long pre-interview process with each potential guest, and they get clearance from that guest’s therapist if they are in therapy.”

It will be up to each show to determine which category it belongs in, and that isn’t as easy as it sounds. CBS’ Rachael Ray, which is entertaining but also features recipes, food tips and chats with stars, is hard to categorize. In the end, Executive Producer Janet Annino says, the show decided to enter itself in the entertainment category. “Every show’s got a recipe, but it’s entertaining, too. It’s not cut-and-dried stuff,” Annino says. “We’re sort of a hybrid,”

STRIKE FALLOUT LINGERS

There’s a possibility some lingering effects of the Writers Guild of America strike might be in evidence with the nominations or awards. Some writers weren’t pleased that Ellen DeGeneres went back to taping her talk show shortly after the strike began. She’s a WGA member but was hired as a performer, she argued. Also, a handful of writers for some soap operas apparently went back to work during the strike, and a handful of non-union writers filled in at some shows. If DeGeneres or a few significant soaps are snubbed during the nomination or voting process, that will show how much the strike divided union members.

On the opposite end, one show that will be basking in glory is Disney-ABC’s Live With Regis and Kelly. Regis Philbin (first with Kathie Lee Gifford and now Kelly Ripa) has been a daytime staple for 25 years, and at 76 will have to decide soon whether to re-up at ABC. He will receive the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award this year.

“Regis really is unique,” says Price. “It’s quite a challenge in our business to remain contemporary, lively and well-watched over a couple of decades. Regis always feels modern and he never seems out of place. He’s the perfect man for this new age.”

March