New Emmy Gripes

Revamped process gets poor reviews

The 2006 Emmy nominations, shaped by a new voting system, brought some long-desired new names into the mix but did so at the expense of some favorites, leaving many in the industry shaking their heads.

With the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences often panned for honoring the same shows and people year after year, a new step has been added to the process in an effort to infuse some new blood into the awards. The Academy instituted “Blue Ribbon Panels” to whittle down an initial list of top vote-getters to the five final nominees in the major categories (see Editorial, p. 38).

One of the biggest shocks was the omission of last year's top drama, Lost, which won this year's Golden Globe for Best Drama and was named both Best Show and Best Drama in the recent B&C Critics Poll.

“How is Lost not nominated?” wonders Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs, which was nominated in the comedy division. “It's the one show that not only every TV writer is talking about but every person in America is talking about. To not even be nominated is just ridiculous.”

Many in Hollywood were mystified that Hugh Laurie, star of Fox's House, which itself was nominated in the Drama category, wasn't nominated in the Lead Actor in a Drama category. He won a Golden Globe this year for Best Actor in the drama category.

“I have no answer,” says House creator David Shore. “He was as close to a lock as I thought anyone was in any category. This show is all him, so I just don't get it.”

Cancelled shows also provided many nominees. Among them: Arrested Development for Outstanding Comedy, The West Wing for Outstanding Drama, Stockard Channing of Out of Practice for Actress in a Comedy and Geena Davis of Commander in Chief for Actress in a Drama.

The changes left some wondering whether the new system has damaged the reputation of the awards.

“If they wanted to prove they could shake things up, they certainly got their wish, but at what cost to the awards' credibility?” asks Matt Roush, senior television critic for TV Guide. “When you look at who isn't nominated, I think there is a sense that these awards will be not particularly meaningful or will have lost some of their luster this year.”

Scrubs' Lawrence thinks the Academy needs to find a middle ground between the old system and the new.

“The old thing to complain about was that the perennial powerhouses keep their spots and every year it never changes, and the new thing was supposed to be that new people from smaller shows would get in,” he says. “Now the problem is, neither is completely right. There needs to be a balance of the two.”

ATAS Chairman/CEO Dick Askin says the overwhelming response has been positive. “I think it did cause a lot of surprises and it did shake up the process, which was part of the intention. We are certainly on the right path. We will be continuing to look at the process to see if we can refine it, and we are always trying to make it a more relevant and better process.” He notes that, two years ago, about 20% of nominees in major categories were new to the category. This year, he says, that number was closer to 50%.

House's Shore says that, no matter how nominees are chosen, there will always be controversy. “They have my sympathy in trying to change it up.”