This Year, New Rules & New Faces

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

If the buzz is right, two never-before-nominated shows could walk away with the big awards at the Emmys on Sunday night. “Grey’s Anatomy” is expected to win for best drama series, and the bets are on “The Office” to win for best comedy. In other words, after all the grumbling about this year’s rule changes, there may actually be some new faces on stage.

The Emmys, broadcast this year by NBC on Sunday at 8 p.m., have always suffered from a case of déjà-vu: Because television shows run for years, the same shows and actors get nominated again and again.This year, in an effort to give lower-profile shows a chance, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Emmys, changed the nomination procedure.

Instead of simply choosing the five nominees in each category by a popular vote of each academy peer group, the academy used the vote to narrow the field to 10 or 15 candidates (depending on the category), then had a committee watch and rate an episode of each show. The ratings determined the final nominees. (The change applied only to the top six categories: best comedy series, best drama series, leading actor and actress in a comedy and in a drama.)

The nominations didn’t seem to please anyone. Fans of “Gilmore Girls” had hoped that Lauren Graham would finally get an Emmy nod, but she was left out in the cold. “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” both nominated last year, were also snubbed.

In a category to which the new procedure did not apply — “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie” — Ellen Burstyn was nominated for a performance, in the HBO film “Mrs. Harris,” that was either 9- or 14-seconds long, depending on whom you ask.

But unless Ms. Burstyn wins — she’s up against a fellow cast member, the octogenarian Cloris Leachman, who currently holds the record for most Emmys (nine) — these mini-scandals will soon be overshadowed by the actual outcome of the races.

In any case, said Tom O’Neil, an editor at, the Los Angeles Times’ awards site, the new rules are not to blame for any show not being nominated. If anything, the new rules just put more responsibility on the shows themselves to pick good episodes to submit.

“This year was an epidemic outbreak of the Susan Lucci disease, where everybody was handing in lousy stuff and shocked they weren’t nominated,” Mr. O’Neil said. (Ms. Lucci, a star of “All My Children,” was nominated 18 times before she won a Daytime Emmy.)

Ms. Burstyn never would have been nominated, Mr. O’Neil added, if the new rules had applied to her category. In the future, he said, he expects the academy to expand the rules to other races.

The academy’s vice president for awards, John Leverence, said of future policy changes that would avert another Burstyn-gate: “The awards committee and the board of governors will definitely want to take a look at that. But it’s still in play.”

Although it’s easy to see the Emmys as a poor cousin to the Oscars, typically attracting less than half the number of viewers, Mr. O’Neil argued that the Emmys actually have more influence on the fate of the winning shows than the Oscars have on movies.

“While you don’t have the clear, automatic box-office payoff, you just look at the low-rated shows that the Emmy has saved historically,” he said, citing “Cheers,””All in the Family,” “Hill Street Blues,” “The Practice,” and “Arrested Development,” the last of which was saved from cancellation twice by Emmy wins, although it was axed this year.

“You look at the shows the Emmy has saved and translate it into syndication dollars –– we’re talking billions,” Mr. O’Neil said.

“Arrested” is nominated again for best comedy series; if it wins, the show could possibly be picked up by Showtime, as has been rumored in the past, and resuscitated. Lisa Kudrow is up for leading actress in a comedy for her cancelled HBO series, “The Comeback.” If she wins, “I could see ‘The Comeback’ making a comeback,” Mr. O’Neil said.

Mr. O’Neil, whose online commentary has a reasonable amount of influence in the industry, said that he will advise the academy to, in the future, require shows to submit more than one episode to the panels — to protect them against their own poor judgment in the selection process. He’s also in favor of at-home judging, to give the panelists more time to reflect before doing their rankings. (Now, the panelists are gathered in one place to watch the shows and make their judgments.)

Although “Grey’s Anatomy” is widely expected to win the drama award, some prognosticators see a possible upset by “The West Wing,” which ended its sevenyear run this spring. That would be a first in one sense: No departing drama series has ever won the big award. In the other categories, Denis Leary is expected to win leading actor in a drama, for his role in “Rescue Me,” and Steve Carrell is the favorite for leading actor in a comedy for “The Office.”

For leading actress in a drama, forecasts are divided between Frances Conroy (on “Six Feet Under”) and Allison Janney (already a four-time Emmy winner for her role on “The West Wing”). Leading actress in a comedy is expected to go to either Ms. Kudrow or Jane Kaczmarek (for “Malcolm in the Middle”).

The awards show should offer plenty of its own comedy. Conan O’Brien is hosting, and presenters include Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Bernie Mac, besides the usual “Desperate Housewives” and “Sopranos” stars.

Those interested in trashy behavior inside celebrity families can watch closely to see if the former “Beverly Hills 90210” star Tori Spelling joins her mother, Candy, at the awards ceremony, which will feature a tribute to Tori’s father, the late producer Aaron Spelling. Candy undercut Tori’s plan to produce and host a tribute on ABC by not releasing clips of his shows. Instead, she gave them to NBC for the Emmy broadcast. According to People, Candy and her son, Randy, will be at the ceremony. It isn’t clear whether the spurned Tori will be with them.

The New York Sun

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