Oh, the woe of Emmy injustices

Jun 3, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Michael Seth Starr’s warm and rewarding “Art Carney: A Biography” is just out in paperback. As a parting shot, Starr notes that although Carney won six Emmys over the years for his great television work with Jackie Gleason and others, “Art’s failure to be inducted into the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame has been a glaring omission in need of remedy.”
Yeah well, welcome to the Academy-“Glaring Omission Our Specialty.” Jack Paar’s not in the Hall of Fame either, which is just achingly stupid of them. Maybe they bear grudges, for whatever reason; they probably still hate any great television produced in New York rather than Hollywood. Both Grant Tinker and Norman Lear, two huge heroes of mine, have chaired the group that picks the Hall of Famers, so shame on them too.
Of course, when you mention the Emmys, you’re opening the door to so many different arguments, complaints, screw-ups and irritants that it’s like shooting a hole in an airplane at 30,000 feet. Ballots for the 2002 Emmy awards go out this week. One wonders whether maybe it would be better to just sort of forget about them this year-just send them all to Florida and let them get lost. After all, the broadcast networks didn’t exactly dazzle the nation with bold ingenuity this season. No, not exactly.
Winston who?
Maybe they should just send all the Emmys to HBO and be done with it and spare everybody the rigmarole of mailing in ballots. HBO pretty much blew everybody away again and they didn’t even have a new set of “Sopranoses” to do it with. That Churchill film, “The Gathering Storm” (which may have aired too late in the year to make the Emmy deadline), was better than 90 percent of the theatrical movies released during the same period, except that what big studio now would ever bankroll a movie about Winston Churchill-especially one that ends as World War II begins? Movies are for kids. HBO movies are for adults.
Anyway, the Emmys. You know, now that I brought up the subject I just want to avoid it. It’s just so irksome, and who needs more irking? Some of us are irked to hilt. One of the big Emmy questions in recent years has been how will they manage to give John Larroquette his annual statuette when he doesn’t even have a series on (for a change)? They could always give him an Emmy for, oh, going down to the end of the driveway and picking up the morning paper. Or for ordering dinner at the Palm, or something. Actually, he probably did a guest shot on somebody else’s show, and if he did, odds are he’ll get at least a nomination for that. The Academy just loves John Larroquette.
To the moon, John
He won at least as many Emmys as Carney did. Meanwhile, Carney’s illustrious boss Jackie Gleason never did win an Emmy in competition, did he? I guess he just never reached the towering heights of brilliance achieved by John Larroquette.
Of course, you don’t have to go back that far to find Emmy injustices. They’re annual events. Like in acting categories: If there’s a British nominee in there, chances are very good that he or she will win. (And the chances are equally good that the winner will not be present at the ceremony to accept the prize. In England they don’t give a squat about the American Emmys and who can blame them, so why keep sending our Emmys over there?)
We all know acting comes more easily to the British. They have had more time to practice. It’s always galling when four American stars have acted their hearts out in various movies or miniseries and justifiably been nominated and then the envelope’s opened and, thud, it goes to the Brit. If the British nominee’s got a title, Sir this or Dame that, well then, it’s an absolute certainty they’ll get an Emmy to go with it.
Can’t have no title without no Emmy.
Now if Albert Finney won for “Gathering Storm,” that would make sense; that would be merited. But usually, just the presence of a British name on the ballot sends the Emmy voters into some kind of fit, and they can’t wait to check that box, or “tick” it, as the British say. The Emmys are for excellence in American television and it’s not being nationalistic to say that the British have their own awards and don’t need any of ours. Vote American!
Apparently the Academy is jiggling the categories around again, this time to accommodate the “reality” shows, though a sane person has to wonder what could possibly be worth rewarding-other than the tape editing-in “Survivor” or “The Real World” or “Temptation Island.” Maybe “Best Eating of a Live Bug”? Or “Most Conspicuous Act of Shameless Self-Debasement to Win a Prize”? Imagine if the hosts of these shows were up for awards and voters had to think seriously about the relative merits of the hapless dork who hosts “Survivor” vs. the missing link who hosts “Fear Factor.”
`Butt’ of jokes
If we’re going to go around adding categories, there are a few others that deserve, as they say, “your consideration.” Like maybe an Emmy for any network sitcom that didn’t have a “butt” or “ass” joke in every episode. Maybe “Most Emaciated Leading Lady.” Or “Best Performance by an Actor Just Out of Rehab.” It might be a step in the right direction for there to be one remedial category: “Best Performance, Series or Miniseries From a Past Season That Was Foolishly Ignored by the Academy at the Time.” Why, the list would be endless. Endless, I tell you! Endless! Without, uh, end!
Anyway, there is one move that would guarantee a better image for the poor old Emmys. Add a category for best performance by a TV critic. It wouldn’t be for best writing because, well, with the abundance of riches that’s out there, who could ever pick just one? But they could give an Emmy to the critic who actually watched the most shows all the way through. Or to the rare critic who saw more than the pilot of anything airing on UPN or The WB.
When I was searching for the Emmy Web site, which, as it turns out, is Emmys.org, I first ventured forth to Emmy.com. I got a winery, I think. It was hard to tell. There were a bunch of party pictures and some random captions, and it looked suspiciously as if perhaps the site hadn’t been updated lately. Li ke one caption said, “New Years To-Do List: Let dog out, let dog in, let dog out, let dog in. Wish you a Happy 2000.”
Or wait. Maybe that was the official Emmy site after all.