Newcomers Buoy Emmys Interest

Sep 26, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The very shows that helped reinvigorate ABC last season-and arguably broadcast television in general-appear to have helped jump-start interest in the Primetime Emmys as well.

Like many other televised kudofests, the Emmys have seen ratings slide in recent years. But multiple nominations this year for popular freshman shows such as “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” replaced noms that last season went to pay cable series like “Sex and the City” that were critically acclaimed but unfamiliar to a broad section of the Emmy audience. With more recognizable nominees, the ceremony was expected to draw viewers eager to see their favorites win.

While Emmy darling HBO dominated the overall trophy count, as it has for many years, new series and broadcast TV in general were the major victors at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ “57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” on Sept. 18, with a number of the top awards, including best drama for “Lost,” going to freshmen. The top comedy prize also went to a broadcast series, CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

And the telecast of the gala turned in a winning ratings performance of its own. The show improved 33 percent in the key demo over last year’s broadcast, scoring a 6.1 national rating in adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last year’s show, which aired on ABC before “Housewives,” “Lost” and the other superstar freshmen series got under way, was the lowest-rated Emmys program in history, pulling a 4.6.

The Emmys telecast this year had a lot of things going for it, including a crop of first-time nominees that made for interesting races, said Jack Sussman, senior VP of specials at CBS and the executive at the network overseeing the telecast.

“Between Ellen [DeGeneres] as host, a great year for broadcast television and throwing in a fun and relevant musical experience,” viewers recognized “this is not the Emmy Awards we’ve seen before,” he said.

Mr. Sussman said it was important to offer a new viewing experience to boost ratings. “To do the same thing, it would be mediocre at best,” he said.

The musical elements included a performance at the beginning of the show by Earth Wind & Fire, who sang a song about the TV business to the tune of their enduring hit “September.” The telecast also featured performances by current TV stars offering takes on classic TV themes in a competition of sorts dubbed “Emmy Idol.”

Sunday’s awards telecast drew 18.7 million viewers, compared with 13.8 million last year. The awards show was the top program Sept. 18 in total viewers, adults 18 to 49 and adults 25 to 54 (7.3). This year’s ratings rebound, however, was not enough to improve over the telecast’s 2003 performance on Fox, when the show delivered a 7.1 rating in adults 18 to 49.

Wins for first-year shows “Lost,” “Boston Legal” and “Desperate Housewives” helped propel ABC to a total of six Emmy wins (for a total of 16, including previously awarded trophies), the most of any broadcast network. But still-dominant HBO, with 27 awards, including seven it took home Sunday, was the biggest winner among all networks. CBS, which aired this year’s ceremony, was third among the networks, with 11 Emmys (winning five Sunday). Academy voters gave special recognition to the ninth and final season of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which in addition to receiving the comedy series Emmy earned awards for supporting actor in a comedy series (Brad Garrett) and supporting actress in a comedy series (Doris Roberts).

Speaking to reporters backstage after her win, Ms. Roberts spoke out against ageism in show business, a subject she has testified on before Congress.

“Nowhere in a magazine is there a picture of a woman over 40,” she said.

In the acting categories in drama series, all four winners won for their work on first-year shows.

Patricia Arquette won for outstanding lead actress on NBC’s “Medium,” while the night’s nominee in three categories, Blythe Danner, won for outstanding supporting actress on Showtime’s “Huff.” (Ms. Danner’s win was Showtime’s first win in a series category.) James Spader won the lead actor in a drama series Emmy and William Shatner won for supporting actor, both for their work playing morally challenged attorneys on ABC’s “Boston Legal,” a spinoff of the now-canceled ABC series “The Practice.” Last year Mr. Shatner and Mr. Spader won Emmys for playing the same roles on “The Practice.”

Freshman shows also won in the drama series directing and writing categories. JJ Abrams took a trophy for outstanding directing for the pilot of ABC’s “Lost,” and David Shore won for outstanding writing for the pilot of Fox’s “House.”

During his acceptance speech Mr. Shore thanked his lead, Hugh Laurie, for making him “look like a better writer than I am.” Mr. Shore also thanked “all the people who have made me miserable and cynical and angry” who inspired the character Dr. House. “You know who you are,” he added.

In the comedy series categories, Charles McDougall won for directing the pilot of ABC’s rookie “Desperate Housewives,” while Fox’s “Arrested Development” picked up its second writing win in two years, with Emmys going to executive producer Mitch Hurwitz and writer Jim Vallely.

In the comedy series acting categories, repeat winners dominated.

Besides wins for Mr. Garrett and Ms. Roberts, Tony Shalhoub won his second lead actor Emmy for his role in USA Network’s “Monk.” First-time nominee Felicity Huffman beat out two of her costars to win in the lead actress in a comedy category for ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” Backstage, she rejected the suggestion that there were rivalries between the show’s cast members over the Emmy.

“To the women of Wisteria Lane, I love you,” she said.

HBO, as it so often does, dominated the acting in a miniseries or a movie categories.

Paul Newman won the supporting actor Emmy for HBO’s adaptation of the novel “Empire Falls,” while Jane Alexander won for playing Sara Roosevelt, the mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in “Warm Springs.” In the 1970s Ms. Alexander was nominated twice for playing first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in TV movies.

The Emmy for lead actor in a miniseries or movie went to Geoffrey Rush in the title role of “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” and the lead actress in a miniseries or movie Emmy went to S. Epatha Merkerson for her work in the TV adaptation of “Lackawanna Blues.” Ms. Merkerson beat out her “Lackawanna Blues” executive producer Halle Berry, who was nominated in the category for her role in ABC’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

“Warm Springs” won for outstanding made-for-television movie, and “Peter Sellers” took the prizes in the writing and directing categories for outstanding miniseries, movie or a dramatic special.

It was PBS, though, that took the top miniseries prize, with the award going to “The Lost Prince” (Masterpiece Theatre). “Prince” executive producer Rebecca Eaton said backstage that the award is an important indication that the public broadcaster is “in for the long haul.”

“PBS has been embattled this year, we’ve had a very tough year,” she said. “But that we have prevailed is good news.”

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” won for outstanding variety, music or comedy series, while CBS’s “The Amazing Race” took the Emmy for outstanding reality/competition program.

Melissa Grego contributed to this report.