Category conundrum

Latin variety show takes 'Gigante' Emmy step

Este año “Sábado Gigante” podría marcar su lugar en la historia.

In other words, Univision’s long-running variety series “Sabado Gigante” has a shot at making Emmy history when the kudocast’s 2003 nominations are announced later this month.

Producers behind “Sabado Gigante” have entered the show into consideration for this year’s variety/music/comedy series award, up against the likes of “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” “Mad TV” and “Crank Yankers.”

Foreign first

That marks the first time a foreign-language series has attempted to compete in the Primetime Emmy Awards, at least as far as anyone at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences can remember.

“It’s a program that met all of the requirements, the only difference is it happened to be Spanish-language,” said John Leverence, VP of awards at the TV academy.

Recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running TV show in primetime history, “Sabado Gigante” celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Hosted by Don Francisco (nee Mario Krauzberger), the three-hour variety extravaganza started in Chile before eventually moving production to Miami.

A “Sabado Gigante” nomination would put a new spin on the debate over a potential Latin Emmy Awards.

Feasibility study

The nation’s two rival TV academies have been at odds over the creation of such an award. The New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which supports launching a kudofest immediately, has even filed a demand for arbitration against ATAS, which prefers to wait and study whether a new awards show is feasible.

In the past, Spanish-lingo entertainment programming has been eligible for International Emmys; that’s made sense for most primetime shows on major webs Univision and Telemundo, which air mostly imported telenovelas.

But it’s been less clear where homegrown Spanish programs should be nominated.

Running order

“This is Yankee programming, even though it’s not in the English language,” said Tom O’Neil, who researched the award’s history for his book “The Emmys.” “Where to put this is a problem.”

A “Sabado Gigante” nomination might support the camp that believes a Latin Emmys would unfairly segregate Spanish-lingo shows.

But supporters of a Latin kudocast might argue that a “Gigante” nomination proves that there’s a hunger to recognize such shows.

Meanwhile, producers on this year’s crop of primetime talent shows found themselves having to choose which category to nominate their shows.

As a result, Fox’s “American Idol” will compete in the reality/competition category, which recognizes shows that include a game or other contest element with a prize attached. “Idol” will aim for a nomination alongside shows such as “The Bachelor” and “Road Rules.” Shows in this category also have a better shot at winning a trophy, since it’s an “area award” –meaning one, more than one or no shows can win.

CBS’ “Star Search,” meanwhile, has been entered into the variety/music/comedy category, where it’s aiming for a nomination slot alongside the latenight talkshows, music skeins such as “Grand Ole Opry” — and the aforementioned “Sabado Gigante.”

Producer preference

Leverence said producers on shows eligible for more than one category can choose the one in which they’d rather compete.

“These shows effectively have dual citizenship and can work on either side,” he said. “Both producers came to that crossroad, where ‘American Idol’ and ‘Star Search’ both had elements of variety/music/comedy and competition. One turned left and the other turned right.”

“Star Search” exec producer Andrew Golder said there wasn’t a science in his decision to compete in the variety/music/comedy category.

“To be perfectly honest, it was done by accident,” he said.

Golder said a producer on the show wasn’t fully aware of the reality/competition category when filling out “Star Search’s” nomination entry.

“At the end of the day, being in a category with ‘The Tonight Show’ will not work to our advantage,” he said. “It’s not a particularly strategic move on our part.”

Still, Golder said it’s not the end of the world to aim for a nomination in the variety/music/comedy category, particularly given that “Star Search” does tackle a wide range of talents.

Nominations for the 55th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced July 17.

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