Acad hasn’t got grip on reality yet

Category changes name, but not requirements

The TV Academy still hasn’t quite got a grip on reality.

Acad officials said they’ll likely take another stab at reformulating Emmy’s nonfiction awards, given the confusion surrounding this year’s head-scratching list of noms in the reality/competition program category.

Reality staples “The Amazing Race,” “American Idol” and “Survivor” are up for a trophy in the category — as are the specials “100 Years of Hope and Humor” and “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Passions: America’s Greatest Love Stories.”

Believe it or not, the odd category mates are not a typo.

Apparently, the problem lies in the category’s name. Until this year, the award was known as “nonfiction program (special class).” It was designed as a catchall category for programs that didn’t really fit anywhere else (including reality shows with a contest element).

But with 99% of the nominees in the genre of “Survivor”-style competition shows, the TV Academy decided to get with the times, changing it to the sexier-sounding “reality/competition program.”

However, the org didn’t change the category’s eligibility requirements. And according to TV Academy awards VP John Leverence, Gary Smith — the exec producer behind both “Hope and Humor” and “100 Passions” — successfully petitioned to be included in the category.

“They argued that they’re really not full-blown documentaries, but aren’t variety/music/comedy specials as well,” he said. “They were neither fish nor fowl, so it would have been inappropriate to place them with the fish or the fowl.”

It’s a moot point, however, since the reality/competition category is a so-called area award. That means the TV Academy has the right to award Emmys to all, some or none of the nominees.

Last year, for example, another AFI special, “100 Years … 100 Thrills” won a trophy in the category, as did “Survivor.”

Still, it’s a strange category — so much so that TV Academy chairman Bryce Zabel decided not to mention “Hope and Humor” and “100 Years … 100 Passions” when announcing the category’s nominees on live TV Thursday morning.

Producers on those two projects said they recognized why Zabel and the org omitted their nominations, but were still concerned that it might affect Emmy voting.

“I spoke to the Academy and sort of understand, it’s kind of difficult to understand the arcane rules of the Emmy nomination system to people, particularly at that hour of the morning,” said Dann Netter, who produced the specials with Smith. “I hope it doesn’t impact anyone adversely. I hold no ill will toward the Academy omitting us, but at the same time I wish they had included us.”

With the number of contest-fueled reality programs continuing to grow, Leverence said it’s likely the org would ponder another category change in the coming year.

“There will probably be a lot of discussion about converting this into a series category, where the reality shows compete head-to-head,” Leverence said. “That’s probably the direction we’re heading with reality. And then maybe a new special-class award for the orphan shows that don’t fit anywhere else.”

Even if the Academy opts to go with a pure reality/competition category, Netter said there will still be a need for the special class, catch-all category for programs like his.

“The truth of matter is, there’s a lot of good TV that deserves recognition and the Academy is doing its damnedest,” he said. “This just bit them in the ass, and I feel sorry for them. We respect these people and understand it’s a tough job.”

Here are some other quirks coming out of this year’s nomination roster:

  • Life’s a bitch — and then you get an Emmy nomination. Fox’s wacky “First Annual Miss Dog Beauty Pageant,” from LMNO Prods., scored a nom for outstanding costumes in a variety or music program. Costumers Sharon Day and Kirstin Gallo dress up the female pooches in traditional pageant wear.

    “Miss Dog” will face tough competish from another diva: Cher. Singer’s longtime costume designer, Bob Mackie, is nominated as well for NBC’s “Cher: The Farewell Tour” (which also featured designs by nominee Hugh Durrant).

  • In case they don’t win in their respective series categories, Martin Sheen and the Osbournes will always have Madison Avenue to fall back on.

    TV ads starring Sheen and the Osbourne clan landed noms in the outstanding commercial category. Sheen, who’s up for outstanding drama actor (as President Bartlet in “The West Wing”) co-starred in the nominated Visa commercial with son Charlie, while the Osbournes (whose MTV reality series is up for outstanding nonfiction program-alternative) appeared in the nommed ad from Pepsi Twist.

  • He’s the king of the world — and now, a potential king of the small screen. “Titanic” helmer James Cameron is nommed (along with Gary Johnstone) for directing “James Cameron’s Expedition: Bismarck” for the Discovery Channel.

  • Matthew Mungle scored a makeup nomination for designing James Woods’ bald caps for USA’s “Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story.”

  • More than a decade after it signed off the air, “Hunter” is up for Emmy consideration. NBC revived the Fred Dryer starrer last season, and the telepic “Back in Force” drew a nom for telepic/mini cinematography.

  • As always, a few skeins that got the ax last season got their revenge with Emmy noms. Fox’s “Cedric the Entertainer,” “Fastlane” and “Firefly” each got a mention, as did CBS’ “The Agency” and “My Big Fat Greek Life,” ABC’s “Miracles” and NBC’s “Mister Sterling.”

  • Emmy loves the Muppets! NBC’s “It’s a Very Muppet Christmas Movie” and Starz!’s kiddie skein “Kermit’s Swamp Years” both snagged nominations.

  • The events of Sept. 11 still resonate with voters. HBO’s “Through a Child’s Eyes” and the History Channel’s “The Day the Towers Fell” each garnered noms.
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