Lousy slots, limited time, prejudice: Some show-runners say these are reasons why their skeins, though popular with viewers, have yet to catch the loving eyes of Emmy voters.
Look over the numbers from the recently concluded season: CBS’ “JAG” drew over 13 million viewers a week while the Eye’s “The Guardian” captured 11.8 million. Over on the Peacock, “Third Watch” averaged 11.5 million Monday nights but had the misfortune of going up against “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
And though its ratings may not wow, “Boston Public” has been a solid performer for Fox.
Yet none of these series has ever received an Emmy nom for series or lead/supporting acting.
“When was the last time an 8 o’clock drama won an Emmy?” asks “Boston Public” showrunner and exec producer Jonathan Pontell. “Certainly none in the last 10 years. I think the fact that we’ve been on at 8 o’clock is one of the major reasons we’re overlooked, because one-hour dramas aren’t taken as seriously (at that time).”
Fox will move “Boston Public” this fall to 9 p.m. Friday and Pontell is delighted about the change.
Too many choices
To David Hollander, exec producer of “The Guardian,” time — or not enough of it — is the enemy.
“I’m an Emmy voter and I know it’s not possible to watch all the shows, to read all the scripts, to really know everything that’s going on,” Hollander says.
He says some Academy of Television Arts & Sciences voters will think a show is good simply because other colleagues say it is. “It’s easier to vote for a show that other people vote for.” Especially those voted for in the past. This accounts for why the nominees tend to be the same year to year.
“JAG,” which over its eight seasons on NBC and CBS has never received much fanfare on the kudo circuit, has only received two noms: for costumes and cinematography.
“That’s about the best we’ll ever get from Emmys,” says showrunner Donald Bellisario, “because it’s a military show in a town that is very liberal and left wing, and where ‘military’ has always been a pejorative term.”
His previous show, “Quantum Leap,” was nominated and even won in the big categories. “People were always saying, ‘Look at the subject matter they’re tackling.’ We deal with same things on ‘JAG’ — prejudice, women’s rights, all of that. But say ‘military,’ and it’s ‘Ugh!’ ”
Legit criticism or sour grapes?
“There are certain shows that have a great deal of buzz about them, and the Academy has been accused in the past of being very slow to recognize new product,” says Lisa de Moraes, who covers television for the Washington Post. “That has improved in the last couple years, but it has been true that once Emmy voters get on a roll with a series, they stick with that series.”
However, as she notes, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the drama series getting most of the accolades from critics are the ones getting the Emmy recognition. It’s hard to argue when the critics seem to be in sync with the TV Academy.”
“All these shows have a sheen of professionalism about them, but Emmy voters don’t feel passionately about them, and I can understand why,” says Hal Boedeker, TV critic for the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel. “Other shows are a bit better.”
While individual episodes of “Boston Public” and “Third Watch” have impressed Dallas Morning News critic Ed Bark, he doesn’t consider any of the skeins overall to be Emmy caliber.
Then again, he’s quick to point out, “Remember, this is the same body that never once nominated ‘Homicide: Life on the Streets’ as best drama series in the six or seven years it was on the air,” an oversight he considers literally criminal.
De Moraes’ tongue-in-cheek advice: “Drama series that can’t get recognition should submit for the comedy category, like David Kelley did with ‘Ally McBeal,’ ” a comedy Emmy winner in 1999. “They should put in more lighthearted moments and submit in the comedy category and see how they do.”