The Frog has taken some big leaps, but it still can’t steal a kiss from Emmy.
Despite making inroads with viewers, critics and advertisers the past couple of years with shows such as “Smallville” and “Gilmore Girls,” the WB network — it refuses to be called a weblet anymore — remains shut out when it comes to television’s top honors.
“It’s like their shows don’t exist to the Academy,” says TV Guide critic Matt Roush. “And that’s surprising because the network has arrived. It’s a success.”
At Emmy time, it’s generally considered a disadvantage to be a young network, but Fox scored a major Emmy in one of its first few seasons (“The Tracey Ullman Show” for comedy, music or variety series in 1988).
The WB, on the other hand, has won a mere three Emmys in 14 noms since bowing in 1995 (for makeup, music composition and cinematography), and has been similarly snubbed by the Golden Globes (one win in four noms) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (zero wins in two tries).
But this could be the year that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences notices the Frog, which has assembled an impressive roster of skeins.
“Gilmore Girls” is considered by most critics to be among the wittiest programs on television, “Smallville” has become the net’s biggest hit and features some of primetime’s most impressive special effects, and freshman drama “Everwood” was the new hour that wowed critics most at last year’s upfronts.
It’s in “Everwood” that the WB perhaps has its best shot at major Emmy recognition. Show garnered a SAG nom for vet actor Treat Williams, and will be the focus of a marketing push by the network. One episode during the May sweep dealt with the issue of abortion — a rarity for broadcast television.
“We feel we’ve got some of the finest acting on television, and the SAG nomination for Treat was a real coup,” says Greg Berlanti, creator of the series. “It’s perhaps a broader-appeal kind of show than some of the network’s other programs, and it’s the most gratifying thing to hear that viewers are finding it by word of mouth.”
That might be what it takes to get the attention of the Acad, an older-skewing bunch than the Frog’s core audience.
WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin hopes “Everwood,” in which Williams stars as a New York neurosurgeon who is widowed and moves his children to a small town in Colorado, can help put the net on Emmy’s map.
“We recognize that we need to break through with a nomination in order to remove the stigma that may exist with Academy voters,” Levin says. “‘Everwood’ is an accessible show that deals with issues that are compelling, so we hope to use it selectively for the goal of exposing all of our talent.
“Once you cross that threshold of credibility with the Academy, it opens up the doors for everyone.”
Among WB series that have been snubbed by Emmy was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” although it did win two minor Emmys five years ago and received the net’s only major nomination (for writing in 2000). “Felicity” also won a minor Emmy, but longtime family drama “7th Heaven” has been limited to one nom (for art direction in 1997) and “Gilmore Girls” has surprisingly been shut out.
Amy Sherman-Palladino, exec producer of “Gilmore,” says Emmy recognition would be nice, but it’s not a driving force. “You do the work because you’re proud of it and it gives you a reason to get up in the morning, but yes, I would love for the show to get noticed. Some good stuff is being done on the WB, and maybe a light shining on something Frog-like might help people realize that.”
TV Guide’s Roush thinks that one of the reasons why the WB is ignored — it failed to notch a single nomination last year — is that it is seen as a guilty pleasure network and its series aren’t as self-important as those on other nets.
“Some of the shows like ‘Angel’ or ‘Smallville’ are genre shows, fantasy shows that are well done but too often get ignored,” Roush says.
He points out that a series like the comedy “Reba,” starring Reba McEntire, would probably get recognized if it were on CBS, and that “Gilmore Girls” has had seasons as good as the best season of Fox’s Emmy-winning “Ally McBeal.”
“I can see how these shows fall through the cracks sometimes,” says Roush, “but to get completely ignored is embarrassing and unfair.”
For the network’s part, Levin refuses to believe that the Academy has anything against the Frog. “It’s not an intentional bias, it’s more systematic of the initial awareness levels of our programming and the circulation of a much older Emmy voting body,” he says. “As we grow, we’ll become more in their sights.”
A breakthrough for “Everwood” or another WB skein wouldn’t likely have the same impact on its future ratings as say NBC’s “The West Wing,” which spiked up after first winning the drama trophy three years ago.
“I don’t believe an Emmy will have much of an impact on our core 12-34 audience but it certainly could be meaningful to our talent,” he says. “It’s important that the creative community is aware of the support we give to our shows.”