Emmy's rules changes produce mixed results
Emmy’s latest round of rules changes produced a mix bag of results, allowing some frosh skeins to get noticed — and more than a few head scratchers.Age-old complaint that the Academy doesn’t pay enough attention to newbies seemed to melt away with the solid nom results for shows such as “Ugly Betty,” “30 Rock” and “Heroes.” At the same time, industryites were slack-jawed that the buzz-free “Boston Legal” was nommed for best drama, but “Lost” and “Friday Night Lights” were overlooked. Equally confusing: A change in the guest acting category meant thesps who appeared in a show for more than half a season — like “Legal’s” Christian Clemenson — could still snag noms. “Ugly Betty” showrunner Silvio Horta, whose skein is the most nommed network drama this year, certainly had no complaints about the balloting. And yet, “The nomination process is so complicated now, I don’t even get it,” he said. “I’m obvously happy we got nominated. But I don’t know how it works.” Horta said this year’s noms seem more balanced than in the past. “Over the years it seemed as if it was always the same shows that got nominated,” he said. “It’s good to see there are new shows that are breaking through.” Academy of TV Arts and Sciences chairman Dick Askin credited this year’s rule change — primarily, the decision to split the final nomination tally 50/50 between the academy-wide vote and a Blue Ribbon panel vote — for that infusion of fresh blood. “This year’s nominations are certainly looser and a lot better received than last year’s,” he said. “About two years ago we were constantly criticized with sameness of the nominations — either we had the same winners, the same shows or the same stars. And it had been that way for 30 years. “We decided to see what we could do to shake up the process,” he said. “So we instituted the blue ribbon panel.” As a result, Askin said the Acad “got it about 80% right” last year. “There were a couple of inclusions and omissions that made the whole thing controversial,” he said. “Last year we allowed the blue ribbon panels to overrule the popular vote, which in retrospect didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was tyranny of minority overruling the wisdom of majority.” Hence the decision to go 50/50 this year. “Nothing’s perfect, I’m not going to say that every nomination would be my personal choice,” Askin admitted. “But I do think we made remarkable strides.” Horta wonders if the changing media landscape might be making it easier for frosh to stand out. “There’s a sampling of more shows,” he said. “New shows come on the air now and generate a lot of heat and hype. Maybe we’re getting into a place where a new show comes in every year and is in the new darling.” That theory make sense, given the red-hot Emmy bows for “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” — followed by two years in which the shows have been snubbed in the best series categories. As for the other notable change this year — the decision to have show producers pound out essays putting their submitted episode into context — the results were mixed. The rule change came about after “Lost” failed to make the drama cut last year — and pundits blamed its absence on the show’s serialized nature, which made it tough for voters unfamiliar with the show to parse what was going on. But this year, even with an essay, “Lost” still didn’t make the grade. Still, TV academy awards chief John Leverence believes that voters took advantage of the change. “It helped level the playing field,” he said. “For each one of the candidates, we gave panelists plenty of time to read.” Pleased with the changes, Askin said he didn’t expect another major overhaul of the voting process anytime soon. “We were able to clean up some of the anomalies and some of the more controversial type of nominations form last year,” he said. “As producers get a little more savvy in terms of blue ribbon panels they’ll get better at knowing what type of epsiode to submit. My own personal feeling is that this is much improved from years passed, and that the system will continue well into future with tweaks here and there.”
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