Talkshow split gives gabbers new life

Category divided into information, entertainment

Ellen DeGeneres has steamrolled over the competition for the past four years, taking home the talkshow Daytime Emmy since 2004.

Now, this year’s move to split the category between talkshow/information and talkshow/entertainment cracks the door open for at least one other chatfest to take home the prize. So who will fill that added slot?

It could be “Dr. Phil,” the skein that provided the impetus for the change, or the consistently overlooked “The View,” which has taken home the talkshow trophy only once — in 2003 — in the 11-year history of the femme-filled series.

“Only members of the Television Academy would think they don’t have enough categories,” suggests Robert Bianco, TV critic for USA Today. “I thought under Rosie (O’Donnell), ‘The View’ became an interesting show, but I never thought it was the victim of a great injustice. You only believe that if you think this is second grade and everyone is supposed to get a valentine. We’re not talking ‘The Wire’ here when talking about Emmy injustices.”

On the surface, it would seem that morning talkshows such as “The View” and “Live With Regis and Kelly” constantly take a back seat to afternoon-slotted syndies such as “Ellen.” But likability, more than timeslot, may be one of the reasons for DeGeneres’ Emmy success.

“Ellen gives an incredibly astute, entertaining TV performance day after day,” Bianco says. “She makes her show the most enjoyable program to watch in daytime.”

Voters also haven’t warmed to multiple-host talkshows.

“Even with the category split, I don’t think ‘The View’ will win because they are women all talking at the same time. It’s a great show, but the hosts are all too polarizing,” says Gail Pennington, TV critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Multiple hosts in general tend to be off-putting. What if you like Regis but you don’t like Kelly? Or you like Whoopi but not Elizabeth? The only time Regis ever won for best talkshow host was the year he went solo after Kathy Lee left and before Kelly came on.”

Brent Stanton, executive director of the Daytime Emmys for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in New York, says he hopes a new voting procedure this year will shake things up a bit.

“In the past, the first round went to ballot among the members and then the nominees were sent to a blue-ribbon panel for judging,” Stanton says. “This year, the entries will go directly to the blue-ribbon panel for judging. Essentially, there’s one round of judging.”

Stanton also thinks splitting the talkshow category is a step in the right direction for recognizing the differences between a show such as “Regis and Kelly” and “Dr. Phil.”

After attending a “Dr. Phil” panel at the Academy in New York, Stanton was made fully aware of how the production team puts each show together, and that presentation convinced him to divide the category.

“It became very evident during that event, and people had been suggesting it for years, that shows like ‘Dr. Phil’ were completely different from the entertainment shows,” Stanton explains. “Comparing ‘Ellen’ to ‘Dr. Phil’ was like chalk and cheese.”

It will be up to each show to determine which category to enter.

“‘The View’ would probably be informative,” Stanton says, “but we’re also thinking that ‘The Tyra Banks Show’ would go into that news category because she has declared that she wanted to change the nature of her show.”

“Dr. Phil” producer Carla Pennington says the new category puts her show on a more level playing field.

“I think it’s a good thing because we are so different from an ‘Ellen’ or a ‘Rachael Ray.’ I’m glad the Academy is recognizing it,” Pennington says. “We don’t do celebrity or variety, and I think we all know Dr. Phil can’t dance.”

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