Congrats to all Emmy nominees. This is a day of celebration for many in the TV industry.
But to those of you who weren’t saluted today, you’re in good company.
There are three measures of showbiz success: artistic, financial and awards. Sometimes they overlap, but not always. It’s wonderful when great work is recognized with kudos, but sometimes, for mysterious reasons, it is ignored.
“ER,” “The West Wing” and “Frasier” were popular and profitable, and they were Emmy favorites. Then there are shows like HBO’s “The Wire.” Variety’s Brian Lowry — who’s not easily excited — raved that it was “one of the most demanding and thought-provoking series ever to grace television.” In the show’s final season, Metacritic tallied 24 positive reviews, 0 mixed, 0 negative. But Emmy voters were less impressed: It received almost no noms during its entire run.
Also scoring just a handful of noms: “The Twilight Zone,” still holding up 50 years later, with episodes that every baby boomer has memorized.
There is a vast list of other series with too-few noms, such as dramas (“Oz,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Deadwood,” “Crime Story,” etc.); sci-fi/fantasy (“Star Trek,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Doctor Who,” “The X-Files”), spinoffs (“Law and Order: SVU”), comedies (“Reno 911!” “Married…With Children”) and youth-targeted shows (“Felicity,” et al.).
Of course, nobody entered the industry to win awards. Still, it’s nice to be recognized. However, awards voting is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an accounting-firm envelope. Since awards results are always kept secret, the implicit message is that non-nominees scored zero votes. People in showbiz are always looking for their next job, so they deal frequently with scrutiny and rejection. To anyone who takes pride in their work, being ignored in awards nominations is yet another non-validation and must tap into primal fears: Doesn’t anybody like me? Doesn’t anybody notice me?
In truth, they may have received many votes, but just not enough. That’s why Variety avoids the word “snub” in awards coverage: It implies that voters intentionally banded together to give the cold shoulder to some contenders.
Even if you score a nomination, there’s no guarantee of happiness. Sometimes the difference between a win and a shutout involves timing and the zeitgeist.
For example, the Broadway musical “Sister Act” is terrific, with writer Douglas Carter Beane, composers Alan Menken & Glenn Slater, star Patina Miller and the entire cast all doing socko work, as we say in Varietyland. At the performance I saw, the audience went nuts.
In a different year, “Sister Act” might have swept the Tonys. This year, it went home emptyhanded.
I’m not disparaging any winners. Like everybody, I absolutely loved “The Book of Mormon.” But sometimes there are crowded fields. Decades ago, “West Side Story” was nominated for a best musical Tony but lost to “The Music Man.” “Bus Stop” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” were beaten by “The Diary of Anne Frank.” None could be classified as losers.
When the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” scored just one Oscar out of its 11 nominations, Frank Capra deadpanned that he’d learned a valuable lesson: “Don’t make your best picture the same year somebody else makes ‘Gone With the Wind.’?”
Speaking of movies, some terrific films cannot manage to get awards buzz. Some recent examples: “300,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Lust, Caution,” “The Painted Veil,” “The Prestige” and “Zodiac.”
Awards, like financial and artistic success, are always a crapshoot. But there is a special place in kudos heaven for those who are Emmy non-nominees repeatedly. With Tony or Oscar, a kudos hopeful gets one shot for that piece of work. When a TV series lasts multiple seasons, Emmy hopes are double-edged: If you don’t score, you can always think, Maybe next year. But if you don’t land a nom year after year, the feeling of rejection is prolonged. It’s the short shrift that keeps on giving.
So, to everyone who earned an Emmy nom today: Congrats. But to all of you who didn’t score, don’t let it get to you. Your family loves you. Variety loves you. Lotsa people love you. And, if it’s any consolation, you are a live “Wire,” you are a hep “Cat” on a hot tin roof, and you are in the “Twilight” zone.
Better luck next year.