So there I was, getting ready to flip over and tan my back, when I realized, "Good gosh almighty … the 53rd annual Emmy Award nominations are being announced."
I quickly gathered my bikini top in hand … OK, I tried to pry my butt out from between the lounge chair straps, and I headed for the nearest TV.
Still slathered in lotion, I eased, more comfortably, into a recliner to listen to the announcements. "Oh boy, oh boy, this is gonna be good," I thought as I dropped the remote. I figured I was just nervous with anticipation, but then I realized my hands were still greasy. Finally, I was watching Sean Hayes and Patricia Heaton about to spill the beans.
Any New Shows Out There?
The Sopranos led the pack with 22 nominations, including Best Drama, Best Actor for James Gandolfini, Best Actress for both Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco. Yeah, so tell me something I don't know. This happened last year … incredible numbers, then they virtually got shut out — or perhaps I say "rubbed out"— by The West Wing, which garnered 18 nominations this year.
The Best Drama category featured the exact same shows as last year: The Sopranos, Law & Order, ER, The West Wing and The Practice.
It was almost the same thing with the Best Comedy category, which consists of Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Malcolm in the Middle, Will & Grace and Sex and the City. They left out Friends and put in Malcolm. Big whoop!
Best Actresses, with the exception of Marg Helgenberger being recognized for her work on CSI, offered the usual suspects. For Best Actor, they took out the Law & Order regulars and swapped in Rob Lowe for The West Wing and Andre Braugher for Gideon's Crossing.
All in all, the additions or exclusions were minor and expected. I won't list all the nominees, but trust me when I say you will not read the list and throw your hand over your mouth, going, "Holy cow … Now that's a surprise!"
Emmy Gets Real
So where did Emmy really veer off The Road Oft Traveled?
With the addition of two new ridiculous categories (you'll want to sit down for this!): Outstanding Non-Fiction Reality Program and Outstanding Non-Fiction Special Class Program.
In the first category, hereto referred to as "Reality" Program, the nominees are; American High, The Awful Truth With Michael Moore, The E! True Hollywood Story, Taxicab Confessions and Trauma; Life in the ER.
These are basically the reality shows where you don't win a prize. Have you ever seen Taxicab Confessions? Most of the time, people have sex in the back of the cab or are totally drunk while they talk to the driver, who is secretly taping the whole thing on camera. This should be in a category called Best Psychological Experiment on Wheels. It's not a program. It's edited tape of people riding in the back of a taxicab! Emmy or special NASCAR category — you tell me.
And if this isn't just insane enough to make you question the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, or at least want to give them a good swift noogie, then the nominees for the "Special Class" Program will really knot your shorts. This category is basically reality shows WITH a prize attached.
The nominees are Bands on the Run, Eco-Challenge Borneo, Junkyard Wars, Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour and Survivor.
Guess which one is gonna win?
The very thought that Survivor could go home with an Emmy is astonishing to me. I'm shaking and sweating right now just thinking about it. My teeth are clenched and when I'm not typing, I'm beating my fist against my forehead asking the gods what is happening to the world we live in. (This is almost as ugly an image as me crow-barring my butt out of the lounge chair!)
Novelty vs. Talent
Do you realize how difficult it is to break into acting, writing, directing, etc, whether it be for TV or otherwise? It is an excruciatingly hard business. The Emmy is supposed to symbolize the finest programming television has to offer. How can this be if Mark Burnett, as the creator of Survivor, is given an opportunity to receive the same golden statuette as Aaron Sorkin, as creator of The West Wing? They're not in the same category, but they get the same Emmy with a different nameplate on it.
And what's to make it stop here?
What if right after getting choked up over Sela Ward's earnest acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Drama Series, we were to see Tina Wesson win Best Performance in a Reality Show? Would Tina thanking Colby for "bein' so sweet" have the same impact as Sela thanking the cast of Once and Again for being brilliant actors who make her job so easy?
Well, would it?
These shows are of a genre all their own. They are a kind of television entertainment that deals a lot less with talent and a lot more with novelty. It is hard to commend MTV for Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour during the same ceremony in which TNT is recognized for the miniseries Nuremberg. (Or Horatio Hornblower, a miniseries that should be recognized for its title alone!)
Honor these "reality" or "special" shows during one of the countless other awards ceremonies we are now riddled with on an almost weekly basis. Put a category in at the People's Choice Awards for Reality, Non-Reality, Freaky Sex in a Cab, whatever. After all, it's the public — TV viewers — who are responsible for making these shows successful.
Clean up my Emmys, I say, or I will be forced to submit a new category next year: Outstanding Non-Fiction, Kind-of Fiction, Reality, Semi-Realistic, No-Action Program. I will have someone film me staring at my monitor and typing each and every week. I will then have it broadcast on cable for eligibility purposes. The show will be called "Columnist, Keyboard Rules."
I won't clear a space on my shelf anytime soon!
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.