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'Lost' and 'Housewives' committed Emmy suicide

July 10, 2006 |  4:32 am


If you saw what sample episodes the producers of "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" submitted to the Emmy judging panels as examples of their "best" work from this past TV season, you'd not only know why their shows got snubbed, but you'd wonder about their sanity or sobriety.

So why should the TV academy get blamed because those shows didn't get top nominations?

And just who was really in charge of ABC's Emmy submissions this year? The network's favorite parking valet?

Over the past week hundreds of America's TV critics have heaped ridicule and scorn on ATAS for being too stupid to recognize what's best on TV (particularly "Lost" — they don't agree with me that "Housewives" had another superb season), but not a single one of them has pointed the blame where it really belongs: at the producers of the snubbed shows, who, frankly, committed Emmy suicide.

Call it the Susan Lucci Syndrome. For 18 years, daytime TV's biggest star got furious at Emmy voters because they spurned her over and over again, subjecting her to repeated public humiliation, but all that drama was really her own fault. The grand diva refused to give them episode submissions that reflected her talents. Isn't it obvious what voters want? Since Lucci was being judged by fellow actors, her peers wanted to see her full acting chops: a broad range of emotions from cheers to tears, with at least one big Money Scene. Instead, she gave them over-the-top diva meltdowns so jarring that Emmy judges sometimes had to turn down the volume on their TV monitors.

Back in the mid-1990s I remember walking down a hallway at the TV academy in New York and hearing hoots of laughter coming from behind a closed door.

"What's going on in there?" I asked a staffer.

"Oh, judges are watching Susan Lucci's reel," he said. "Her mother just died."


That year Lucci's Emmy submission featured her character standing on her mother's grave screaming and flailing her chest in such exaggerated expressions of mourning that it all looked like a "Mad TV" parody of bad Wagnerian opera. Those histrionics probably seemed fine to regular viewers of a daily soap opera, but, taken out of context and shown to a bunch of crusty media types unfamiliar with "All My Children," voters busted a gut. The only reason Lucci won that Emmy in 1999 was because she finally blundered into giving judges a reel with psychological depth and range — her battle to save her anorexic daughter. In the end there turned out to be no conspiracy against TV's most conniving soap diva. Lucci, her fans and those clueless TV critics (see my rant against them — below) whipped up that theory to explain something they didn't understand because they weren't paying attention to the Emmy voting process.

Usually, it's obvious to Emmy contenders what their best work is and they submit it, but every now and then the Susan Lucci Syndrome pops up again. Most often it's due to laziness or inattention by contestants — like John Goodman back in his "Roseanne" days. Believe it or not, his performances on his costar's episode submissions for best actress were usually better than the acting turns he gave on his own tapes. The only possible explanation I could come up with: he was so cavalier about picking a tape that he just fished one recklessly out of a VHS barrel on the "Roseanne" set and told Emmy chiefs, "Here, take this one." But he never took responsibility for the outcome. In fact, Goodman got so angry after seven losses that he withdrew his name from series competition in protest.

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Photo (top right): "Lost" wasn't nominated for best drama series because its producers submitted a poor sample episode to Emmy judges. "Man of Science, Man of Faith" made little sense to "Lost" fans, let alone Emmy judges who all can't possibly be regular series viewers. If producers had submitted the episode about the Tailies ("The Other 48 Days") (above), "Lost" probably would've been nominated. If nominated, the show probably would've won again this Emmy year.

Photo (above, left): Felicity gave her greatest performance of the year, and maybe even her whole TV career, in the "Remember 2" episode, which she did not submit to Emmy voters. She had lots of big money scenes in it (clockwise from upper left): arguing with hubby Tom in front of the housewives, finding out that her husband has an illegitimate child, and facing off against the child's mom in a screaming match at a restaurant. Instead, she submitted the episode where she dances the hootchie-kootchie while drunk on a bar. Why? Because producer Marc Cherry ordered her to. Why? Was he drunk?

fRoseanne, by contrast, won an Emmy in 1993 for a powerful episode in which she recalls how she was sexually abused as a child. If Goodman had submitted that same episode, he probably would've won, too.

And therein this year lies the lesson for "Desperate Housewives." Roseanne won for giving judges her best acting work that season, not for an episode most likely to inspire giggles.

Felicity Huffman tells me that "Housewives" producer Marc Cherry has a stubborn notion that his show must submit comedic work in the Emmy comedy categories. Why? Why doesn't he just enter his best work? The top category — in which he failed to be nominated this year — is called "best comedy series," which means the best series that considers itself a comedy. It doesn't mean "funniest show."

Two months ago "Housewives" aired what I consider to be the single greatest episode on TV this year past: "Remember 2," its 90-minute season finale. Even if you don't agree with my assessment, surely you must concede that it was "Housewives'" best night of season 2, right? Well, here's a shockeroo for you: "Housewives" didn't submit it to any Emmy nominating panel. Yes, you heard that right. Isn't that insane? Instead, Cherry submitted the ho-hum season opener in the series race and pressed Huffman to submit that episode where she goes out boozing with her boss after work and dances the hoochie-koochie on the bar. If Felicity had submitted the season finale instead, she not only would've been nominated, she probably would've ended up the winner on Aug. 27.

Actually, she committed the same mistake last year: Felicity submitted what she considered her funniest episode, not her best one — the series pilot, in which she only had about 10 minutes of unremarkable performance time. But, oh, yeah, she did have that humorous scene where she fishes her rascal boys out of a neighbor's swimming pool during a backyard party. Marc Cherry told Felicity to submit that, so she did as she was told. The only reason she ended up winning the Emmy was because Marcia Cross screwed up, too. She submitted Felicity's best scene — the one where she faces off indignantly against the director of her sons' school play (Sharon Lawrence) and tells her to go to You-Know-Where. Felicity is fully aware of how she ended up winning the Emmy by default, I know, because I explained it to her myself one night in New York several months ago as she listened intently, nodding, saying, "Fascinating! That's fascinating!"

But she went ahead and made the same blunder again and this time got what she deserved.

Frankly, too, the producers of "Lost" got their comeuppance for failing to take the Emmy race seriously. Did they really believe they'd impress voters with that "Man of Science, Man of Faith" episode? There's nothing to it and it doesn't make sense. A dog runs away into the jungle at night and a couple of islanders go looking for it. Whoopdeedoo. Meantime, a few other islanders blow the lid off a hatch in the jungle floor and we see partial glimpses of a man living in a modern-style apartment down below. Huh? That's it. That's the whole episode. I repeat: Huh?

Why didn't producers submit the one about the Tailies, ("The Other 48 Days"), which had a full story arc and was dramatically compelling? That would've cinched them a bid for best drama series.

The reason: they didn't think about it. Having won last year, they assumed they'd be nominated again, so they pulled a John Goodman and just pulled any old thing out of a barrel, they got snubbed, and now they blame Emmy voters for not hailing the brilliance of that weird, unintelligible "Man of Science."

Frankly, I think that if you show such contempt for the Emmys, you deserve not to be nominated by them.

The comments to this entry are closed.


How would submitting the Tallies episode work if all of the lead actors were not featured in the episode?

If a show like Lost can't get nominated because all the episodes require prior knowledge about what went on before, then the problem is with the Emmy process not with the producers.

That must be why series like "Battlestar Galactica" didn't get any nominations. With BSG, you almost need to watch the whole series to understand what's happening. Imho, it's one of the best series on tv, and surely it's a challenge to play a Cylon who doesn't know s/he's a Cylon. *shrugs* They must have submitted a "trainwreck" of an episode, like the season finale. :)

I want to know why, year after year, Leah Remini from The King of Queens is snubbed by the Emmy's. She is clearly by far the funniest woman on television and she never gets nominated! And I know she WANTS to be, as I have seen an interview where she jokes about it, on her friend, Ellen's show. Are you saying that for 8 years, she has submitted the wrong type of sample for Emmy nominators?? Come on!! At least Kevin James was nominated, but I think she is even more humorous than him sometimes! So what's the deal, any suggestions?

Great analysis as to why train wrecks like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewifes" got left off-but I still can't figure which episode "NCIS" submitted for Mark Harmon or the show that wasn't worthy of consideration? Anything from Season 3 is Emmy caliber! Or "CSI" for that matter-"Bullet Runs Through It" alone should have gotten more then the deserved tech nominations! At least Christopher Meloni finally got a nod-"Fault" alone should win him an Emmy!

So what episode was submitted for Hugh Larie on House? And what about Veronica Mars / Kristen Bell?

I agree that Felicity Huffman gave the performance of her career and the performance of the year in the season ender of Desperate Housewives -- where she told her husband that she already let him go (after realizing he wasn't having an affair), I would be annoyed but she won last year. What were the other submissions by other actors?

I really hope that 24 -- which has never won best drama or best actor wins them all and if Jean Smart submits the episode in which her husband confides in her -- she's got that award all sewn up. That is if the Emmy voters truly vote for the best performance of the year.

Doug Savant would probably not have been nominated even if he was entered as a prime contender for Best Supporting Actor, but there were two episodes in which he was really affecting.

Hmm... I've read the critics' general reactions to the Emmys, and now I've read yours. I have to say that I tend to take a more middle of the road path. Michael Ausiello called it an "emmy catastrophe." I'd hardly go that far, but, Tom, your reaction is hardly warranted. I know where you're coming from-- you've been writing about and analyzing the Emmys for a long time, and it's hard to see critics attack it completely. The Emmys are supposed to honor the best shows, performers, writers, directors, etc. on television. Period. As frustrating as it is that some performers don't submit the best episodes, that doesn't diminish their work, and it shouldn't completely shut the door to a nomination. Of course, there were some really great nominees this year. A lot of new faces, and critics shouldn't forget that two curses were broken: the Seinfeld and 24 curses.

The critics, once you cut through their rage, make two good points. First and most importantly, the Emmys DON'T give enough of a chance to cable network shows. Second, a show like Lost deserves a nomination. Now, you're right to partially blame the producers of the show. They, unlike say Battlestar Galactica or Gilmore Girls, actually had a chance for a nomination but blew it. Still, one has to question the logic of implementing rules that make that blunder possible in the first place.

This was supposed to be a good system. And it did make waves but without truly accomplishing what the goals of the changes were. Sure, Emmy officials will say that the goal was to offer better chances for all shows to make it and to bring new faces to awards. Certainly, it did that, but at what cost? I think that a hybrid system that has been discussed on the goldderby forums would be an excellent way to ensure that shows like Lost don't get left out but without going back to the old popular vote system.

What we need is for critics and Emmy fans to calm down for a while, think this through, and come up with some level-headed discussions about the future of the awards.

Was "Man of Science, Man of Faith" the best episode for Lost? No, but really any episode would have led to some confusion. It comes with the territory of the show. It's confusing enough-- in a good way-- for regular watchers. I can only imagine what a first-time viewer would think. Keeing even its biggest fans guessing is part of the show's brilliance and complexity, the factors that led to its win last year. A system that doesn't recognize Lost is flawed.

I'm not even going to begin to address your comments about Housewives. How you can think, with all of the brilliant top-notch writing and acting on television last year, that the DH finale was the strongest episode is uttler beyond me. If you want to convince anyone that doesn't agree with you already or appeal even remotely to the critics your article targets, then I'd advise that you keep your Housewives comments to yourself.

The Emmys and emmy enthusiasts need to get away from the idea that the awards process is a game that the nominees and potential nominees should learn how to play. It is supposed to be a way for television to celebrate and honor its very best. The attitude should not be defensive. It should be, okay, we made some positive changes this year. What worked? What didn't work? Let's keep trying to make sure that our nominees are truly television's best. Untill then, Tom, you are fighting a losing battle.

i totally agree with you, but it still doesn't explain some of what i think are the biggest snubs. it's my understanding that hugh laurie submitted "autopsy", a brilliant episode that showed the full range of his character. how could the show be nominated and hugh snubbed? and i'm very curious on which ep "my name is earl" submitted. jaimie pressly completed deserved a nom, but so did the show and jason lee. what was going on there?

The same "shocker" happened at the Daytime Emmys this year. "General Hospital" is much maligned for its Emmy-baiting tactics, but submitted two smart, exciting, dramatic, and consisted episodes that showcased a train wreck. "The Young and the Restless" and "As the World Turns" had stronger material that year, and submitted one boffo episode and one in which they just seemed to phone it in. When GH predictably won Drama Series, many blasted Emmys for opting for bait and GH for "stealing" another Emmy. But the real conspiracy was with Y&R and ATWT, which did their best job of boring Emmy voters and making sure GH won.

But I don't think the producers of "Lost" and "Desperate Housewvies" are disrespectful, just naive. "Man of Science, Man of Faith" was a strong episode -- strange, mysterious, and impactful if you're a regular watcher of the show -- but it's a lousy submission tape. It had other great episodes to submit. In addition to the Tailies episode ("The Other 48 Days"), it had an episode called "SOS," which would have had the same success that "Autopsy" had for "House," because it's a heart-tugger about one of the island's most enigmatic couple; it's all about their relationship, and their flashbacks reveal the love and heartbreak of a terminal cancer diagnosis. That probably would have done the trick.

"Desperate Housewives" is inexcusable. Marc Cherry doesn't seem to know what he's doing. The two hour "Housewives" finale would have been a slam-dunk Comedy Series nominee, and it would have gotten Felicity Huffman, and maybe even Marcia Cross nominated too. For shame, Mr. Cherry. Hopefully, the lesson has been well learned.

Now I'm even more curious about which Desperate Housewives episode Alfre Woodard submitted.

"Remember Part 2" best episode of the year? It wasn't awful or anything but certainly not the best episode of the year or of Desperate Housewives. They should sent "Thank You So Much."

I agree with you about tape selection being key. Which is why I can't be too upset about the very talented Lauren Graham not getting an Emmy nod. While she was terrific, as always, in "Partings" that episode requires too much set up for the casual viewer (i.e. Emmy voters who might not know/watch Gilmore Girls). She would have been better off with "Twenty-one is the Loneliest Number" -- mother/daughter rift... easier to explain and sympathize with.

I'm a huge fan of Lost, and I completly agree with you, Man of Science, Man of Faith. Not a great ep. Tailies one of the greatest for season two. I agree "point the blame where it really belongs: at the producers"



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