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How much do the episode entries really matter in deciding who wins Emmys?

September 22, 2008 |  3:50 pm

Every year the most lunatic Emmy gurus like me make a special point of watching the episodes that nominees for best acting in a series submit to voters. They all give one sample of their best work to judges, who must sign an affidavit attesting they viewed everything required in a given category before voting.

But how much do the episodes really make a difference in the voting process anymore? That's the big question pundits must decipher when forecasting Hollywood's most unpredictable award. Before 2000, the episodes mattered almost exclusively. Back then voters viewed them at judging panels conducted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and they had to vote immediately afterward when still feeling the full emotional impact of submissions. As a result, the flashiest and most sentimental episodes usually paid off with victory.


But the voting process changed this decade, and now judges view them at home and can ink their ballots later. Since then, industry buzz and the Cool Factor have played a larger role deciding who wins as voters have time to be reminded of those points while having some emotional distance between themselves and the episodes.

Clearly, Bryan Cranston''s episode of "Breaking Bad" is what cinched the upset victory for a show that's mustered only wee viewership for its seven episodes telecast. Portraying a guy who wigs out and goes on a drug spree when he finds out he's dying of cancer, Bryan Cranston gave the most volcanic and showy performance among the six up for best actor.

Also, Glenn Close ("Damages") and Jeremy Piven ("Entourage") had the most dynamic, or nearly so, episode entries in their categories.

But that certainly wasn't true of Tina Fey ("30 Rock") and Dianne Wiest ("In Treatment"). That leads me to wonder: Did they win based upon buzz and Cool Factor alone? If so, why didn't that pay off for Fey's "Saturday Night Live" costar Amy Poehler, who's almost as cool as her cohort? The vast majority of Emmy pundits predicted Poehler would win, if for no other reason than because she had the longest episode entry in terms of face-time minutes. Usually, that pays off with triumph.

But it's possible that Poehler was penalized for appearing on a variety show, doing hambone skits like her Hillary Clinton impersonation. Voters — all fellow actors — just didn't consider that real acting perhaps?

In the race for best actress in a TV movie/mini, Laura Linney's performance as Abigail Adams didn't have the same fireworks as Phylicia Rashad ("A Raisin in the Sun") or Susan Sarandon ("Bernard and Doris"). Again, that's another example this year of subdued performances trumping more theatrical emoting.

I sure wish the old Emmy days of the judging panels returned. I did pretty well with my predix this year, but I could've nailed a lot more races under the old voting system.

Photo: AMC

The comments to this entry are closed.


I think the real question here is why subtle acting is called something that couldn't be the factor in getting them the Emmys.

Times are changing, and so is television, and so is acting. Dianne Wiest might not have submitted the most emotional, explosive episode, but it was certainly a great acting showcase.

Same goes for Tina Fey, in the sense she doesn't go over the top in her performance, but she ha great timing and great domain of her character.

Great acting isn't the same as big, over the top storylines. Sometimes, with more subtle plots you can some great work, as shown, I believe, by these two actresses.

Can't we believe that maybe, just maybe, the fact that (with the exception, of Baldwin and Piven), all of them won for giving more subtle but extremely strong work, without having the so called "big money scenes", but for actually doing their craft weel instead?

I repeat: Times are changing...

Since The Office didn't win anything, these 'awards' have no validity.

I am still sore over Phylicia Rashad's loss. She is long overdue for Emmy recognition after being passed over for "The Cosby Show".

For that matter, I am still sore that Jane Kaczmarek never won an Emmy for her fantastic work on "Malcolm in the Middle".

It is becoming a matter of both the episode submissions and cool factor. Jean Smart, for example, is an Emmy favorite -- having won two previous times. At the same time, she lost to Blythe Danner when nominated for "24". Danner won for a little-seen series ("Huff") but then lost for her appearances on the more popular "Will and Grace".

So who knows what the hell these people are thinking? I have long felt that the Emmy submission should be a REPRESENTATION of a body of work, not the sole manner by which voting is based. An entire season should be considered. Granted, you then run the risk of more popular fare winning over lesser seen programs by some members of the academy. But given the prevalance of basic and pay cable in our lives, I would imagine that would be balanced out by academy members who are not broadcast snobs.

It should be like the presidential elections. There should be more secrecy in the voting. I want to know who makes the Top 10 and then the Top 5-7, but I don't want to know who voted for whom.

You talk about Tina Fey being undeserving as if it's some sort of true. Some people - like myself - thought she was great in her submission! The cool factor won her a writing Emmy, not an acting one. Same goes for The ones you found deserving... so, just because the guy is on a show no one watches it means that he's more deserving than people with some buzz? Can you really say that if John Hamm had won it would be a travesty?

Come on!

PS: I loved Bryan Cranston's win. But would be fine if he had lost.



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