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Emmy rule change snubs Tina Fey, Hugh Jackman and Jon Stewart

March 18, 2009 |  1:28 pm

The fact that the Emmys killed off the category for variety performers means that "three of the major highlights of an otherwise relatively dreary TV season" will be snubbed, according to our forums moderator Robert "Rob L" Licuria (


He cites Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live," Hugh Jackman hosting the Oscars and Jon Stewart's battle with CNBC star Jim Cramer on "The Daily Show." Gold Derby already dished the Stewart/Cramer snub in another blog post, but let's explore it further plus other snubs while discussing this rule change in more detail.

The title of the category zapped by the Emmys is "outstanding individual performance in a variety, music or comedy program." That means from here on out, principal performers will vie for Emmys only as part of the teams nominated for best variety series or special. Stand-out star turns will no longer get solo notice, and they will not be acknowledged at all by the Emmys if the shows in which they are part of don't win.

Another forums moderator -- Chris "Boomer" Beachum -- is also riled up about that change. As he says, "Sometimes a performer deserves an Emmy for individual performance, but the series or the special does not deserve an Emmy. As it stands now, the only way for a performer to win or be nominated is if the program is as well."

Beginning last year, kudocasts now compete in a special class at the Emmys rather than with other variety specials. And the new Emmy rules are unclear as to whether the host of an awards show will be included with the nominated producers.

Hugh Jackman won an Emmy for hosting the 2004 Tonys. Billy Crystal earned three Emmys for emceeing the 1988 Grammys and both the 1991 and 1998 Oscars. And Whitney Houston prevailed for performing "Saving All My Love for You" at the 1985 Grammys. After taking another look at that socko opening song by Hugh Jackman, with an assist by nominee Anne Hathaway, from this year's Oscarcast at the academy's official YouTube channel, do you agree with Rob and Chris that he deserves to be in the running once more?

Rob's take on the new Emmy situation is as follows:

OK, this is how I see it:

1.) Variety, music or comedy ("VMC") series and/or specials have their own directing category, writing category, and even things like lighting direction and costume categories, but they no longer have an individual performance category for what is arguably the most important aspect of variety programming  -- the performances!

2.) The question is: In what category or categories are performers in VMC programs now eligible?

3.) As we saw last year, "series regulars" on "sketch comedy shows" may enter in the supporting actor/actress in a comedy series categories. Amy Poehler from "Saturday Night Live" was able to make the most out of this rule change and was nominated in supporting actress in a comedy series last year (see Page 42 of the Emmy rules). So the likes of Poehler, Andy Samberg, Kristin Wiig and any other series regulars on other sketch comedy shows are safe (albeit they are now dumped into more competitive categories).

4. The Emmy rules (on Page 42) now state that "the principal host" of a VMC series is now eligible to be entered with the program in category 70 (outstanding VMC series). Similarly, "the principal host/performer" is now eligible to be entered with the program in category 71 (outstanding VMC special).

5.) This would see people like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Bill Maher, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Craig Ferguson be the recipient of an Emmy statuette along with the producers of their respective shows, should their show win. This is confirmed on Page 47, where, under category 70 (VMC series), it states that the the Emmy goes to (among others) "the principal host."

It also specifically says on Page 42 that "secondary performers are no longer eligible." This means that someone like a guest on "Tonight Show" is no longer eligible to receive an Emmy at all.

..It is also unclear how shows that have a number of "principal hosts" are to be dealt with. How are the various hosts of "Saturday Night Live" eligible under this rule? Because they can't be individually singled out in the former individual performance in a VMC program category, is it the case that if "Saturday Night Live" is nominated for VMC series that all of the hosts throughout the season are also named as potential recipients of Emmy statuettes? This rule seems to have ruined the chances of, say, honoring Tina Fey as Governor Sarah Palin, and now even a host like Anne Hathaway or Jon Hamm from earlier in the "SNL" season may also be left out because of this rule.

6.) On the VMC special side, the principal host or performer of shows nominated in VMC special are eligible to receive their own Emmy statuette, like, say, last year when "Kathy Griffin: Straight to Hell" was nominated as VMC special, Kathy Griffin would have received the Emmy as principal performer, along with the eligible producers of that special. This is confirmed on Page 47, where, under category 71 (VMC special), it states that the the Emmy goes to (among others) "the principal host/performer."

7.) Now that "awards programs" and "not-exclusively-made-for-television VMC event programs" are no longer included as VMC specials, and have their own category, the rule change on Page 42 also states that "the principal host/performer" of "awards programs" and "not-exclusively-made-for-television VMC event programs" are also eligible to be entered with the program in category area 72a. This would mean that someone like Hugh Jackman would receive the Emmy as principal performer, along with Laurence Mark and Bill Condon as producers, should the 81st Annual Academy Awards win category area 71a : outstanding special class program -- awards shows.

Unfortunately, unlike VMC series and VMC special, under category area 72a on Pages 47-8, it specifically states that the Emmy goes to the various eligible producers, but does not include the words "and the principal host/performer." Is this just a typographical error? If not, then this means, if the rules are read correctly, that someone like Hugh Jackman will not be eligible to receive the Emmy in his own right if the Oscars win.

It is certain, however, that a supporting performer, like, say, on the Grammy Awards, or on a concert special or Broadway production filmed for television is no longer eligible for Emmy consideration at all.

8.) What makes this rule change problematic is that it is unclear and muddies the waters, and most of all, does not allow for individual recognition of a host or principal performer, let alone a supporting performer on a non-sketch show.

9.) And to add insult to injury, hosts and co-hosts of reality series and reality-competition programs still have their own special category! So, for instance, Heidi Klum can actually be up for an individual Emmy for appearing in "Project Runway" for five minutes per episode, but Tina Fey gets nothing for her history-changing impersonations of Sarah Palin.

10.) And although Jon Stewart will at least get lumped in with his show in the VMC series category, it is unclear whether Hugh Jackman will be one of the Emmy winners if the Oscars win the special class program award.

Below are Chris Beachum's views.

After reading the new rules, I am interpreting it the same way.

In addition to completely ignoring many great performances, it opens up a whole other problem. Sometimes a performer deserves an Emmy for individual performance, but the series or the special does not deserve an Emmy. As it stands now, the only way for a performer to win or be nominated is if the program is as well.

Let's say for the sake of argument that voters would like to reward Will Ferrell for this weekend's HBO special (he was excellent, by the way). The show's production values were just mediocre, though.  In the past, he could very well win an Emmy himself without the actual special winning.

Just amazing how the Academy could mess this up. If anything, there should be a performance Emmy for variety specials and a separate one of variety series.  There is a huge difference between a one-time event and hosting or performing on a series throughout an entire season.


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Photo: NBC

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