Uh, oh! Beware: Last year's top Emmys winners may repeat
Never in Emmy history have all of the top series champs of one year (best comedy and drama series, plus lead actor and actress) returned the next to strike gold again, but it's starting to look like it may happen on Sept. 20.
Many of Gold Derby's top experts — who view the same sample episodes submitted by nominees to Emmy judges — say that the new front-runners are last year's champs: "Mad Men" (best drama series), "Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston (lead actor), "Damages'" Glenn Close (lead actress), "30 Rock" (comedy series), "30 Rock's" Alec Baldwin (lead actor) and "30 Rock's" Tina Fey (lead actress).
Possible upsets: Hugh Laurie ("House M.D.") or Gabriel Byrne ("In Treatment") might crush Cranston, Steve Carell ("The Office") could humble Baldwin and Toni Collette ("United States of Tara") may trounce Tina Fey. Otherwise, the outcomes of these Emmy races seem pretty much set, according to our kudos prophets. Over the next few weeks, we'll be spotlighting their predix in more detail.
The closest the Emmys came to repeating in the past occurred in 1968 when all of the victorious lead actors in drama and comedy series returned from 1967: Bill Cosby ("I Spy"), Barbara Bain ("Mission: Impossible"), Don Adams ("Get Smart"), and Lucille Ball ("The Lucy Show"). "Mission: Impossible" won best drama series both years, but there were different winners of best comedy. "The Monkees" won in 1967, "Get Smart" in 1968.
Why would it be bad for last year's Emmy champs to repeat? (Why did I put "Uh, oh!" in the headline?) Actually, it wouldn't be terrible from the point of view of justice. Our spies viewing the nominees' episodes tell us that it seems like last year's victors deserve to prevail again. But the TV critics of America don't care about that. Historically, they've demanded that the Emmys reward new, cool faves and, if they dare to bore them with refried beans, they'll hurl their sloppy plates at them with a fury. Remember, I've written the definitive book on these kudos' history ("The Emmys," Penguin Putnam/ Perigee). I can tell you that's how it always plays out whenever there's too much overlap from year to year.
It shouldn't matter what TV critics think. They don't bother to watch the sample episodes submitted to Emmy judges. They don't even bother to investigate what episodes were submitted. They don't care. But that doesn't stop them from mouthing huffy condemnations of the Emmys. That's the equivalent of film critics lambasting the Oscars without bothering to see the movies. Thus their opinions are almost worthless, as far as I'm concerned.
But my opinion doesn't count, unfortunately. The thin-skinned chiefs of the academy keep buckling under the scorn of TV critics because they don't have the backbone to stand firm in the face of public criticism, even if it comes from clueless sources. That's the price they just paid for cooking up the recent lame-brain's "time-shifting" scheme that backfired so horribly. There's nothing wrong with the Emmy show, but academy chiefs tried to fix it anyway because some TV critics blasted the stupid banter of the five TV reality-show emcees who cohosted last year's Emmycast.
And how did they try to fix it? By trimming award presentations from an awards show so they can add more free time for "entertainment" -- that is, the exact same dumb banter that got criticized last year.
In recent years, all of the terrible decisions made by TV academy leaders were because those chiefs caved to pressure from clueless TV critics. A few years ago when "Lost" wasn't nominated for best drama series, it was the network's fault: producers submitted a lousy episode to the Emmy judging panel. But TV critics crucified the Emmys, who couldn't stand the outcry and, consequently, stripped the power of its blue-ribbon panels to choose nominees by 50%. Thereafter, they mixed up the judges' opinions on a 50/50 basis with the results of the original popular vote that resulted in top 10 run-offs. That defeated the whole purpose of having the blue-ribbon panels. Thereafter, the combined results were virtually the same as the popular vote so ATAS got rid of the panels completely.
That was crazy. The highest priority of the Emmys should be establishing a way to add careful scrutiny to the selection of nominations -- just like the academy does for picking winners. But the academy killed off the panels because it couldn't cope with criticism of them by TV critics. And when the Emmys did that, they killed off the hope of many low-rated shows to get a fair shot at winning Emmys. Thank you, TV critics -- that's the valuable contribution you've made to Emmy selection.
I hope -- nay, pray -- that last year's winners don't repeat across the board because this awards expert can be sure of this prediction: TV academy leaders will end up buckling under the inevitable outcry of haughty critics demanding rewards for The Hot New Thing instead. As a result, the Emmys will make ridiculous rule changes to placate them and they'll devalue TV's Golden Girl even more. Stop the madness! Stop listening to TV critics! What do they know about TV awards? Awards are out of the realm of their expertise. Listening to what they say about awards is the equivalent to having your TV repairman write an episode of "Mad Men." He works in TV, right? Doesn't that mean he's qualified?
Photos: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times