"I didn't submit myself for the 'Best Talk Show Host' Emmy this year," Ellen DeGeneres said at her website today when her name was missing from the list of Daytime Emmy nominations. "I feel my steroid use gives me an unfair advantage."
Prior to that, Ellen won the host award four years in a row. Are we now to believe — her steroid joshing aside — that she's "pulling an Oprah"? That is, presumably stepping aside in order to let other people win? That's what most people assumed today when the news broke that she didn't enter her name. However, Ellen's and Oprah Winfrey's actions may not be all that noble when you examine them closely.
When Oprah pulled out of the Daytime Emmys race for talk host in 1999, she had won the previous year, but in a tie with Rosie O'Donnell. The following year, when she yanked her TV program from competing for best talk show, it had lost twice in a row (1998, 1999) to Rosie's yakfest.
Are both Ellen and Oprah secretly furious that they no longer dominate a contest, so, diva style, they quit the game entirely to avoid further humiliation? For now, Ellen is still permitting her own talk show to compete in the program category, where it's lost the past two years after winning four years in a row (2004-2007). Next, will Ellen yank it from the program contest like Oprah did after multiple losses?
When Candice Bergen withdrew from the prime-time Emmy race in 1996, it was immediately after her fifth victory for lead comedy actress in "Murphy Brown." She's reentered the Emmy derby since then, nabbing two noms in the supporting race for "Boston Legal" (2006, 2008), but no wins.
Bill Cosby refused to let "The Cosby Show" compete during the 1990s after he proved to be an Emmy darling in the 1960s, winning four times for "I Spy" and a variety special. He had also been a frequent host of the Emmy ceremony telecast. Most observers believed that he later stepped aside so he could graciously let newcomers compete. However, he took himself out of the running after losing in the 1970s for his short-lived "The Bill Cosby Show." Sour grapes?
Recently, Emmy watchers wondered if "The Daily Show" and "Amazing Race" plan to quit the prime-time contests for best variety and reality competition shows after winning seven consecutive times. Back stage at last year's ceremony, when "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart was asked by reporters if he planned to "pull an Oprah" in the future, he scowled and harrumphed, "No!"