Why Emmy Nominations Sound So Familiar

Richard H. Frank is president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

Sorry if many of this year's Primetime Emmy nominations strike the usually wise and knowing eyes of Howard Rosenberg as "bor-r-r-ing" because there are repeats from previous years ("1996 Emmy Nominees: Seems Like Old Times," July 22). But excellence and outstanding work has a way of repeating itself in our contemporary world. We can't escape repeats.

Where would the NBA be without the recent championships from the Chicago Bulls? And how about the way Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf keep "bor-r-r-ing" us with their tennis achievements? And then there are the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Braves and Grammys won by Garth Brooks.

In fact, Mr. Rosenberg's own peer group, the Television Critics Assn., has just voted "Frasier" its third successive win as best comedy series. Not boring at all, just appropriate acknowledgment for outstanding work.

Periodically, to eliminate repeated wins, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences revisits the provocative question of only allowing one lifetime win to a performer in a continuing role or to a series. And every time the good minds of the academy's awards committee and Board of Governors prevail, with the fairness doctrine that Emmys are for outstanding work in a given year.


That means that each year the programs of previous winning shows are different, as are the performances, the writing (with different teams of writers) and the directing. They have a right to compete year after year.

And, furthermore, if a program repeats as a nominee, that doesn't mean it won. And if it didn't win, doesn't it have a right to compete again?

On the other hand, and without paranoia, the academy respects and understands the right of performers such as John Larroquette and Candice Bergen who decline entry after winning repeated Emmys.

At the academy we're proud of our awards structure, which we think is the best in the entertainment world. At the risk of being "bor-r-r-ing," let me explain that it's best because only peers can nominate peers for Emmys, with all active members voting nominations for programs. Once nominated, final wins are mostly determined by peer panels who must see all nominated works over a weekend before casting a secret final vote. In some other industry awards, members can vote for movies or music without ever having seen one film or heard one song all year.

Check out this year's Primetime Emmys as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the academy on Sept. 8 (ABC-TV), with Paul Reiser hosting with an assist from Oprah Winfrey and Michael J. Fox.

We guarantee it won't be "bor-r-r-ing."

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