The main problem with the Daytime Emmys is that there are too damn many of them. One of the great things about the Academy Awards there are just a handful of categories, and with certain exceptions every film is eligible for every award. Take Best Picture, for example. Every feature-length movie is eligible for Best Picture. Yes, there are special categories for documentaries, foreign language films, and animated features, but films eligible in those categories are also eligible for Best Picture, provided they were "publicly exhibited... for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County for a run of at least seven consecutive days, advertised and exploited during its Los Angeles run in a manner considered normal and customary to the industry within the awards year deadline." And while it's not common, we've seen several foreign language films nominated for Best Picture, as well as one animated feature. No documentaries have been nominated for Best Picture yet, but it could happen. The point is that because any film can be nominated for Best Picture, there's a certain purity to the award and integrity to the award, at least in theory. The same is true of most of the other categories. A documentary can be nominated for Best Editing. An animated film can be nominated for Best Sound Mixing. A foreign language film can be nominated for Best Original Screenplay. And so on.
This is not the case with the Daytime Emmys. It's impossible to point to one program and say, this is the best thing to air on television in the past year, because they have no general award analogous to Best Picture. In the Daytime Emmys, there are eleven separate categories for what we might call excellence in production: Children's Animated Program, Special Class Animated Program, Drama Series, Game/Audience Participation Show, Pre-School Children's Series, Children's Series, Children/Youth/Family Special, Talk Show, Service Show, Special Class Series, and the delightfully-named Special Class Special. Which one is best? Beats me, and since programs are only eligible in one production category, shows never have the opportunity to compete against one another. (The Primetime Emmys are no better; last year, they gave out production awards in eighteen categories.)
That same general problem exists in all the other categories. There are a tiny handful of categories in which all shows compete against one another; in most, there are separate categories for drama series and all other series. This has led to a bloated slate of awards; this year, Daytime Emmys will be awarded in sixty categories. This is bad for two reasons. One, it suggests that the nominees in one category or the other could not earn a nomination on their own merits. Since it's usually the daytime dramas that are segregated into their own category, this practice contributes to the low opinion of soap operas held by many people. Second, when you give awards in sixty categories, it becomes literally impossible to present all the awards at a single ceremony. The Television Academy therefore cherry-picks certain of the more glamorous categories to be presented during a televised ceremony, and presents all the others -- the "creative arts categories" -- at two non-televised ceremonies. The Academy may say that the Best Drama Series Emmy is no more meaningful or significant than the Outstanding Special Class Special Emmy, but it's hard to believe when the former is presented at a ceremony broadcast live on national TV to an audience of millions, and the other is presented in a hotel ballroom to an audience of whomever happens to be in the room at the time.
Having said all that, I must confess that in spite of its many flaws, I retain a certain fondness for the Daytime Emmys, because they are the only major entertainment industry award for which one of my close friends has been nominated. So let's take a look at some of the more interesting (to me) nominees.
- My inner comic book geek is very pleased to see Static Shock nominated for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program. I always liked the character, and they've done a good job adapting the comic to the small screen. Static Shock was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition.
- Remember how I said up there that if a show is eligible for one production award, they're not eligible for any other? That's not precisely true when it comes to animated programs. An animated program can be entered in either the Outstanding Children's Animated Program or the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program categories, but not both. I guess they decided they needed to create a second category just in case an animated show not intended for children shows up, but for now the distinction seems meaningless.
- The Oscars are superior to the Emmys in every conceivable way but one: the Television Academy gives an award for casting. Strangely, the casting award is open only to drama series, and there's no corresponding award for all other series. I guess the other shows just take whomever shows up when it's time to start taping.
- Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design/Styling is an interesting mixed bag. One of the nominees, Bear in the Big Blue House, has no human performers, so all the costumes are designed and made for Muppets. Two of the other nominees are The Ellen Degeneres Show and The View. I wouldn't think any talk show would have much need for costumes. Maybe costume is synonymous with wardrobe in the context, but there's nothing in the rules to support that theory.
- Two shows that aired on Discovery Health were nominated for Outstanding Special Class Directing. I'm a little surprised that Discovery Health has clearance in enough homes to qualify for these awards. (A show must have been available to more than 50% of the total potential US television audience to be eligible for consideration. A show that fails to meet that level of availability may be submitted by the production company for consideration for local Emmys given by their regional chapter of the Television Academy.)
- John Henry Kreitler, a composer for Passions, received five nominations in the music categories, one for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series and four (!) for Outstanding Original Song. He was at least partially responsible for 71% of the nominations received by Passions. I think he needs to ask for a raise.
- Michelle Trachtenberg becomes only the second Buffy cast member to be honored with an Emmy nomination, for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series, for her work as host of the Discovery Kids series Truth or Scare.
- John Ritter earned a posthumous nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program, for his work as the title character in Clifford the Big Red Dog. He's up against another 70s sitcom vet, Henry Winkler, in a Clifford spin-off series, Clifford's Puppy Days.
- Win Ben Stein's Money was nominated for Outstanding Special Class Writing. I honestly had no idea that show was still on the air.
- Media conglomeration in action: in toto, there were 269 Daytime Emmy nominations this year. 216 of those nominations went to shows airing on one of 23 different networks. One of those networks was PBS; the other 22 networks were owned by just seven corporations: Viacom, Disney, GE, Time-Warner, Scripps Networks, Discovery Communications, and Rainbow Media Holdings. There were 53 nominations for syndicated programs; 49 of those were produced and/or distributed by just three corporations: Viacom, Disney, and Time-Warner. There was one program produced and distributed by an independent operator: Animal Rescue, produced and distributed by Telco Productions. (The last two went to a syndicated 9/11 memorial, about which I could uncover no information about either the producer or the distributor.)
Woo! That's a lot of words for an awards show I don't really care about. The full list of nominees can be found here. Most of the winners will be announced on Saturday, May 15, 2004; the rest will be presented live from Radio City Music Hall on NBC on Friday, May 21, 2003. Be there, or be doing something more worthwhile.