EMMY 2001 ~ The Voting Process

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Working for the Emmy Committee An Insider's Insight into the Voting for the Daytime Emmys

Someone notify the editors at Webster's Dictionary that an update is needed ASAP.  Just make sure it's in time for next year's Daytime Emmy Awards.  The word in question? ENIGMA. 

As a participant in the 2000 Daytime Emmy Award Voting Weekend for the 27th Annual Daytime Emmys, the process of choosing the best and most deserving nominees is nothing short of a complex puzzle.  As most of you already know, the voting process has come under scrutiny the last few years due to block voting and underachieving candidates being named the winners.  Although I still am not quite sure how the actual nominee process works, I was given an insiders look into the actual voting process that is used to determine the winners.

My status as a card-carrying member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences allowed me to supervise two categories of the voting process in last year's awards: Special Class Directing (outstanding directing for shows like "The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," "The Rose Parade," etc.) and Outstanding Directing for a Daytime Drama.  As an academy supervisor, I was in charge of monitoring my group of "experts" (Academy members who also happened to be producers, directors, etc., that volunteer their time to vote in the awards) to watch the submitted Emmy material.  Groups usually consist of four to six voters.  After reading various rules and regulations, the lights go out in a room and the doors are closed.  In last year's voting, the voting place was "General Hospital's" studios on the ABC lot in Los Angeles.  Voters sit in tin, folding chairs and begin the long process of watching tape after tape after tape of daytime dramas, game shows and specials.  Very Hollywood, isn't it?

For someone who views the Daytime Emmy as the most prestigious honor associated with dignity and fairness, I had a much different view as to what the Emmy voting process entailed.   I thought that each nominated show or actor submitted hours upon hours of their best scenes.  Ok, so I wasn't too far off base.  But here's where I veered off course: I assumed that each academy voter sat together at a big long table, watching everything together.  I assumed these people were soap opera fans that knew every inch of storyline covered.  I assumed that once the video viewing ended that these so-called daytime "experts" sat for hours debating each actor's performances and choices until a clear winner was established.  Sounds fair, right?

Well, that of course, was before my eyes were pried open to the reality of what the voting process is really like.  Those in charge of their respective shows, as well as nominated actors, choose two episodes that showcase their best work.  They then send these tapes to the Academy where they are kept until voting occurs.  The voters are instructed not to talk or express their opinions or views.  When the tapes end, the voters mark their choices, usually ranking the nominees from one (best) to five (or, as I prefer to call it--fifth best!).  This process continues until all the tapes are viewed and often lasts the entire day. But surprisingly enough, these "experts," or most of them at least, have never watched more than an hour or two of a daytime drama in their lives.  So, there is no way to know the character's back-story or to trace how far a certain show has improved in the year. 

Hardly fair, you say?  Well, yes and no.  For some actors, they may have no substantial storyline all year, but then give one or two Emmy-caliber performances and therefore look in the eyes of the academy as "outstanding." These actors may be very deserving of the honor, but what about the actor who day in and day out gives outstanding performances, but fails to have the two episodes that offer the one-two punch of a breakdown, death or emotional roller-coaster? Acting is, after all, the more subtle emotions that we experience day in and day out. 

After the voters have marked the last number and viewed the last tape, the results are then tallied with the East Coast votes and then presented live during the Emmy telecast approximately three weeks later.  In most cases, no more than ten people have voted in a particular category.  In fact, while I was administrating the voting for Special Class Directing, only one judge bothered to show up! And even though she was, and still is, a respected name in the daytime industry, her one vote carried too much weight for any category, regardless of how important the category seemed to the public.

So what can be done, you ask?  Well, unless the Daytime Emmy Voting Process receives a major overhaul, unfortunately nothing.  But I do have some advice for the actors, producers, directors and writers who are nominated:  Do rejoice in your nominations. Many nominees like to say that the nomination in itself is the trophy, but do so in fear of seeming conceited or greedy.  If this were the Golden Globes or the Oscars, I might understand.  But considering the voting process that attaches itself to the Daytime Emmys, I say otherwise.  The nomination is more the award; it is the vote, the affirmation of excellence by your peers who deem you worthy of such high recognition.  And true, not everyone worthy receives a nomination (there are only so many to go around of course!), but in reality, it truly is the highest praise of all.