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The Wide World of Weird Emmy History

July 10, 2014

The Emmy Nomination were announced this week and there weren’t many surprises—congratulations once again, cast of Modern Family. Here are a few times when the Emmys got wacky.

  • Emmy HistoryTime, among other institutions, once named The Simpsons the greatest TV series of all time. It’s been on the air for 25 years, but has never been able to gain a nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series. Only two animated series have ever gotten a nomination: The Flintstones in 1961 and Family Guy in 2009. Neither show won.
  • In 1981, Ellen Burstyn was nominated for her titular role in the made-for-TV movie The People vs. Jean Harris, about the headmistress who killed Herman Tarnower, the “Scarsdale Diet” doctor. Widely expected to win, Burstyn lost out to Vanessa Redgrave in Playing for Time. In 2006, Emmy voters may have tried to make up for the loss by nominating Burstyn for a supporting role in Mrs. Harris…another movie about Harris and Tarnower. However, Burstyn had just a bit part in Mrs Harris—she appeared on screen for 14 seconds and spoke 38 words of dialogue. Burstyn quipped to a reporter, “Ultimately I want to be nominated for a picture in which I don’t even appear.” (She didn’t win that time either.)
  • In 1974, the governing American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences tried to mix up the Emmy format a little. In addition to handing out individual awards= in comedies, dramas, and TV movies, they added in “super Emmys,” or awards for overall Actor of the Year, Writer of the Year, etc. For example, Alan Alda won Actor of the Year for M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore won Actress of the Year for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Robert Butler won Director of the Year for the NBC miniseries The Blue Knight. The “super Emmys” were retired after the single outing.
  • Federal and local laws strictly govern the use of lawn signs for political campaigns—a homeowner can’t be paid to put up a sign for a candidate, for example. It’s not as complicated with Emmy voting. During last year’s Emmy campaign, representatives from Netflix reportedly handed out Netflix and Starbucks gift cards to people in the Los Angeles area—where most Emmy voters live— willing to place a “For Your Consideration” sign on their lawn for Netflix series going for Emmys, such as Arrested Development and House of Cards, which is, ironically, about a cutthroat politician.
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