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 V.15 No.34 | August 24 - 30, 2006 

Idiot Box

Short but Sweet?

“The 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” on NBC

Does anyone really care about the Emmy Awards? I mean, if you’re a castmember of “Desperate Housewives” you probably do. But is the life of the average American actually affected by who wins Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series? I doubt it.

At its heart, the Emmy Awards is just another chance for movie stars to dress up in free Harry Winston jewels and be seen on the Red Carpet. Who does or does not take home a golden angel statue has little effect on a show’s ratings. (“Two and a Half Men” got an Emmy? I’m so watching now!) People are drawn to the awards telecast for Red Carpet gawking and the occasional controversy.

This year’s Emmy Awards had a few controversies to choose from. “Lost” got snubbed. The cast of “Will & Grace” got their final pile of nominations. Conan O’Brien is hosting ... again. But clearly, the biggest “huh?” came when the nominations were announced and somebody took the time to notice that Ellen Burstyn was nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie category.

Now, on the surface, that doesn’t sound all that odd. Burstyn is a well-respected actress, and she appeared in one of the year’s more acclaimed TV offerings, HBO’s Mrs. Harris, a retelling of the infamous Scarsdale Diet murder. Burstyn shows up in the movie playing a former lover of Dr. Herman Tarnower (Ben Kingsley) in a faux documentary interview. She is billed as “Ex-Lover #3.” She speaks three lines, for a total of 38 words. Her screen time clocks in at 14 seconds.

Currently, the Emmys does not restrict who can or cannot be nominated based on screen time. If you’ve got $200 and an application fee, you’re eligible for an Emmy. So, should the length of an actor’s performance be the measure of their talent? Judi Dench won an Oscar for appearing in no more than 10 minutes' worth of Shakespeare in Love. Isn’t it possible that Burstyn simply blew away the competition with her explosive 14-second cameo?

Honestly, no. If you don’t want to watch the whole film, you can catch Burstyn’s entire performance at www.whatimwatching.com/jed/2006/08/ellen_burstyns_.html. Burstyn doesn’t even appear in a close-up. She talks about being poor and says something about the soundtrack to Cleopatra. That’s it. She doesn’t scream, expresses no emotions and seems to be imitating no physical or mental handicap. How exactly did she land an Emmy nomination?

The answer seems simple: Nobody in the voting block bothered to watch the movie. Voters simply saw a recognizable name on the ballot and checked it off.

If the 13,000 members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences want to maintain a shred of credibility, they’ll be revising their rules in the immediate future. Or at least advising their members not to make any more moronic nominations. But, hey, maybe Burstyn will wear something interesting to the ceremony. ... Something brief, I’m thinking.

“The 58 th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” coverage begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27, with the Red Carpet arrivals. The awards ceremony starts at 7 p.m. KOB-4 is carrying both broadcasts live.

 
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