It’s safe to assume there are at least six people who aren’t too pleased with Emmy’s new voting system (which allowed TV academy members to screen tapes at home and vote by mail). The folks deciding the Best Comedy category, for example, nearly didn’t get one of the four episodes submitted by ”Friends.” Chris Rock is probably peeved too, since his name was mistakenly left off the ballot for Best Variety Special. And let’s not forget how that truck carrying all those ”Everybody Loves Raymond” videotapes got hijacked early on.
”This is what they get for no longer having monitors over voters,” says Emmy historian Tom O’Neil, a proponent of the old system, in which voters were sequestered at a hotel. ”It’s going to take a while to catch these things.” Although the glitches were frustrating and time-consuming (voters were sent new ballots with Rock’s name, while new ”Friends” and ”Raymond” episodes were soon dispatched), the experiment to overhaul the much criticized system proved mostly successful: Four times as many voters participated this year (from roughly 600 to more than 2,600).
But will the new process finally put an end to the monopoly of such perennial winners as Dennis Franz (nominated for Best Actor in a Drama) and John Lithgow (nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy)? The TV academy is optimistic. ”We’ll know on the night of [Sept.] 10th [by] how the room feels,” says chairman Meryl Marshall. ”I expect the buzz to be quite positive.” Hopefully, that’s code for: James Gandolfini, get your speech ready.