Add this to the many questions left unanswered about Lost: Will Emmy honor the ABC drama for its final season? Unfortunately, there are no axioms to suggest that Emmy voters have soft spots in their hearts for groundbreaking and/or critically beloved shows that end their runs on broadcast or cable TV. For every Everybody Loves Raymond and The Sopranos (both of which won Emmys in their final seasons), there are many more shows that did not win the sentimental vote for Outstanding Drama or Outstanding Comedy after their curtain calls.
Nobody was surprised when the last seasons of, say, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls or even Battlestar Galactica didn’t earn Emmy nods; they weren’t as strong as previous seasons and the voters always ignored them when it came to the major categories, anyway. But when gold-standard dramas like The Wire and The Shield — two critically acclaimed shows that produced stellar final years — get the shaft, then it certainly provokes concern that maybe Emmy voters aren’t as in tune to good TV as we’d like to think. (Both dramas failed to ever earn nods in the Outstanding Drama category during their runs, though Michael Chiklis won a statue after his first year on the FX cop show while the HBO series got noms for writing.)
Another show facing the sentimental vote question is 24. Though it’s arguable whether the series deserves an Emmy nod for that (maddening!) final year that had Jack Bauer flying off the rails, voters might feel some sadness over having to say goodbye to Kiefer Sutherland’s beloved character, if not the show’s innovative format that we’re not likely to see again for a long time. Still, a nod in the Outstanding Drama category seems like a long shot. Lost, however, produced one of its finest years of TV: EW critic Ken Tucker describes the finale as “pretty delightful, full of reunions that were both emotional and funny.” Granted, the series already won for Outstanding Drama in 2005, but Emmy voters could bless the show with a nomination Thursday just for that heartfelt wrap-up in the church alone. The roadblock to a Lost win, however, is the actual screening process. Just like in years past, ABC insiders worry that Emmy voters — who now watch submissions from the comfort of their homes — may get lost watching Lost episodes if they haven’t followed the show since day one. Sighs one PR executive about the whole process, “After all these years, I’ve tried not to second-guess what happens. I just never know.”
We’ll give Emmy guru John Leverence the last word here. “When it comes to Academy voting patterns, viewer and voter loyalty is a factor on one side, and an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ sensibility is a factor on the other side,” says Leverence, who is the vice president of awards for the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences. “Both should be considered in a mix with the recent traction a show has with voters. Lost was nominated last year and 24 wasn’t, so Lost has two-thirds of that on its side — viewer loyalty plus a 2009 nomination — whereas 24 has one-third viewer loyalty but no 2009 nomination. Ditto two-thirds for Damages, nominated last year, and ditto one-third for Law & Order, not nominated last year. But this is more alchemy than chemistry, and the highly subjective factor of what kind of year a series is judged to have had is also critically important.”