Airing the Emmys the year of the actors strike.
In 1980, the actors strike was in effect when it came time to broadcast the awards ceremony. Although the Emmy show itself was not part of the labor dispute, a display of solidarity was called for among actors. Thus, non-actors Steve Allen and Dick Clark replaced previously announced (actor) hosts Bob Newhart, Michael Landon, and Lee Remick. Of the 52 acting nominees, the only one to attend and accept his Emmy was Powers Boothe, who won for Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones and was applauded by a partially empty auditorium. Wouldn’t it have been better just to shut down the show for a year?
Allowing the reality stars to host a show.
In 2008, there was this cool new-ish phenomenon: Reality TV! How could the stodgy old Emmys breathe fresh life into their broadcast? Hey, let’s let reality stars like Ryan Seacrest, Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst, Tom Bergeron, and Howie Mandel host the show! Now, mind you, each of these people does excellent work at their day jobs (yes, even Howie Mandel, though we liked him better in St. Elsewhere). But as hosts meant to replace trained laugh-getters in the tradition of previous hosts including Johnny Carson and Bill Cosby? Let’s get real…
Columbo never won an Emmy. Whaat?
One of the best-acted, best-written, most-loved TV shows ever never won an Outstanding Drama Emmy? Seems impossible doesn’t it? Thank goodness Peter Falk won (five times), but the show itself, so clever and unique as created by producers Richard Levinson and William Link, deserved its own Emmy.
Candice Bergen and Helen Hunt dominate the Best Comedy Actress awards throughout the 1990s.
In eight of 10 years, you had to be either the star of Murphy Brown or the star of Mad About You to win an Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Emmy. Yes, Bergen’s character was a ground-breaker and a deserved winner, and yes, Hunt’s performance was charming, but… better than Patricia Richardson in the heyday of Home Improvement? Better than Roseanne Barr, who won only once (1993)? These are the kinds of repetitive awards that make the show itself more tedious, and end up punishing the winning actor — the what-her/him-again? factor.
Never giving The Wire an Emmy.
Let’s see: Arguably the greatest TV series in the history of the medium. The show with one of the largest, finest ensemble of actors ever assembled (just look at Fringe, Friday Night Lights, The Good Wife, and tons of other shows who’ve hired The Wire actors since it left the air). And it aired on HBO, that perennial Emmy magnet. And this great crime saga still didn’t win a best-drama Emmy. That’s a crime unto itself!
Jimmy Smits never won an Emmy for NYPD Blue.
We would never begrudge Dennis Franz his four wins (the most ever for the Lead Actor Drama category). However, you’d think one time, especially in his final season — the show’s sixth — in which his Bobby Simone died an agonizing death after his body rejected a heart transplant, Smits should have earned an Emmy.
On the other hand: David Caruso was nominated his first and only season on NYPD Blue.
Feeling his oats and newfound fame, along with a desire to jump into feature films, he announced he would skip the awards show. He was criticized widely for arrogance, so he showed up — dressed not in a tux but in a suit and T-shirt, interpreted as sign of disrespect. Big mistake, David. He lost to Franz that year, and his film career didn’t fare well. Fortunately for Caruso, he found sunglasses and more lasting fame on CSI: Miami.
Johnny Carson's Tonight Show didn't win an Emmy for more than a decade.
With Carson at the helm since 1962, The Tonight Show didn’t win an Emmy up through 1974. Carson is reportedly so irritated, he yanks the show from Emmy consideration. So the next year, the Emmy committee recognizes the error of their ways and gives the show an Emmy… but in a new, special ”Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement” category. The show never wins in its standard category until 1992.
Ted Danson was nominated seven times in a row before winning an Emmy.
Cheers itself was cheered by the public and the Emmys on numerous occasions — but the Emmys kept forgetting to reward the owner of the bar. Danson’s performance as Sam Malone, the glue that held that great ensemble cast together through numerous cast changes, was not rewarded until he took home an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1990. (He won again in 1993.)
Keeping the movies-and-miniseries category in the prime-time show.
Let’s face it, the days of the big network TV movie or mini-series are long gone. (We salute you, Roots and Lonesome Dove.) In recent years, the industry has virtually ceded this genre to HBO and PBS, which also does a very good job at this form of television — in fact, so good, that in 2009 and 2010, there were only TWO nominations in the Outstanding Miniseries in each of those years. (In 2011, therefore, the Academy decided to merge the Miniseries category with the Movie category.) Wouldn’t a nice montage of the winning speeches by any big stars at the pre-Emmys ceremony suffice?