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It’s Not About Winning Awards – It’s About Winning Our Hearts

Posted on the 15 September 2011 by Thevault @The_Vault

It’s Not About Winning Awards – It’s About Winning Our Hearts

Cheryl Durst, one of The Vault’s featured guest writers, has written an article about the Emmy awards where she looked into the process around the coveted statuette. 

Note: Cheryl wrote this article prior to the announcement of The Creative Award winners, which took place on September 10. Unfortunately, none of the nominees for True Blood took home the statuette. That makes her research all the more important; since it should help us to understand the process, even if we still, like her, remain disappointed.

Below is her article. 

When the list of Emmy nominees for 2011 was recently announced many True Blood fans were left disappointed, a bit confused and some were downright angry. I decided to investigate the process of nominating and voting for the Emmys so I’d have a better understanding of it and perhaps, after learning about the process, I would be enlightened as to why True Blood continues to be overlooked for it’s excellence. I did the research but I cannot say that I feel any less disappointed concerning our favorite addiction being snubbed. If anything, I feel skeptical about the process. The good news is that True Blood did get nominated this year for the following:

  • Outstanding Guest Actress in a DramaAlfre Woodard
  • Outstanding Art Direction For A Single-Camera Series – “Beautifully Broken”
  • Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) – “9 Crimes”
  • Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series – “Hitting the Ground”

After you familiarize yourself with the process I doubt that you will feel any less disappointed and in fact, you will probably question the validity of the voting process itself. At this point I might normally tell you “to enjoy” but I doubt you’ll find much joy in this particular article. I suppose we fans need to be grateful that True Blood got four nominations even if we think the categories are a bit obscure.

How did Emmy get it’s name?
Even though The Academy of Television Arts & Science was was founded in 1946, the first Emmys weren’t awarded until 1949. Their original name was Immy which was a nickname for the “image orthicon tube” that was part of a camera used back then. A man named Louis McManus (who was a television engineer) designed the statuette. It is said that Mr. McManus used his wife as a model for the statuette. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences stated that the statuette represented the arts in the form of a winged woman and the sciences which is the atom. Eventually the academy started referring to the Immy as Emmy because they felt that Emmy was a more feminine name and more suited the form of the statuette. FYI, the Emmy is made of high grade pewter and then electroplated in copper, then nickle, then silver. The final electroplating is in 18-karat gold with the statuette weighing 4 ¾ pounds and a height of 16 inches. The company that makes the Emmy is the R.S. Owens Company and they are located in Chicago, Illinois. This same company also makes the Oscar Statue that is awarded by the film industry.

The Membership Structure of The Academy (ATAS and NATAS)
To begin with, there are two divisions of The Academy: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) is headquartered in Los Angles and they give out the awards for the prime-time television programs. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) is headquartered in New York City and they give out the awards for daytime shows, news and documentaries.
There are over 15,000 members of The Academy who are divided into 28 peer groups. Therefore, the Television Academy feels as though they have a fair representation of television professionals in every field. The members of The Academy (ATAS & NATAS) are the people who vote on the awards. Each member of The Academy pays a fee to be a member: Active Membership is $175 per year and Associate Membership is $100 per year. There are also Student Memberships at $50 per year and Faculty Memberships at $75 per year. The latter two memberships require a detailed list of specific qualifications in order to be considered for membership. An interesting fact to ponder is that if you use $100 as the “average” yearly membership fee, The Academy collects about $1,500,000 per year in membership fees alone. And, as we move along, you will find that they also collect entry fees from those hoping to be nominated for an Emmy.

The membership is divided into 28 peer groups and each group is specific according their expertise. For example, actors are in a peer group, camera operators are in their own peer group and make-up artists are in their own group and so on. Each of these peer groups vote ONLY in their own peer group category. Everyone, however, is allowed to vote in the program categories; best comedy series, best drama series and so on.

Now it gets a bit more tricky (as well as interesting).

It’s Not About Winning Awards – It’s About Winning Our Hearts

Alfre Woodard at the Creative Emmy Awards on 9/10/11

Who nominates? How does the list get narrowed?
People who worked on eligible shows can nominate themselves for awards. Prime Time Eligible is defined in this scenario as a show that aired on broadcast or cable during 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. between June 1 and May 31. It even becomes a bit more defined in that the prime time show had to be viewed in markets that represent 51% of television viewers in the United States. In addition, teams of people can enter in more than one category as long as each entry is for a different program. Entrants have to pay a fee, the amount of which is based on whether the nomination is commercial, individual or for a program and the size of the team for team entries. Entrants are allowed to mail or fax their entries to The Academy. The deadline set for submissions is usually sometime each February. At this point we now have the list of all the eligible nominations in all the qualified eligible categories that are received by the specified deadline. Not every nominee will have the honor of being put on that final list of nominees to be voted upon. The list is culled and below is the process that takes place.

Now what happens? Who votes?
The qualified entries are mailed to the academy members. There are two rounds of voting. The first voting process is to narrow the entries down to five or less nominees per category and that is why the total membership is segregated into peer groups that represent every aspect of the television industry. As stated above, each peer group is allowed to vote only for entrants in their own peer group categories. The exception to this is that all of the membership can vote for the actual television program categories such as best drama, best comedy and so forth.

The next step for the members is to send their paper ballots to an independent accounting firm to be counted and the top vote-getters in each of the categories are then publicly announced as the nominees. Many times we have heard the nominees say that they are honored to be recognized by their peers and now you know why they make that particular statement. The first round of voting is now completed and we have the final list of nominees in all the categories. Who actually votes on the winners of the final lists? Would you believe that voting is conducted using the honor system by membership volunteers? Read on.

The Final Voting Process
The following was written by Pamela Nelson

“The academy asks for volunteers among the members to judge the nominees and choose the best in each category. The volunteer judges are grouped by peers, too, and the number of voters in each category varies. But again, everyone votes in the outstanding program categories. In years past, judging panels met in Los Angeles and watched all of the nominated shows and performances in a two-day marathon. Rod Serling, the prolific writer behind the “Twilight Zone” series, devised the judging panel idea in the 1960s, when he was president of the academy. He and others wanted to make sure that the judges actually watched the nominees, rather than just voting for their favorites.”

“Judging rules can change based on changes in the industry and the needs of the voting body. For example, in 2000, the academy decided to allow members to volunteer to watch tapes of the nominees in their own homes and on their own schedules. This meant that more people could vote in the final process; television critics and others had criticized the former voting procedure, saying that only older people with more time on their hands (that is, not active performers, directors, technicians) would volunteer to participate in an inconvenient, time-consuming judging process. The critics said that the old voting procedure led to some of the best and most daring shows going unrecognized, because the judging panels were older and more conservative. But opponents of the new, more relaxed judging process say that there is no guarantee that the voters will watch the tapes. Essentially, the members are on the honor system.”

Okay, so what happens next?
Currently, the firm that counts the ballots is Ernst and Young and they are supposed to receive the ballots from the volunteer voters by snail mail: The United States Postal System. The firm of Ernst and Young is sworn to secrecy and keep the names of the winners secured until the night of the Emmy Awards broadcast. Representatives from Ernst and Young actually hold the envelopes until the presenters carry the envelope on stage. The envelope is opened, the winners are revealed, the statuette is given to the winners, the winners give a speech of gratitude and walk off stage with their Emmy. Voila, the process is complete for another year.

The Emmy Awards: Almost always a disappointing time for True Blood fans.
If you are reading this article you are most likely a dyed-in-the-wool hard core Trubie who believes the show is the best thing to come along since the invention of television itself. And, in being so, you are disappointed that the powers that be don’t feel the same about our beloved fantasy/drama when it comes time for critical recognition each year with the awarding of Emmys (and other entertainment achievement awards).

The selection process, although long and arduous with two voting processes, seems excessively flawed in many ways. It is like many other things in life that are subjective; what is glorious to one may not be to another. The fact that anyone who works in the television industry can become a voting member simply by paying for their membership seems a bit strange to me; but yet, how else would The Academy recruit members qualified to determine the degree of excellence that television productions possess in order to be worthy of an Emmy? And what about the honesty of those members who volunteer to watch and view shows (and segments of shows) in order to determine the degree of excellence that would catapult it to being the winner of it’s category?

Apparently there is a high degree of prestige that accompanies the winning of an Emmy, et al. Winning an Emmy can improve the career of an actor as well as boost ratings of a television show. It appears as though the competition is fierce and even though competition usually gives way to improved quality, I can’t find room for improvement with any aspect of True Blood.
From the very moment I watched the first episode of True Blood, I was mesmerized by the set, the tone and mood of the show and the actors who brought the written words of the script to life. There is absolutely nothing pretentious about the show, it flows with organic reality and that type of flow is only possible when the writers, actors, crew and all involved are at the top of their game. All aspects of the show are extremely well thought out which gives us fans reason to question True Blood’s exclusion in various categories of yearly television awards. The beautiful acting of the cast has always been most impressive to me as they make their characters believable and credible. Although there are some very funny moments in each episode, I find the series to be a drama that should be taken very seriously as a yearly contender for awards of excellence, and for that very reason we fans are dearly disappointed. Even though HBO has 104 Emmy nominations this year (which is outstanding) I certainly wanted to see “True Blood” leading those HBO nominated categories. I simply do understand being overlooked for at least a nomination in the major categories.

After the public announcement of the 2011 Emmy nominees, Kristin Bauer van Straten asked fans on her Facebook page if we thought the reason for True Blood being snubbed in major categories was due to the genre. I do not believe the genre has a thing to do with it. Personally, after completing the research for this article, I have my own opinions as to why True Blood is overlooked. For one thing, as I see it, there are too many loop holes and questionable areas in the voting process.

As the month of September nears, so does the awarding of the Emmys with True Blood having four nominations for 2011. Fingers crossed that the volunteer voters will actually watch whatever True Blood episodes and segments they are supposed to watch in order to find our beloved series worthy of winning an Emmy for the four nominated categories. Good luck to actor Alfre Woodard and the True Blood crew members involved in the nominated categories.

In 2009, Michelle Forbes, who plays the role of True Blood’s maenad, Maryann Forrester, summed it up poignantly and profanely: “Excuse me, but fuck awards!” says Forbes.

“That’s not where the glory is. The glory is in the audience,” she adds. “That’s who we tell the stories for. It’s not for, with all due respect, the critics and not for the awards shows, but for the audience.”

And, with that, what else is there to say?

For a list of past award nominations for True Blood go to:

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