BetteBack Emmy Nominations Commentary – But Bette Midler Nominated

Cedar Rapids Gazette
July 25, 1992


The Emmy nominations recently released look like a crossword puzzle, and if you can figure them out by the time the awards show airs on the Fox network Aug. 30, good luck.

There s not much doubt why many TV viewers can’t remember who won what in the convoluted awards a week after they’re handed out.

On a sensible note, Roseanne Arnold finally got a nomination as best actress for her sitcom, “Roseanne,” which is the most popular entertainment series on TV – and probably for a good reason: Its portrayal of a blue collar family coping with contemporary problems clearly has touched a nerve. But voters once again snubbed the show itself in nominations.

The TV industry prefers refinement, you know?

Now to the madness. Because of a new rule, the pilot for a series can be nominated separately from the series itself in the TV-movie category. So in the list, we find the series “111 Fly Away” with eight nominations.

But wait!!! Then we find that the two-hour pilot of “I’ll Fly Away” got six more nominations.

That makes 14 overall.

Whoopee! I mean, it’s great – all those nominations for a terrific show. But what a way to run a railroad.

If you Figure the whole shebang as 14 nominations for the FU Fly Away” series, that means it’s second to “Northern Exposure,” which led with 16.

And that’s terrific, too, because it’s a shot in the arm for the one-hour TV drama form.

Then there’s another piece of beautiful thinking in the nominations: Guest performers can not only be nominated in the same categories as regular stars, but are guaranteed slots in these categories.

So, for example, in the list for best drama-series actor, we have such fulltimers as Rob Morrow of “ Northern Exposure,” Michael Moriarty of “Law & Order,” Sam Waterston of “I’ll Fly Away” and Scott Bakula of “Quantum Leap.” But there are also three performers who made one-shot guest appearances.

Are you still with me?

Actually, it’s a shame the academy has come up with this shotgun approach because the nominations list shows some encouraging signs.

Nothing, of course, is more satisfying than the salutes to “Northern Exposure” and “I’ll Fly Away.” Of course, we have to remember that the academy’s tendency is to encourage original entries in its nominations as it did with “Moonlighting” and “Miami Vice” – and then virtually ignore them at the awards.

Let’s hope the same pattern isn’t in store for “Northern Exposure” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

It’s a pity that Marlee Matlin wasn’t nominated for “Reasonable Doubts” and that actor Charles Dutton and his Fox series, “Roc,” were ignored in the comedy nominations.

But the charmingly offbeat “Seinfeld” pulled in nine nominations, as did “ Murphy Brown,” Dan Quayle’s favorite show. Do you think “Murphy Brown” might win as best comedy series because of Hollywood’s love for Quayle? Naaaah. Everything in these awards and the
Oscars is determined on pure quality.

MORE GOOD NEWS: Academy voters came through with flying colors when they gave the new sitcom “Brooklyn Bridge” eight nominations and also honored the show’s Marion Ross as a best-actress contender for her performance as the grandmother-matriarch Sophie Berger. Way to go.

And there’s more sensible stuff. “Quantum Leap,” which often tries the patience of NBC by going for controversial social issues in its time-travel format, also got eight nominations. “In Living Color,” the outrageously funny black satirical revue, got seven. The defunct “ China Beach” got a nice going away present with six nominations.

In addition, “Law & Order,” arguably as good as any show on TV, also pulled in six. “L.A. Law,” slipping so badly in quality that co-creator Steven Bochco had to be called back near the end of the season to revive it, surprisingly also got six – showing the academy’s confidence in its basic quality structure.

And it was a real surprise also that the pilot of “Homefront,” ABC’s new series about Cis returning home after World War II, got six nominations as well – which surely won’t hurt it as a borderline ratings entry trying to stay alive.

Yet another pleasant surprise was the seven nominations for “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” – six of which were for his next-to-last night before retiring after 30 years as host of the series. This was the show in which Bette Midler and Robin Williams gave “Tonight” one of its great all-time outings.

Midler deservedly was nominated for her “Tonight” appearance in the category for “outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program.”

JUST AS PROPERLY, the great Anne Bancroft was nominated for her thrilling performances in PBS’ “Mrs. Cage” and ABC’s “ Broadway Bound” by Neil Simon. Her roles as women who were searingly disappointed with their lives in their middle years are treasures.

Still, the tradition-bound TV academy still refuses to give sufficient recognition to regular series from the world of cable.

How on Earth could such breakthrough and superior cable shows as “Dream On” and “Sessions” be left off any list of best series nominations? (But “Sessions” did get one nomination – for hair styling.)

And back in Old World TV, how could CBS’ “0 Pioneers!” be dismissed with a paltry two nominations one for hair styling, one for music, but none for the radiant performance of Jessica Lange?

Now, let’s see . . . four across and four down . . . or . . .

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