In Hollywood, the perk capital of the world, it isn't enough to have a parking space with your name on it, the head table at an overpriced French restaurant or a key to the executive Jacuzzi.
No. By contract, they also have to give you an Emmy. Or so it often seems.
All the people who work in television and who reach a certain level of status and renown, or just income, expect to get some Emmy Awards to show for it, and an enormous number of them do. That's part of what the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is there for: to make sure everybody gets at least one Emmy, so that they can be known as "the Emmy-winning" so-and-so.
Then a network can advertise a program saying, "And now the Emmy-winning star in an Emmy-winning story by an Emmy-winning director who is paying child support to an Emmy-winning actress who ran off with her Emmy-winning costume designer." One year the preceding year's Emmy telecast was nominated for an Emmy, which, if it had won, would have made it an Emmy-winning Emmy show.
This year CBS is the Emmy-winning network, its number having come up as host for the Emmy telecast, scheduled for Sunday night at 8 on Channel 9; if the show runs according to precedent, its time slot could be described as from here to eternity.
Last year, as you may recall, the 32nd Annual Emmy Awards ceremony was boycotted by almost every actor in Hollywood as part of the actors' strike, and the only one who showed up to accept his trophy was puffy Powers Boothe, star of the sleazy and low CBS movie on the Guyana tragedy. As a result of Boothe's career indiscretion, there is one thing to be grateful to the Emmy Awards for: Neither hide nor hair of Powers Boothe has been seen since. On television, anyway.
United Press International headlined an advance story on the Emmy show last year, "Due to Actors' Strike, Emmy Awards May Be Very, Very Dull." Due to actors' strike? What was the excuse the preceding 31 years?
Steve Allen probably should have grabbed an Emmy himself last year for his splendid service on behalf of keeping the Emmy show afloat, which he did with the slick assistance of Dick Clark. Allen's first words were, "Good evening -- we'll see about that, I suppose." Amazingly enough, even with the actors boycotting and the show encumbered with such lackluster celeb presenters as NBC's L.A. lollipop Kelly Lange, it still managed to run more than half an hour overtime.
It was a tribute to something not very laudable that a non-show plagued with no-shows could be turned into a three-hour un-show.
As regularly as the academy doles out Emmy Awards, it valiantly attempts to remodel the ceremony and make it a more palatable, or at least tolerable, television program. This year, the board of governors, surely at the risk of life and limb, proposed reducing the number of awards handed out on the air. This, of course, was greeted in the "creative community" as warmly as if the government had outlawed hair-weaving, face lifting, Louis Vuitton and Perrier.
Sheepishly, and faced with threats of boycott from directors and writers, the academy announced in July that it had reconsidered its revolutionary proposal and a compromise had been reached that pushed the number of awards given on the air back up, to 27; this is in addition to more than 30 others to be doled out at yet another ceremony the preceding night. One small step backward for academy, one great leap backward for viewers.
Certainly any individual who manages to do superior work in a medium like television -- where mediocrity can earn one millions as well as a key to the executive Jacuzzi -- should not be begrudged a big gold trinket and a public acknowledgment of his or her excellence. But the Emmy Awards will remain a joke until the number of statuettes doled out is reduced to reasonable proportions and the Emmy telecast itself becomes a representation of the best that television can be and the best that television can do. As a sign of encouragement, the producers of this year's show are the gifted Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, and the academy promises "more entertainment elements than any recent prime-time Emmy show."
It would also help bolster the prestige of the Emmy as an award, of course, if television in general were a lot better, and therefore more justified in giving itself prizes. This year there are so few regularly scheduled drama shows on TV that every one of them was nominated as Best Dramatic Series. That says more about the state of television than all the Emmy Awards put together and melted down -- which may not be a bad idea.
As it is now, with awards going to everyone but the valet parkers in front of the auditorium, the Emmy Awards unfortunately come off more as the Boob Tube's Booby Prizes than as something to cheer about. It would be so nice for the people who watch television to have something to cheer about.