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Television: Poor Emmy

2 minute read

The movies have Oscars, the theater Tonys, so in 1948 television got itself Emmys.

It might better have got itself a case of foot-and-mouth disease. For one thing, there are so many TV programs that nobody can begin to see them all. Then there are the absurd lengths to which the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has gone to spread the joy around, with complicated categories that still leave such impossible competitions as this year’s between Leonard Bernstein and Vic Damone for the Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music. And to make it all even sillier, the networks often pay for their employees’ memberships in the academy—big heartedness that fosters the cynical notion that network loyalty is expected come ballot time.

Last week, with the awards due on May 25, CBS News Chief Fred W. Friendly came right out and called Emmy a tart. “Insofar as CBS News is concerned,” he wrote in a memo to the staff, “we have not and shall not purchase memberships for our employees; we shall not participate in the awards ceremonies, and I recommend that we even desist from voting in this so-called competition.”

President James T. Aubrey Jr. followed suit for the entire CBS network, and so did President Thomas Moore of ABC although many CBS and ABC shows are independently produced. That left NBC and Emmy going steady by default, at least until May 25. The network rose gallantly to the occasion, tongue-lashing the girl’s deserters—a “classic of sham and hypocrisy” and “an effective publicity stunt.” Curiosity about what they would do about the flock of absentee award winners may well give the show its highest Nielsen rating yet.

The lady’s last gasp may be her best moment.

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