Some of the best performers and shows are conspicuous by their Emmy absence


August 24, 1991|By STEVE MCKERROW

Once again it is time to be irked by the Emmys.

The 43rd annual bestowal of television's Emmy Awards is taking place tomorrow night in Pasadena, Calif., and the show is scheduled to air live for almost 3 1/2 hours on the Fox network (Channel 45 at 8).

Ho, hum. In keeping with the medium's regrettable tendency toward the status quo, the cast of characters seems pretty familiar.

That would not be so terrible if all the excellent performers and shows were among the potential honorees. But the list of nominees manages to neglect some of the brightest fare on the tube we've seen over the past year.

For instance, how could "The Civil War," the monumental PBS documentary by Ken Burns, pop up in only two categories (for outstanding informational series and individual achievement in informational programming)?

And consider "Star Trek: The Next Generation," the syndicated Paramount series. Yes, the show actually ranks third in numbers of Emmy nominations, with 10. But not one is in the showcase major categories.

For just one oversight, how could Patrick Stewart (as Capt. Jean Luc Picard) not rank in the best dramatic actor category? His work is at least the equal of nominees Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap"), Peter Falk ("Columbo"), James Earl Jones ("Gabriel's Fire"), Kyle MacLachlan ("Twin Peaks") and Michael Moriarty ("Law & Order")?

For that matter, why isn't the show among the best drama series nominees? They include "China Beach," "L.A. Law," "Northern Exposure," "Quantum Leap" and "thirtysomething." (And isn't "Northern Exposure" in the wrong category any way? It's a lot funnier than it is dramatic.)

Then there's Roseanne Barr. Or more to the point, where's Roseanne Barr? Her series "Roseanne" is sometimes mean-spirited, and the star's off-screen persona is not exactly refined. But shouldn't the high-ratings show at least be nominated for best comedy, with "Cheers," "Designing Women," The Golden Girls," "Murphy Brown" and "The Wonder Years"?

At least co-star John Goodman is up for the best comedy actor award. Others in that category include Ted Danson ("Cheers"), Richard Mulligan ("Empty Nest"), Craig T. Nelson ("Coach") and Burt Reynolds ("Evening Shade"). Bill Cosby, by the way, is not on the list because he asked not to be considered.

But thinking about that category brings other problems: Why isn't "Evening Shade" up for best comedy? And what about Brian Benben in the hilarious HBO "adult" series "Dream On"? Cable shows are supposed to be considered for Emmys, and this one has to be among the funniest shows on the tube.

Actually, when the Emmy nominations were announced in June, some surprise was expressed that a couple of cable entries did manage to make some major categories. Ironically, however, they were not even the best cable offerings of the year.

The principal cable nominees are the Showtime movie "PariTrout" (up for best comedy or drama special, with stars Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey up for best actor/actress in a special) and HBO's "The Josephine Baker Story" (nominated for best special and star Lynn Whitfield for best actress). Blair Brown of Lifetime's "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" also is up for best comedy actress.

But from this column's perspective, the best cable show of the year was the Australian miniseries "Bangkok Hilton," which aired on TBS last October and starred Nicole Kidman and Denholm Elliott in an exotic, exciting and unusually literate tale of disgrace and redemption. (Perhaps its foreign roots kept it off an Emmy list.)

There was also a nice Lifetime original movie last fall, "Sudie and Simpson," that should have rated some notice, too. With Sara ("Roseanne") Gilbert and Lou Gossett Jr., it was a fresh handling of Deep South racism and progress.

And perhaps there ought to be a new Emmy category for best comedy performance, as opposed to a series, which could honor such stand-up cable specials as the particularly strong HBO sets this year by Dennis Miller and Garry Shandling.

Oh well, the Emmy show is usually worth watching -- if only to carp about such things as listed above. Note, however, that a crying towel may also be necessary, for a tribute to the late Michael Landon is among the scheduled features.

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