You Just Keep Me Hanging On: Repeat Emmy Winners among Lead Acting Nominees

All hopped up on the excitement of Emmy ballots coming out on Monday, we posed the question yesterday of whether Emmy voters’ love affairs with certain shows might be blocking other deserving winners. 30 Rock and Mad Men are great, but does rewarding them over and over “cheat” other great shows out of the prize? It’s a tricky question–maybe these shows (or their submissions) really are the best, or really do best match voters’ tastes. While voting panels change from year to year, it’s not like there are sweeping changes to the overall Academy membership across short periods of time.

Still, the numbers suggest that there’s a pretty good case to be made that logjams among series winners are creating a few victors and a block of losers. We wondered, however, whether the pattern of repeat winners would be the same for performers. There are obviously many more actors to choose from than series, and since actors submit a single episode to be judged, an especially striking performance or storyline might propel a seeming underdog to victory. At the same time, everyone can think of anecdotal evidence suggesting that some lauded actors just aren’t able to break through. Hugh Laurie and Steve Carell, for example, have both done seven seasons of their signature roles, they’ve both been nominated for performance Emmys five times for those roles…and they’ve both won exactly zero times. Could repeat wins for other actors be the explanation? Today we look at 20 years of actors in lead categories.

Lead Actor in a Drama: 25% repeat winners, 60% multiple winners

Dennis Franz, who was terrific on NYPD Blue, won four times; during those years George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Jimmy Smits, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, and David Duchovny were nominated multiple times and never attained the prize. (You thought Jimmy Smits won one of those years, didn’t you? Me too. Like Laurie and Carell, he was nominated five times without a win.) James Gandolfini’s three wins kept Orbach, Peter Krause, and–hold me closer, tiny dancers–Martin Sheen off the podium, while James Spader’s and Bryan Cranston’s three wins apiece have pretty effectively blocked Laurie, Michael C. Hall, Gabriel Byrne, Denis Leary, and Jon Hamm.

Lead Actress in a Drama: 15% repeats, 65% multiple winners

To be fair, the annual nominations of the usual suspects in this category probably reveals a dearth of quality roles for women. But from year to year, this tends to be the same small number of women trading off the trophy. With a historic lack of good leading roles for women, is rewarding the same good stuff over and over a problem? As much as I like Angela Lansbury, for example, I can’t get that worked up over Kathy Baker’s three victories keeping Murder, She Wrote out of the winner’s circle. Still, The Edie Falco and Allison Janney Hootenanny Variety Hour (I would totally watch that) that soaked up five Emmys effectively blocked Jennifer Garner and Frances Conroy from winning for notable performances, and a second win for Glenn Close for a lesser season of Damages could have gone to someone like Holly Hunter.

Lead Actor in a Comedy: 20% repeats, a staggering 70% multiple winners

The six-year Kelsey Grammar/John Lithgow stranglehold shut out John Goodman, Gary Shandling, and even Michael J. Fox’s Spin City performance until he was forced to leave his show. (It also shut out Paul Reiser while Helen Hunt won four Emmys in a row for the same show and Jerry Seinfeld while his show was the biggest phenomenon on TV, but, like Sue Sylvester, I don’t care so much about that.) While Tony Shaloub’s Monk was certainly a great performance, his three wins came at the expense of  Matt LeBlanc, Bernie Mac, and Steve Carell, who I note again has never won for playing Michael Scott. (Alec Baldwin’s repeat win in 2009 helped with that little blockade.)

Lead Actress in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 50% multiple winners

While the 50% multiples number is a lot, there hasn’t been a repeat winner in almost a decade. The Candice Bergen/Helen Hunt (four in a row)/Patricia Heaton era, during which five women won in 12 years, meant no awards for Betty White, Delta Burke, Marion Ross, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen DeGeneres, Calista Flockhart, and Jane Kaczmarek. Since Heaton’s repeat win in 2001, however, nine different women have taken home the Emmy in this category. A sign of a sea change?

All of this is only mentioning the repeat nominees who were blocked–second, third, and fourth wins also beat out solo nominations for the likes of Ian McShane, Dylan McDermott, Matthew Fox, Kyle Chandler, Amber Tamblyn, Minnie Driver, Zach Braff, Jason Bateman, Bonnie Hunt, Marcia Cross, and Connie Britton (although we’re still hoping Chandler and Britton will become two-time nominees this year). And of course, repeats mean leaving out a laundry list of never-nominated actors too long to list here. As was true of serial series nominations and wins, there is little representation for genre stories (where is Mary McDonnell’s Emmy? Where is Nathan Fillion’s? Where is Kristen Bell’s? Where is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s?)–would requiring a winner to sit out, even a year, open up the field for unexpected nominees and maybe even winners? Would instituting such a rule have solved your favorite example of a great performance that missed out on a nomination or win?

Saturday: Ensemble shows probably make up the bulk of TV–quality and otherwise–today, and we tend to find the supporting categories the toughest to winnow down as we try to pick nominees. With so many actors to choose from, is the winners carousel even more problematic in supporting categories?

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BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Return Tonight

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Dear NBC/Universal,

See, this is why The Peacock is a fourth-place network and why you will be purchased by the Sheinhardt Wig Company someday. Two of the most acclaimed shows in what passes for your stable these days (since you own the Sci Fi Network, too), Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica, return with new seasons tonight. You also have new episodes of successful shows on another of your cable arms, the USA Network. So what do you do to profit from all of this corporate synergy? You make it impossible for viewers to sample all of your products in a timely fashion by scheduling things in such a way that all of your shiny new toys overlap.

People who live on the East or West Coasts have it best, since they can watch Friday Night Lights at 9 and then switch over to catch the first showing of Battlestar at 10. Of course, this means they can’t catch new episodes of Monk or Psych until midnight and 1am, respectively. And since people on the coasts are apparently all young and hip and beautiful, don’t you think they’ll be out at fancy nightclubs by then? You may have a fair question as to whether people who go to fancy nightclubs watch Monk, I’ll give you that. However, with everyone who ever loved The West Wing wanting to tune in to see Bradley Whitford get his bicycle stolen, you get some additional complications. But some of don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, and as a result apparently don’t exist. For us, the initial showings of Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica are at exactly the same time. We could watch Battlestar at 10, but that overlaps with the new Psych. So we could watch Psych‘s initial showing and see Battlestar Galactica at 7 Saturday morning. Monk? Guess we’ll catch that Saturday night, nearly 24 hours late for a Brad Whitford sighting.

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Contrary to the Panthers’ pictured glee, that does not make us feel triumphant. I’m not sure if television has a new car smell, but some of the charm of TV is the way it is a shared experience, and if a chunk of viewers has to wait to watch until the new episode smell wears off, that removes them from the discussion and dulls the experience for them. I guess the schedule means we’ll eventually get to see everything, and we appreciate repeat showings that let us do that, we really do. And we appreciate additional platforms that let us catch episodes if we do miss them on TV, we really do. And I really appreciate the TiVo that helps keep track of all this and keeps things moving. But I WANT TO GIVE YOU MY MONEY, and you make it hard for me to hand it to you. Friend O’ Bacon Brayden joins the chorus of DirectTV viewers claiming the new FNL epsiodes are wonderful, and I’m dying to see the end of the Battlestar saga, so I’m willing to work pretty hard to hand you my money. But it seems very strange that you want to make consumers work to hand you their money. the fact that you don’t seem to want to take my money might explain why you’re in a position where you can’t afford to put scripted fare on NBC in either the first or third hour of programming and have handed the keys over to Howie Mandel and Jay Leno.

So enjoy your wigs–I guess I’ll be frying up some bacon for the Bacon at 6:45 tomorrow morning, because I’ll bet Battlestar is going to be great. Good luck tuning in, everyone!

Bacon Bits: OFFICE Spin-off, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and More

NBC boss Ben Silverman says Office producers Greg Daniels and Mike Schur are creating a new show for Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler, but they’re also still pursuing the Office spin-off.

– The “final, final” season of Battlestar Galactica will start in January. Meanwhile, Ron Moore dishes on the Caprica back-door pilot.

– In other BSG news, Jamie Bamber is hopping back across the pond to star in ITV’s Law & Order: UK.

– NBC’s fall comedy Kath & Kim is apparently so bad it’s undergoing a major overhaul.

– It’s official: Shannen Doherty will be joining 90210 alums Tori Spelling, Jennie Garth and Joe E. Tata on the CW spin-off.

– The 100th episode of Monk (to air Sept. 5) will be jam-packed with guest stars, including Eric McCormack, Howie Mandel, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Lawrence, Angela Kinsey, Brooke Adams, Ricardo Chavira, Kathryn Joosten, Jarrad Paul, Tim Bagley, David Koechner, Andy Richter and John Turturro.

– Jimmy Fallon will be testing his new late night show online, six months before its broadcast premiere.

MONK and PSYCH Cross Over to NBC

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NBC Universal is continuing to repurpose its cable and network content in order to beef up its post-strike schedule. Episodes of the USA Network shows Monk and Psych will be rebroadcast on NBC starting in March of next year. Six new episodes the popular series will premiere on USA starting Jan. 11, and then will be repeated over on NBC Sunday nights starting March 2.

NBC also may air older episodes from previous seasons of the shows. Because of the stand-alone nature of both shows, they can easily be broadcast out of order, as opposed to starting at the beginning of the season. This marks the second time Monk has gotten a network run: repeats of the series previously aired on ABC starting back in 2002.

Although the decision certainly seems like a response to the writers strike, NBC Entertainment Co-Chair Ben Silverman claims otherwise. “A lot of this we would be doing anyway,” he said. “The strike is pointing a flashlight on it.”

There was no mention yet of repurposing USA’s new hit Burn Notice, which averaged higher ratings last summer in the 18 to 49 demo than either Monk or Psych. Burn Notice is produced by Fox Television Studios (whereas Monk and Psych are produced in-house at Universal Media Studios) so a separate deal would have to be negotiated to bring the show to NBC.

It’s possible all this repurposing will open the door for other cable series to make the jump. Could Sci Fi’s Battlestar Galactica, which returns for its fourth season in March (and is also produced by Universal Media Studios), enjoy rebroadcast on NBC, finally bringing the high-quality show to the attention of a wider audience? Perhaps, if the strike lingers on and things get truly desperate, although it’s likely the heavily serialized nature of the series will work against it.