Los Angeles -- Was NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street" shut out in Emmy nominations because it is produced in Baltimore rather than Los Angeles?
That was the explanation given most often yesterday by industry insiders here to explain how the critically acclaimed series wound up without a single nomination for the 47th annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards.
There are usually a couple of shockers when the Emmy nominations are announced -- great performers or successful shows that are snubbed. In recent years, that list has included "The Simpsons" and "Roseanne."
Yesterday was no exception, with critics and Hollywood executives alike scratching their heads over "Homicide" and ABC's "Home Improvement," the most-watched sitcom on television, coming up empty in nominations.
Because balloting was not complete, no nominations were announced for Best Directing in a Drama Series. It is still possible that "Homicide" could get a nomination for that.
The big winners yesterday were NBC's medical drama "ER," with 20 nominations -- including six for members of its ensemble cast -- and ABC's "NYPD Blue," with 12 nominations -- including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series nominations for newcomer Jimmy Smits, who replaced David Caruso, and Dennis Franz, who won the Emmy last year.
This was the second big year for "NYPD Blue," which is more bad news for "Homicide," since the two are often compared in debates about the best cop shows on television.
Other series, specials and films whose producers and stars had reasons to celebrate included: "Barbra Streisand: The Concert (HBO)," 10 nominations; "Frasier (NBC)," 10; "Friends (NBC)," eight; "Buffalo Girls (CBS)," 10; "Chicago Hope (CBS)," eight; "The Piano Lesson (CBS)," eight (including a Best Actor nomination for Baltimore's Charles S. Dutton), and Fox's "The X-Files," with six nominations.
NBC and CBS led with 85 nominations each, while HBO came in third with 48, and ABC fourth with 39. Fox, PBS and cable channel TNT tied with 17 each.
But most of the talk yesterday involved "Homicide" and "Home Improvement" being overlooked in the Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Comedy categories; and Andre Braugher and Tim Allen being bypassed for Outstanding Lead Actor nominations.
Disappointment at NBC
NBC had campaigned hard,for "Homicide" and Braugher. In an interview Saturday, NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield said, "We're hoping that when the Emmy nominations are announced, Andre and the show are going to have the nominations they deserve." His tone indicated he thought the nominations were in the bag.
"We're extremely disappointed that the academy overlooked the sensational work of 'Homicide' and its producers and actors," NBC Vice President Pat Schultz said yesterday. Littlefield was not available.
"I think NBC was totally behind us and did all it could do," said Henry Bromell, "Homicide" executive producer. "For me -- and I know Tom [co-executive producer Tom Fontana] feels the same -- there are a lot of dramas on television and many of them are very good.
"This is simply a time of good dramas being made for TV, and many of them are being made by our friends. So, it's congratulations for them, and we are still really proud of our work on 'Homicide.' "
Bromell said the "Baltimore vs. Los Angeles" explanation for "Homicide" getting shut out makes sense. Essentially, the theory is that L.A. is a company town when it comes to the Emmys. People who work in the television industry -- from producers to technicians -- tend to nominate shows that provide work for them and their friends in Hollywood.
"I think that might be true," Bromell said. "The series that are made in Los Angeles provide a lot of jobs for people who vote, and we don't, because we employ people in Baltimore."
ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert, responding to questions about "Home Improvement" being snubbed, said yesterday that to make sense of the Emmy nominations you have to understand the particular prejudices of the Los Angeles creative community.
"I think the Los Angeles creative community is more prone to nominate shows they are personally fond of; shows like "Seinfeld" or "Friends [both on NBC]," he said.
"ABC's comedy shows, on the other hand, are what I would call Americana shows. Series like 'Home Improvement' are made for, and are more popular with, America's families. I would also include 'Grace Under Fire' in that category," he added.
Last year, Tim Allen said staffers failed to file the nominating papers in time. There was no such explanation this year. "Home Improvement" did get four Emmy nominations, but they were for technical categories.
David Westin, president of the ABC Television Network, agreed with Harbert. "We are particularly disappointed about Tim Allen [not getting nominated]. We think the world of Tim and believe he deserves better. We think the show should have been nominated, too."
"Grace Under Fire," also a Top 10 show in popularity, received only one nomination -- Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Jean Stapleton in an episode titled "The Road to Paris, Texas."
There are exceptions to the theory that shows produced outside Los Angeles suffer in the Emmy process. For example, NBC's "Law & Order," which is made in New York, was nominated as an Outstanding Drama Series over "Homicide." But that was the only nomination "Law & Order" received. Also, much of "ER" is filmed in Chicago, though not nearly to the extent that "Homicide" is produced in Baltimore.
Nice, but not necessary
Perhaps the best perspective on the hit "Homicide" took yesterday came from Harbert. "Sure, it's nice to get a lot of nominations and win an Emmy. But will it make a big difference to 'Homicide'? I don't think so.
"The only time it really seems to make a big difference is in the very first year for a good show that is having a hard time getting noticed. NBC's 'Hill Street Blues' was a show like that. Our show, 'thirtysomething,' wasn't noticed much its first year, and then it won the Emmy. Once you are past that first year, though, it's a different story. Look at what happened to 'Picket Fences' last year."
The CBS series cleaned up in the Outstanding Drama category, only to be overtaken by "Homicide" last year in a head-to-head battle at 10 on Friday nights. As a result, CBS has been forced to move "Picket Fences" to 9 Friday nights -- away from the ratings heat "Homicide" is again expected to generate this season.
The Emmy Awards will be announced Sept. 10 in a live broadcast on the Fox network.