Let's face the facts: This year's Emmy nominations were a snooze. Voters once again played it safe, honoring aging faves like The West Wing and Will & Grace over fresher, more deserving fare like Alias and Scrubs. (When E!'s reality train wreck Anna Nicole Smith Show gets more nods than the WB's sublime mother-daughter dramedy Gilmore Girls, something's wrong, folks.) So, who better to vent our frustrations to than the big cheese himself: Academy Chairman and CEO Bryce Zabel.
TV Guide Online: Why do you think it's so tough for WB shows to break through?
Bryce Zabel: I'm not an expert here, but I would presume that the WB is gaining increasing consciousness every year among all the voters, among Americans, among viewers, that they're putting on some pretty good shows.
TVGO: But isn't there something flawed in the process if, year after year, some of TV's best shows get ignored?
Zabel: The five hourlong dramas nominated are not among the best shows on TV?
TVGO: They might me among them, but they're not the best shows.
Zabel: Your opinion.
TVGO: Fair enough, but that still doesn't explain why year after year the WB home to such critical faves as Buffy, Felicity, and more recently, Gilmore Girls continues to get shut out?
Zabel: First of all, the WB did get involved and start campaigning for Everwood this year. There are 100 dramas, or whatever. Only five of them are gonna get in. The fact that your favorite show that you think is the favorite show [wasn't nominated]... maybe it was only three votes off getting in. You have to remember, every year, there are shows on the way up, on the way down, and if you have the same exact nominees in one year as the next year, you can get an entirely different result because of how shows are being perceived. The idea that a show can be in its first season and still get a nomination was pretty well demonstrated a year ago with 24.
TVGO: But there's nothing like that this year.
Zabel: On the other hand, look at the drama category. [There's] the No. 1 rated show on TV, so you have the popular ratings champ in CSI; 24, which is a critical darling and catching on with the public; the defending champ The West Wing; and then, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Can anyone tell me that one of those should definitely not be there?
TVGO: Yeah. The West Wing.
Zabel: Well, that's my point. It may very well be that last year, West Wing was perceived [to be at a high], so this year, maybe the show is going [down]. This may be the year when things shift. I wouldn't bet that it'll win.
TVGO: Isn't it tough to get viewers excited about watching the Emmy telecast when the nominees are nearly identical to last year's?
Zabel: It's a different show than the Oscars, which every year are about a new crop of films. One of the joys of TV is, it's called television series which means hit shows are popular and come back and continue to do new seasons. If an incredibly successful show gets nominated several years in a row, I don't know if that's a sign of [our] failure, as much as it may be a sign of their success. I'm not sure your premise is one I completely buy into. One thing I will tell you is that everybody believes they have taste, and the other guy doesn't.