Poor Matt Damon. Damon’s tour de force one night “hosting” stint January 24th on Jimmy Kimmel Live was a real triumph, maybe the funniest and finest work by any guest on a variety (as talk shows are classified in the Emmys) series this season. Damon’s rep tells me they had been trying for a very long time to make this appearance possible and finally his schedule freed him up to do it. But as far as Emmys go, it doesn’t exist.

Of course the whole show was one big gag based on Kimmel’s long standing show biz mock hatred of Damon. He’s ended virtually every episode of his decade-old talker by saying that unfortunately the show ran out of time for Damon’s appearance. Of course Damon was never really booked and it was all an elaborate running joke but finally it paid off when Damon supposedly kidnapped Kimmel, tied him up and took over the host desk. With Kimmel, his mouth taped shut , hopelessly looking on from the background , Damon took over with a great monologue and a couch full of A-listers that included Nicole Kidman, Gary Oldman, Demi Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Amy Adams, Sarah Silverman (Kimmel’s ex), Andy Garcia, Robin Williams and others including BFF Ben Affleck. It was a knock-out show, perhaps the most original of any talker this year and, of all Kimmel shows this season, it is the DVD screener producers have sent separately to Emmy voters for consideration (Kimmel’s after-Oscars special was also sent as part of the ABC network box). Certainly it is deserving of that consideration  for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series, and for writing too. Should it be the magic formula to finally bring the Kimmel Show the Emmy in a category that has been dominated by The Daily Show for a solid decade, Kimmel himself and the show’s producing team would receive statuettes but unfortunately Damon would be left out in the cold. A few years ago the Academy eliminated the Variety, Music, Comedy Performer category  that was home for talk hosts and guests hosts on shows like Saturday Night Live among others.  As the Academy’s Senior VP  Awards, John Leverence explains it:

“In 2009 the Board of Governors voted to discontinue the VMC performer category, re-routing eligibility of the principle hosts/performers of VMC series and specials from an individual achievement, stand-alone category into program  eligibility, e.g., if Late Night With David Letterman won for VMC series, then Letterman, host, would be included in eligibility as host; or if a Tony Bennett special won for VMC Special, then Tony Bennett, host, would be included in eligibility as the host.”

Leverence also explains that because of this change the Board allowed guest hosts on scripted sketch comedy shows like SNL to enter in the guest comedy actor and actress categories (Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and Betty White are recent winners), but that unfortunately guest hosts on talk shows are not eligible. “Yes, both Kimmel and SNL are Variety Series programs, but the Board drew an eligibility distinction between a guest host acting in a scripted format and a guest host standing in for, or in Matt Damon’s case usurping the role of, a principle talk show host, ” Leverence said.

That’s all fine except this was clearly a heavily scripted show and Damon was acting. It is a shame they can’t somehow find an exception to the rule, but Damon falls into the black hole of Emmy eligibility for this performance. PR reps for both Damon and the Kimmel show did inquire with the Academy about making him eligible, and had every hope that he would be, but were turned down. They chose not to appeal it. It was a ticklish situation for PMK , the agency that reps Kimmel’s series, since they also rep the Television Academy. Leverence said, “anyone can appeal  disqualification if they have a rule to argue their case, but in this instance, I don’t know what that rule would be”.  A PMK rep said the show understood and respected  the Academy’s “clarification” on this matter.

Of course that hasn’t stopped them from highlighting this show – and Damon’s mug – in every FYC ad the show has been taking out in the trades and on Deadline in the past week. Should Kimmel actually pull off a nomination and a victory, the first person he should thank, for real this time, is Damon whose special episode showed just how inventive The Jimmy Kimmel Show can be in a genre that doesn’t get wildly creative.

On the bright side for Oscar winner Damon, he is on the Emmy ballot as Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his far less-visible stint as himself on Showtime’s House Of Lies. And of course Damon is eligible as Outstanding Leading Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series for his role as Scott Thorson, Liberace’s young lover, in HBO’s Behind The Candelabra. He drew strong critical notices for the film and is likely to get nominated, but unfortunately he has to go head-to-head against co-star Michael Douglas with the much flashier role of Liberace himself. Douglas is heavily favored to win.

Oh well Matt, there’s always that Oscar to comfort you.