The four network daytime dramas will not be boycotting next year’s Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony as they’d threatened to in July. In an unprecedented show of unity, after being dissatisfied with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ response to screw-ups during this year’s awards show, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless banded together this summer to present a list of complaints and demands for changes that prompted NATAS to commission an investigation by an outside counsel. The report from that review was put out November 8.
“The four daytime dramas are in receipt of NATAS’ internal investigation report and recommendations moving forward,” a spokesperson of the four series said in a statement to Deadline. “As a group, we are not in agreement with all of the conclusions that NATAS reached. However, in the spirit of working with NATAS and the TV Academy on improving the integrity of the Daytime Emmys, we have lifted our boycott. We look forward to meeting with NATAS to discuss their findings and our concerns in greater detail.”
While the network daytime dramas will participate in the Daytime Emmys despite reservations about the findings in the report, willing to give NATAS another change, others are fed up. Michael Caruso, executive producer of Amazon’s soap opera Ladies of the Lake, says he will not participate in next year’s awards.
The report concluded its procedures were so “sloppy” and inconsistently applied that they may have given the “appearance of favoritism,” but it found “no evidence of voter fraud or panel tampering,” and no evidence NATAS staff “intentionally rigged the competition results.”
In response, NATAS has made numerous changes to its rules and procedures to correct past “missteps,” and has vowed to be more transparent going forward. That’s apparently good enough for the network soaps, who’d threatened to boycott if changes weren’t made to ensure “a competition free of bias, perceived collusion, and personal agendas.” But many involved in digital soaps want to see even more changes — and corrections of past mistakes.
“I have a show that’s eligible this year, but I’m not participating because NATAS has not fixed any of the issues in the digital awards categories,” Caruso told Deadline. “Our simple requests have either been ignored or denied, and I do not feel that this judging process is a trustworthy one.”
“This is not a snap impulse decision,” he added. “This is the result of years’ worth of their questionable behavior, and because my interactions with NATAS have been overwhelmingly negative.”
Caruso is not alone is his displeasure. Crystal Chappell, star and co-creator of the streaming series Venice, says she’s through with the Daytime Emmys too. “I won’t be participating in the future because of their lack of transparency,” she said.
The “clusterf*ck,” as Caruso describes it, began shortly after the 2018 awards show when NATAS rescinded the Emmy it had presented three weeks earlier to Patrika Darbo for her guest appearance on Amazon’s The Bay. Turns out, they say, she wasn’t eligible to compete in the category because she’d appeared in a prior season.
After meeting on May 22, the Awards Committee determined it would give Darbo’s Emmy to Jennifer Bassey, who finished second in the voting, for her guest-starring role on the web series Anacostia. According to an “independent review” commissioned by NATAS, “One or more NATAS staff members conveyed to Ms. Bassey’s representatives in a phone call that she would be awarded the Emmy Award before any award determination was publicly announced.”
But then the Awards Committee determined that she hadn’t been eligible either, and refused to give her the Emmy after she’d been told she’d won. In the end, no award was given in the category.
Darbo, a co-governor of the Performers Peer Group at the Television Academy – which oversees the Primetime Emmys – is also raising questions about the independence of that review, which was co-authored by attorney Kevin M. Goldberg.
Goldberg, it turns out, serves on the executive committee – and was the immediate past chair – of the National Press Foundation, which recognizes and encourages excellence in journalism through its own annual awards show. Serving alongside him on that foundation’s board of directors is Adam Sharp, president and CEO of NATAS, which commissioned the report Goldberg co-wrote.
“It’s a conflict of interest,” Darbo told Deadline. “How can it be an independent investigation when friends are checking up on friends, and the hens are being guarded by the foxes?” She also believes, in the interest of transparency, that this connection should have been disclosed.
Darbo says she isn’t concerned about having had her Emmy rescinded, and acknowledges her producers inadvertently submitted her “in the wrong category, so I should not have won the Emmy.” But as a governor of the TV Academy, she said, “The performers elected me to take care of them, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Goldberg’s report was presented to the NATAS board of trustees on November 2 “in a spirit of transparency,” Sharp said in a November 8 letter. “It bluntly sums up its assessment of NATAS’ management of the 2018 Daytime Emmys in one word: ‘sloppy.’ It levies criticism where criticism is due. And it rightly identifies many ways in which we must do better.”
In the wake of the debacle, NATAS has changed its eligibility rules to prevent a recurrence of the problem, much of which stemmed from confusion – in the age of streaming shows – about just what constitutes an “episode” or a “chapter” of a program. Sharp has said the rules have now been updated in several awards categories “to eliminate opportunities for confusion,” with particular attention being paid to “the requirements in the performer categories – which are at the heart of much of the concern we heard – and we will more specifically define terms such as ‘episode’ where relevant.”
Many involved in the mess, however, believe NATAS hasn’t gone far enough to investigate or remedy the problem that occurred at the last awards show. “The report was an attempt to try and straighten out the problems,” Darbo said, “but I believe that if you’re doing an investigative report to find out the problems, you should do a thorough report.”
The same eligibility-rules confusion that existed in the digital guest-starring and supporting actor categories, she said, may have been present in the digital best actress, best actor and best supporting actor categories, as well. The investigation never looked at that.
“There were winners from each of those categories from The Bay,” she said, “and if those categories weren’t investigated, how do we know that they truly won? Did they have extra episodes submitted and call them ‘chapters’ too? Four errors in one category (guest actor) and two errors in the supporting actor category, don’t you think they should have looked at every category?”
The call for entries for the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards was November 12, and Sharp told Bassey that “We hope you will once again join in the competition.” Given the foul-up, he also offered to provide her with “monetary credit for this year’s competition in the amount of your entry fees for the category in 2018.”
One of the other areas of dispute was the report’s findings on the eligibility of nominees in the supporting actor digital category, which was won by Eric Nelsen for The Bay. Under the rules, submissions for consideration could not contain material from more than four episodes of a program. According to the report, the show’s submissions for Nelsen and Brandon Beemer – another nominee from The Bay – “were eventually found to contain materials from more than four installments.”
Even so, Nelsen was allowed to keep his Emmy, which has led Bassey to threaten to sue NATAS on the basis of sex discrimination. In a November 5 letter to Goldberg, Bassey’s attorney, Leon Friedman, said that “Five episodes were submitted on behalf of Eric Nelsen even though the requirements limit the submissions to four episodes. Yet, Mr. Nelsen was allowed to retain his Emmy award. Apparently, the basis for distinguishing between Jennifer Bassey on the one hand and Eric Nelsen on the other was that Mr. Nelsen was a man and Jennifer Bassey was a woman. The submissions for both performers exceeded the requirements of the rules, yet only Ms. Bassey was disqualified.”
California law, he continued, “is extremely strict in prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in all fields. Since an award of an Emmy is an important factor in determining future employment in the entertainment field, the failure to make such an award because of a candidate’s gender, falls within a prohibited category. We believe that NATAS must take affirmative steps to correct this situation. Do the right thing and award Ms. Bassey her rightful award.”
The report, however, “Did not find any evidence to support a claim that NATAS or any of its staff members intentionally discriminated against any nominee or winner on the basis of race, gender, or age.”
It did, however, find “many instances in which circumstances and NATAS staff decisions gave rise to, at minimum, the appearance of impropriety and favoritism, which have caused observers to believe the awards competition and the resolution of the awarding of Emmy Awards (in the guest-starring and supporting actor digital categories) was not conducted in an impartial manner.”
Chappell told Sharpe she is also concerned that gender discrimination may have played a role in denying an Emmy to Bassey.
“I know that these mistakes are not the fault of the actors but the fault of each production team that submits but, nevertheless, once you head down the slippery slope, we’ve lost all integrity in the Emmy itself,” she said. “If nothing is done, it would appear that the Academy has a bias for a particular show and is treating women differently than their male peers. I know that is not you. As a woman who has reinvented herself, marched for women’s rights/LGBTQ rights, I would find doing nothing to be the worst possible decision and devastating to my relationship with the Emmys.”
The report chalked up the disparate treatment of Bassey and Nelsen to confusion over what constitutes an “episode” of a streaming show. “NATAS staff provided differing rationales for inconsistently applying the Episode Rule” in those two categories, the report said. “First, The Bay is distributed in what its producers have referred to as ‘chapters,’ with multiple ‘chapters’ released simultaneously.”
In the submissions for his category, Nelsen and Beemer appeared in more than four “chapters,” but NATAS staff explained to investigators that “it could be argued that chapters released simultaneously could be considered one episode. As such, NATAS staff stated they believed there is a good faith reasonable argument that Mr. Nelsen and Mr. Beemer may not have, in fact, violated the Episode Rule.”
This distinction between episodes and chapters – and allowing different eligibility rules based on someone’s interpretation of what an episode is, was widely mocked by those calling for change. “It’s not an even playing field,” Darbo said. “There are no chapters in television, only episodes.”
Chappell agreed. “There are no ‘chapters’ in television,” she said. Indeed, even The Bay’s website refers to its installments as “episodes.”
“Chapters,” scoffed Sonia Blangiardo, creator and executive producer of the web series Tainted Dreams. “That’s a big insult. Even Amazon says ‘episodes’ per season. There’s no such thing as chapters. It’s false and a little disheartening moving forward with these rules.”
Even the NATAS-commissioned report found “sound countervailing arguments” against such a distinction in interviews and documents reviewed. “Such materials and interviews cited industry practice and union agreements that universally refer to installments of a program as episodes, and The Bay also promoting its program as being released in episodes, not chapters.”
Even so, the report stuck by NATAS’ decision to rescind Bassey’s guest star Emmy and to let Nelsen keep his supporting actor award. “Ms. Bassey’s program, Anacostia, was released in episodes, and she appeared in two episodes in her submission, in excess of the one episode limit under the Episode Rule. As such, NATAS staff stated Ms. Bassey unquestionably violated the Episode Rule. NATAS staff stated it was therefore logical to not award Ms. Bassey an Emmy Award because her submission irrefutably violated the Episode Rule in (her category); but allow Mr. Nelsen to keep his Emmy Award because of the reasonable argument his submission did not violate the Episode Rule in (his) category.”
“At times,” the report found, “the producers of The Bay have described the release of installments of The Bay as ‘chapters’ instead of ‘episodes.’ Such a characterization gives rise to the argument there are alternate interpretations of the Episode Rule with regard to its application in determining whether Mr. Nelsen’s and Mr. Beemer’s submissions did or did not violate the Episode Rule’s cap of four episodes of a program that may be included in a submission, an argument NATAS has deemed to be reasonable.”
If nothing else, the snafu has gotten the attention of NATAS, which this month promised to provide additional resources to the Daytime Emmys; to better articulate and make public its core policies and procedures; and to apply its rules “consistently and transparently.”
Perhaps most important, Sharp has vowed that NATAS “will seek to work more closely with the Television Academy” after all four network daytime soaps – The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless – came together demanding changes in the voting and accounting practices for the awards and the way the competition is held.
In addition to all the other changes that have been made, Sharp has said that “Recognizing that participants in the Daytime Emmy competition may be more likely to be members of the Television Academy than of NATAS, we hope to better engage our sister Academy in our processes as representatives of their members. These efforts could include:
• More consciously prioritizing Television Academy membership as a criterion for judging participation.
• Requesting that the Television Academy reinstate sending emails to their membership encouraging participation as Daytime Emmy judges.
• Inviting a representative of the Television Academy and its members to begin participating again in our Daytime Emmy nomination cut-off calls.
• Inviting a representative of the Television Academy to review questioned submissions, observe backstage operations, and/or be present for the application of statue bands at the Daytime Emmy ceremony.
“We appreciate that the missteps of this and of past years may have impacted your confidence in the Daytime Emmy Awards,” Sharp told many of those who had complained, “and we are absolutely committed to earning back your trust. We believe that through these and other improvements, we will once again meet the expectations you and other participants rightfully have of us.”
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