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Welcome to the Emmy 'mess'

TV's annual awards try to overcome controversy, scheduling

By Todd Leopold
CNN

O'Brien
Conan O'Brien is hosting the Emmys, which will air Sunday on NBC.

SPELLING HONORED

The television industry will pay tribute to the late producer Aaron Spelling on Sunday during the 58th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences officials said Wednesday.

Joan Collins, Heather Locklear and Stephen Collins are among the stars of Spelling-produced shows who will take part in the tribute segment to the producer, who died in June at age 83.

Spelling's long list of TV hits ranged from ABC's "The Mod Squad" and "The Rookies" to WB Network's "7th Heaven" and "Charmed."

-- The Hollywood Reporter

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Conan O'Brien
Emmy Awards
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(CNN) -- Emmy has taken a few hits to her expansive wings lately -- but the show, as always, will go on.

The favorites for the 58th annual Primetime Emmy Awards include Fox's "24," which led all series with 12 nominations; ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," the highly praised newcomer and nominee for 11 awards; and TNT's miniseries "Into the West," produced by Steven Spielberg, which led all programs with 16 nominations. (TNT, along with television networks HBO, The WB and TBS, are all units of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

But this year's Emmys have earned controversy for some of the other nominations.

A change in judging procedures was intended to lead to a more diverse slate of nominees, given that in the past, the television awards have tended to be beholden to a handful of favorites. The results were mixed.

Newcomer "Grey's" and previously ignored "Two and a Half Men" picked up plenty of kudos, but "Lost," last year's best drama, came up empty in that category, and "Sopranos" leads --and perennial favorites -- James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were shut out.

Meanwhile, some nominations attracted howls of protest -- none more so than a 38-word, 14-second performance by Ellen Burstyn in the TV movie "Mrs. Harris."

"The whole incident reveals that the Emmy Awards are a mess. Take them with a grain of salt if you're planning to watch," wrote New York Post critic Adam Buckman in disgust.

Emmy host Conan O'Brien has his own ideas on how to solve the balloting issues.

"Well I'd do it the old Boston-Irish way," O'Brien told CNN. "If you get up early you can vote as many times as you want to." (Watch Conan describe his Emmy aspirations: "My goal is to do a really bad one" -- 2:49)

Even NBC's scheduling may be an indignity to TV's most self-congratulatory night. Since 1977, with only a handful of exceptions, the Emmys have taken place in September, a kickoff to the fall TV season. Not this year: This time the awards have been moved to the doldrums of late August, because NBC doesn't want to pre-empt a different kind of kickoff -- its new fall cornerstone, Sunday night NFL football.

O'Brien, however, is looking on the bright side.

"Maybe some people will bring portable televisions when they go camping," the red-headed comedian, who hosted the 2002 show, told The Associated Press. "Camping isn't camping unless you're watching an awards show. And I'm trying to see if I can get the Emmys broadcast onto the interior wall of the Grand Canyon. That would be an artistic statement and a huge ratings boost."

The Emmys air 8 p.m. ET Sunday from Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium.

'Simpsons' wins again

Some shows -- quite a few, actually -- have already won. The Emmys gave out honors in 72 categories August 19 at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

"The Simpsons" was named best animated show for the ninth time, beating out "Camp Lazlo," "Family Guy," "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" and "South Park." Kelsey Grammer, who voices frequent "Simpsons" villain Sideshow Bob, also earned an Emmy.

Cloris Leachman set a record for actresses with her eighth Emmy, one awarded for a guest spot on "Malcolm in the Middle." Leachman's eight surpasses the mark set by her old "Mary Tyler Moore" co-star, Mary Tyler Moore, who has seven.

"I'm 80, and if your heart doesn't stop beating, and you stay up with it, look what can happen," Leachman told Reuters. The actress also has an Oscar for 1971's "The Last Picture Show."

Other guest acting Emmys went to Patricia Clarkson ("Six Feet Under") and Christian Clemenson ("Boston Legal").

Most awards were in categories such as makeup, sound editing, art direction and casting. HBO dominated the night, with its "Elizabeth I" winning five awards and "Rome" taking home four.

Among broadcast network series, "24" won two Emmys, as did "Boston Legal," "How I Met Your Mother," "My Name Is Earl" and "The Amazing Race."

Fodder for O'Brien

Simpsons
"The Simpsons" and Kelsey Grammer's performance as Sideshow Bob won Emmys.

Even some Emmy nominees were blasť about the award.

"South Park" had been nominated for its controversial episode "Trapped in the Closet," which poked fun at Tom Cruise and Cruise's faith, Scientology. The episode originally aired in November 2005 but was shelved in March 2006 before a planned rerun, prompting rumors that Cruise had played a role in its pre-emption. Cruise's publicist and Comedy Central, which airs "South Park," both denied that Cruise had anything to do with the episode not airing.

But to hear "South Park" masterminds Matt Stone and Trey Parker tell it, they didn't think much of the episode.

"It's not really in the top five of shows that I think we did last year," Parker told CNN prior to the Creative Arts show.

"I was surprised it got nominated because we just submitted it to be jerks," said Stone.

O'Brien expects to make hay from all of it -- the controversies, the scheduling, perhaps even the IRS' reminder that awards-show gift baskets (those collections of goodies that may be worth tens of thousands of dollars) are taxable. He knows all about the latter, after all.

"I think I got some Tic-Tacs one year from the Emmy bag and, um, some insoles that I can put in my sneakers," he told CNN.

So what's his feeling about the IRS crackdown?

"I say, tax the hell out of those bags, you know? Celebrities have had a free ride long enough."

He pauses.

"I think I just alienated everyone I need to come on my show," he said. "So. Kidding. You should have more. More good things to come your way, celebrities. I love you all."

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