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May 26, 2010

Why the Emmys continue to ignore 'Idol'

Awards_175_revisedBy Randee Dawn

For six years, Nigel Lythgoe had high hopes at the Emmys. The onetime producer of Fox's "American Idol" (who's now at "So You Think You Can Dance") recalls half-standing as the reality competition series award was announced.

"The first syllable of the winning show is 'Am,' " he says. "So my butt is off the seat--and then it's " '-azing Race.' "

In the seven year history of the award, no show other than CBS' globetrotting "Amazing Race" has won. Not CBS' "Survivor," not NBC's "Biggest Loser," and perhaps most surprisingly, not "Idol."

America's No. 1 program has dominated the ratings and the cultural zeitgeist since 2001. But even though the show has scored six Emmys--all in technical categories, plus one Governors' Award for the "Idol Gives Back" charity special--the top prize has so far eluded it.

Why? Many believe the Emmy snub has little to do with "Idol" itself. "Race" simply wears its production values on its sleeve: exotic locations, complicated logistics and cameras capturing contestants as they run, bike and tuk-tuk through far-flung villages. "Idol" might pare down hundreds of thousands of wannabes before they even get to Hollywood, but that's mostly off-camera.

There is also a persistent feeling that reality TV has little cachet with Emmy voters, most of whom make their living in the scripted world. That dovetails with another theory: Since "Race" has won so many times already, it's easy to mark it down as the winner without bothering
to watch "Idol" or ABC's "DancingWith the Stars" or "The Bachelor," both far more popular than most scripted fare.

But don't cry for Fox or "Idol" producers 19 Entertainment and Fremantle North America. As a producer from another top show notes: "I don't think either 'Idol' or our show expects to win, which is fine. But I'll take the ratings over the Emmys."


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