What's at Stake
by Ken Tucker
Five reasons "Buffy" gets snubbed by the Emmys -- It's more than a teen show. So why did it earn just one measly nomination? Ken Tucker explains
If it's getting close to Emmy Awards time (Sept. 22), that means it's another year when one of the best-written, -acted, and -directed shows on the air gets ignored. I'm talking, of course, about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," whose new season on UPN begins Sept. 24. Before that, however, "Buffy" and its creator, Joss Whedon, must suffer through the indignity of watching lesser shows like "The Shield" and "Six Feet Under" rack up nominations. Why? Here are five reasons "Buffy" gets no -- or too little -- respect.
1. It's called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." You think I'm kidding, but hidebound Emmy voters still cannot imagine that a show about attractive young people driving wooden stakes through blood-sucking fiends could possibly have the resonance of more "realistic" shows like "West Wing" or "NYPD Blue." No matter that, say, everyone on the "Wing" is also an all-attractive cast, or that "The Shield" is like the first season of "NYPD Blue" but without the emotional depth "Blue"'s David Milch brought to it. "Buffy," based on a lousy movie, has never been able to overcome the perception that it is, at best, a teen show.
2. It's funny; it's dramatic; it's scary. All good qualities, right? Well, not when you're trying to decide which category to place a show in for Emmy consideration. As an hour-long show with lotsa laffs, it doesn't fit in as a comedy nominee. But as an extravagantly dramatic show that explores adolescent and post-adolescent traumas better than any series since "My So-Called Life," it's also not quite "grown-up" enough to draw in adult Emmy voters. And as for the scary quotient -- well, TV shows that say "Boo!" even as artfully as "Buffy" does, just don't register as serious enough on Emmy radar.
3. It's on UPN. And before that, it was on the WB. Neither network is known to produce an awful lot of Emmy-worthy work ("Gilmore Girls" on the WB excepted). There's snobbery at work here, an inability of nominators to see beyond the usual ABC, NBC, and CBS broadcasters, with HBO prevailing over all as the quality behemoth. This year's nominations for F/X's "The Shield" may actually help overcome some of this shortsightedness.
4. It gets just enough recognition for voters to ignore it. By this I mean "Buffy"'s stand-out episode this past season, the all-musical "Once More With Feeling," has been nominated, in the Outstanding Musical Direction category. That's like throwing a bone to the show, when actually Whedon's remarkable collection of original compositions and the surprisingly effective vocal performances of its cast make it all the more infuriating that the series isn't represented in more high-profile categories.
5. It's got some supernatural bad luck. Whedon's name was left off the Emmy ballot in the writing category: "Buffy" producers reportedly thought Whedon was handling his own nominating process; Whedon apparently believed the producers were doing this. When the mistake was realized, the Emmy committee was -- to give them some credit -- eager to make amends, and it sent out an addendum ballot to Emmy voters. No luck. Any way you look at it, the show seems jinxed.
What isn't jinxed is the show's quality. I've seen the season premiere: It's a corker, full of surprises, lighter in tone than last season's occasionally lugubrious one, and offering a perfect opportunity for new viewers, intimidated by the show's backstory, to climb aboard and find out why the rest of us love "Buffy" so much.