Winning gives meaning to Emmy nomination

Published July 17, 2005

HOLLYWOOD - Listening to the annual Emmy nominations on Thursday got me thinking about the speeches winners make. Most include some variation on "It's an honor just having my name mentioned alongside my talented co-nominees."

It may not take someone who has been nominated and then lost an Emmy to recognize this as complete drivel. But if it does, I am an authority.

Several years ago by some miracle, I got the nod for co-writing A Flintstone Family Christmas, a half-hour animated special. Our category: Best Animated Program of One Hour or Less. Our first clue: If you can't recite the category in one breath, it's not a top-drawer category.

In animation, the writers, producers and director are all nominated. So six of us were slapping each other on the back at the joyous news.

Then we discovered that the animation award is given at a separate ceremony the night before the televised Emmys. It's held in the same auditorium, but in the basement. Were they trying to tell us something?

The upstairs Emmys mirror the Oscars, nominees in plush seats, roving cameras, breathless interviews with Joan Rivers along the red carpet, and big-name comedy stars hosting the event. Downstairs we were served cheap chicken dinners like it was closing night at a Shriners convention.

The only celebrities present were those nominated for Best Guest Actor/Actress in Drama, Comedy and Miniseries, another two-breath category.

But what the heck? We knew we'd get our names in the papers, since our employer, Hanna-Barbera, took out full-page ads in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

That was the second glitch. When the ad ran, my name was left out. Only my co-writer Sean Roche was credited. Hanna-Barbera apologized and reran the ad a few days later including my name, but by then I'd gotten a bunch of calls from puzzled friends thinking I hadn't really been nominated.

Sean and I decided we might never get another nomination, so we should do this up right. We rented a limo to take us, our wives and another nominee and his wife to the awards. However, the limo driver got lost in the very windy Hollywood Hills. We learned that sitting in the back of a limo weaving through narrow streets is like sitting on the stern of a ship in choppy seas. Nauseous, dizzy and green, we made quite a sight stepping onto the red carpet.

Yes, there is a red carpet just like the Big People's night, but there's no Joan Rivers and no live press. Just a few bored still photographers waiting for the following night's festivities when there would be stars galore.

Things improved once we got inside. I saw Dennis Franz in the men's room. He was hosting our little awards sideshow and was up for best actor for NYPD Blue the next night. Franz smiled at me, knowing from my badge that I was a fellow nominee. But I didn't introduce myself. Why spoil a good impression? If I had started a conversation, it would have come out that I was nominated for writing "Yabbadabba-Doo!" for Fred Flintstone. Even Franz isn't a good enough actor to cover a moment like that.

We all wandered past the big press backdrop of a huge Emmy statue where nominees get their pictures taken. But since this wasn't televised, there were no photographers clamoring for us. So we pulled out our Instamatics and took each other's pictures in front of the big statue. We might as well have been tourists just off a bus from Omaha.

Before the show, several writers approached Sean and me and said how much they had liked our script and that they had voted for us. We'd written an updated Flintstones, putting Bedrock in the modern world, complete with burglaries and drive-by stonings. With all this unsolicited support, Sean and I were thinking maybe we actually had a chance to win.

But as our category approached, panic set in. The fellow we had chosen to give our acceptance speech, our director, Larry Huber, was held up in traffic. What would we do if we won?

Since Sean used to be an actor, we decided he was best equipped to improvise. The servers around us were so noisy handing out plates of soggy salad that I could barely hear the nominees for our category when they were read off.

Then the winner was announced, amid a clatter of silverware. We lost to a PBS show, an educational program called The Roman City. It was only 20 percent animation. It wasn't even funny.

I canceled my public television membership the next day.

After we lost, the real torture began. Everyone else at our table won. For technical categories like editing and sound. And let me tell you it's no fun sitting around with a bunch of winners and having to stare at their Emmys set prominently amid the strawberry shortcake.

You hate the winners. But you smile. What could be more show biz?

- David Ehrman's writing credits include The Commish, La Femme Nikita, The Fugitive, JAG, Medical Investigations and 24.