'American Idol' leads reality TV Emmy Awards field with 8 nominations
By Wade Paulsen, 07/06/2006
Eight reality television shows received a total of 31 nominations in today's announcement of the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards nominees, demonstrating that although the total number of shows nominated declined slightly this year, the artistic achievements of the best shows in the reality TV genre are receiving more recognition from the television industry than ever before.
Leading the 2005-2006 reality TV Emmy Awards nomination field is Fox's American Idol, television's top-rated primetime program for the second straight season. Idol received eight nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, equaling the all-time record number of nominations for a nonfiction program in a season originally set by The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau in 1972. (However, PBS's American Masters nonfiction series received nine nominations this year, surpassing both Idol and Cousteau.)
Over the four primetime seasons in which American Idol's five editions have been shown, Idol has now been nominated 22 times. Despite leading the reality TV nomination lists in three of those years, the show does not yet have a single Emmy Award win to its credit.
Tied for second among the reality TV nominees with six nominations are CBS's Survivor and ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Survivor has now received a total of 30 nominations (including one nomination for an "Area Award," which it won), however it has only two 2000-2001 Emmy Awards (Pulau Tiga and The Australian Outback) to show for its efforts.
CBS's The Amazing Race, the most successful reality show at the Emmys with four statuettes (including two last year), received five nominations. Bravo's Project Runway -- eligible for the second time -- received three nominations.
All five of the reality TV shows also received nominations for the Best Reality-Competition Program Emmy, an award that The Amazing Race has won over both American Idol and Survivor in each of the first three years that the award has been presented.
A sixth reality competition show, NBC's The Apprentice, received one nomination, despite a weak season that saw it bounced from its prime Thursday-night slot in which it had previously been NBC's highest-rated 2004-2005 season program. Nevertheless, its nomination means that reality competition shows received 29 of the 31 Emmy nominations given to reality TV shows this year.
The reality TV genre's two remaining nominations went to ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which won the 2005 Best Reality Program Emmy) and Bravo's Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Both shows will compete for the 2006 Best Reality Program Emmy against three nonfiction shows that despite the categorization of the Academy committee, would not normally be considered "reality TV" by most television viewers: PBS's Antiques Roadshow (nominated in the same category last year), Showtime's Penn & Teller: Bullshit (nominated in the category for the third straight year), and National Geographic Channel's The Dog Whisperer.
The 31 2005-2006 primetime season reality TV nominations (which required a program to air by May 24, 2006) continued the genre's upswing from 26 nominations in 2004-05, 23 nominations in 2003-04 and 11 nominations in 2002-2003, the first year that a formal "reality TV" category was introduced to the Emmys. However, the 8 shows nominated is a slight drop from the 9 programs nominated in each of the last two years.
In the network reality TV race, CBS -- as it has every year -- led the way with 11 nominations, while Fox had 8, ABC had 7, Bravo had 4, and NBC had 1 nomination.
Whether the higher number of nominations indicates that reality shows will win more Emmys is uncertain.
The largest number of Emmys presented to reality shows for a single primetime season is just three -- an occurrence that has happened three times: 2000-2001 (the first season reality shows were honored, with Survivor winning two and Fox's American High snagging the third); 2003-2004 (with three shows, The Amazing Race, Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and ABC's Celebrity Mole: Yucatan each taking home one) and last season (with The Amazing Race winning two and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition picking up the third). In both 2001-2002 (MTV's The Osbournes) and 2002-2003 (The Amazing Race) only one reality TV program won an Emmy.
A daytime reality show, the just-canceled Starting Over (which was syndicated through NBC), is the only other Emmy winner in the genre with two Daytime Emmys. Starting Over won one award in each of the last two seasons.
Interestingly, Dancing With the Stars's 6 nominations in its first primetime season is sufficient to propel it into the top five reality TV programs in Emmy nominations all-time, behind only Survivor (30), American Idol (22), The Amazing Race (15) and The Apprentice (8).
The 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented on August 19th (in the "creative arts" categories) and August 28th (in the "major" categories, including Best Reality-Competition Program). A complete list of reality TV nominees for the 2005-06 Emmy Awards can be found here.
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