It’s been suggested, amidst the mountains of coverage everywhere of this week’s Emmy nominations, that the omission of certain nominees reveals an aversion to scandal among the voting members of the TV Academy.
Does the theory hold water? Let's take a closer look.
The three personalities in question were Charlie Sheen of "Two and a Half Men," Kiefer Sutherland of "24," and David Letterman. They've all been consistent past nominees. Charlie was nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy for four consecutive seasons (2006-09; he never won) and Kiefer was nominated, for Best Actor in a Drama, for six consecutive seasons (2002-2007; he won in 2006), and again in 2009.
This year: Nothing. Neither Sheen nor Sutherland were nominated, a disappointment in particular for Sutherland and “24,” which ended its remarkable, ground-breaking run in May after eight smash seasons.
For Letterman, his absence from the list of nominees (in the categories that matter most to him and his staff – Best Writing and Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series, the category that encompasses the late-night shows) was even more historic. In what might have been one of the longest streaks of its kind in television, Letterman’s shows had been nominated for writing Emmys every year since 1984 – 26 years – a streak that came to an end with this week’s nominations.
So, were these three derailed by scandal?
Hard to say. Sutherland and Sheen can certainly be seen as the bad boys of prime time. Sutherland served 48 days in jail back in fall 2007 stemming from two drunk-driving arrests. Then, in May 2009, he was involved in some kind of a barroom dust-up in which he allegedly head-butted a fashion-designer named Jack McCullough. (The charges were later dropped.)
Sheen’s rap sheet is even longer – he shot Kelly Preston in the arm back in 1990, patronized Heidi Fleiss’ hookers (on whom he admittedly spent tens of thousands of dollars), OD’d on cocaine, served several stints in rehab (including just this past February) and is now awaiting word on whether he’ll have to serve jail time for the incident last Christmas when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his estranged wife.
However, one thing you can say about Charlie: In spite of it all, Hollywood keeps hiring him.
As for Letterman, this past season was the one in which Dave announced on his show that a CBS News producer was trying to blackmail him over Dave’s affair with the producer’s girlfriend. In his remarks on “Late Show,” Dave admitted not only to the affair in question but eluded to having had other flings with unnamed female members of his staff. While Letterman’s public admission helped defuse the impact of the scandal, it was a turn-off to many.
Did the TV Academy exact some sort of revenge on these three? It's possible. But on the other hand, none of the scandals in which these three have been involved have in any way prevented them from continuing their very lucrative careers.
If history shows us anything, it’s that Hollywood loves a happy ending. And that includes the Emmy voters. Take Robert Downey Jr. He struggled with drugs for years, including a stint in jail in 2000, after which he joined the cast of “Ally McBeal” and was nominated for an Emmy (he didn’t win). Today, he’s sober and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Can Dave, Charlie and Kiefer bounce back the same way?