ABC and the producers of the Emmys are asking you, the viewer, to help shape part of the Emmy telecast by voting on the top moments in TV history, including moments from such touchstones as I Love Lucy, Roots, All in the Family and … Little House on the Prairie?
Yep, voters have chosen Pa telling Mary she’s going blind as one of the 10 most memorable dramatic moments ever shown on TV. Which is, um, weird.
The Emmys are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, which means lots of broadcast-padding paeans to the history of the medium. And asking viewers to select their favorite moments, and showing clips from their top five picks in comedy and drama, isn’t a terrible idea as these things go.
But as with any subjective list of the Greatest Things of All Time, there are problems. The television academy, along with the Emmy show’s producers and a group of TV critics, selected the initial list of 40 clips, 20 apiece from comedy (which also includes variety-show moments like the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and the Tonight Show tomahawk-to-the-crotch incident from 1965) and drama.
It’s a fairly representative list, filled with usual suspects like Lucy and Ethel working on the candy line, J.R. getting shot and the death of Chuckles the Clown on Mary Tyler Moore. Aside from the Lucy clip and one from The Honeymooners, TV’s alleged Golden Age gets shorted: Nothing else from before 1960 made either list, which means no Studio One or Playhouse 90 or Charles Van Doren cheating on 21.
And for the life of me, I can’t figure out how that Little House clip made it onto the initial list over something from, say, Hill Street Blues (a three-time Emmy winner for best drama), The West Wing (four straight), Gunsmoke (longest-running drama series ever) or any number of cable shows from the present era (The Sopranos is the only cable series to make the cut on the drama side).
Then there are the moments themselves. If you’re going to include a clip from Roots, why choose "Behold the only thing greater than yourself" over the scene where Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is being whipped but refuses to say his slave name? And if you’re picking a scene from Lost, is it really Desmond turning the key in the hatch in the season two finale over "We have to go back"? Et cetera, et cetera.
I will say this, though: Those of you who voted for the comedy clips did a pretty good job. The top 10 is a pretty eclectic list, ranging from "The Contest" on Seinfeld to Radar announcing Henry Blake’s death on M*A*S*H to Sammy Davis Jr. planting a kiss on Archie Bunker. I’d probably have included Chuckles the Clown over Rachel and Ross finally kissing on Friends, but any list that also includes the Newhart finale and the "Trapped in the Closet" episode of South Park is pretty much OK by me.
Check out Zap2it’s Guide to the 2008 Emmys for more coverage.