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Take It From Me, A Four-Time Emmy Nominee
By George McGrath

A show I co-wrote, Tracey Ullman's Trailer Tales received five nominations, but I'm not nominated for an Emmy this year. I was not surprised -- I am not due for another series of nods until 2007. No, I'm not Mrs. Nostradamus. It's pure mathematics.

I received my first nomination for writing Pee-wee's Playhouse in 1987. In 1988, I was nominated again in the same category. In 1997, I was nominated for producing Tracey Takes On. And in 1998, I was nominated again in the same category. Clearly the gods of numerology have created a mathematical path of nominations from which I may not waver.

I should be completely honest. That's what people expect from a 4X Nominee. The two Pee-wee's Playhouse nods were "Daytime" nominations. For those of you who have not "dabbled in the day," let me try to explain the difference between the two awards.

If the Primetime Emmy Awards is eating dinner in a fancy restaurant with the five people you'd most want to meet -- dead or alive -- (excluding Jesus -- that would just be weird) -- and everyone compliments you and hand-feeds you butterfly shrimp; the Daytime Emmys is a gang-related picnic at a park in North Hollywood where you're forced to eat burnt hot dogs because you accidentally walked your dog too close to their piece of cardboard that had the word "Party" and an arrow painted on it.

Anyway, I didn't win any of the possible Emmy's dangled before me. Don't get me wrong. I'm not bitter. I believe with the intensity of a young Faith Ford that the real honor is the nomination and bla bla bla. But when you're sitting there. And you're in a tuxedo. You want to win. You really do.

I will save my Daytime reminiscences for a much-less-likely-to-be-written essay. What follows are some Primetime memories and hopefully helpful hints for the first-time nominee. But first a tip for the never-won multiple-nominee.

I Always Get Nominated, But I Never Win. Do I Smell?

Possibly. But it is unlikely that your nauseating stink is the main factor in your losing streak.

I have served as a judge for the Primetime Emmy's for several years. I have judged writing categories, variety series, specials, and once (never again) mini-series. I am constantly surprised at the tapes that people submit. Every year there are tapes submitted by really great shows that show them at their worst. And the judges are specifically told to NOT judge anything but the submitted tape, and to not let their prior impressions of the show influence their vote.

Don't trust your memory to select your entry -- watch it -- the whole damn thing -- that's what the judges have to do. If it's for writing, is there a big giant improvised piece where writing might normally be? Does the host say something like "Well, that bombed" more than once in his monologue? If it's a variety show, is one of your guests Crispin Glover?

Every year I want to run to Conan O'Brien and cradle his pointy pink skull in my arms and say, "Hush baby, let mama pick a tape to submit for you this year. You just go home now and look pretty. Everything's gonna be fine, baby. Real fine."

Okay, Shut Up. I've Got the Nomination. What Do I Do Now?

Here are some tips for this year's first-time nominees:

  • I have a very important wardrobe tip for the men. Try on your tuxedo shirt prior to the day of the show with enough time to replace it should your neck have swollen since last year. You don't want to choke, and you might be on camera. I know you don't want a gullet. It barely worked for Charles Durning, it is certainly not going to work for you. If the shirt's sleeves are still perfect, you can go to a notions store and buy one of those neck button extender things. But please make sure your bowtie gives it coverage. Nobody wants to see your button extender.

  • For the ladies, I have seen nominees and their "lady friends" injured by heavily brocaded jacket and skirt sets. If you don't want to sit on it, it shouldn't be on your outfit around the ass. And, if you're wearing a new dress, have a loved one look at the back before you show up. Rule of thumb. Never make others look at parts of your body that you don't have to. I have seen women arrive in backless gowns revealing a hideous back that they clearly have never seen -- I'm talking moles. Scar tissue. Veins that have worked their way to the surface when they shouldn't have. Not to mention "dress induced crevices." You're not Jessica Alba. Cover that scary thing.

It's the Big Night, Please Give Me Some Life-Saving Tips!

  • Unless you are a recognizable celebrity, or an alcoholic, arrive in your own car. If you take a limo, you will arrive in the same lane as Doris Roberts and Jimmy Smits (god-willing) - and the fans are waiting to see who pops out of that back seat. They want to see Jennifer Garner. They don't want to see you. And their celebrity-induced hysteria quickly turns to an unhappy rumbling of "Who's that?" "Nobody." Rumble, rumble.

  • For the love of god, bring your paperwork. Keep all your tickets and passes in the envelope they came in, and let the appropriate temp employees sort through it as needed. You're not Jean Smart -- if you don't have your tickets for everything, you're not getting in.

  • Don't get drunk in the lobby before the show due to nervous insecurity. You're not Frankie Muniz -- nobody is going to think you're cuter drunk.

  • Here's a fun way to make four hours seem like three and a half. I like to keep the big program in my lap and play "psychic predictions" for each category as they come up. It is especially fun during the series of awards you have no interest in and no opinion about. (Like the sound editing awards category that "Horatio Hornblower" walked away with.) Of course, you need a fun date to play along, and please whisper -- Noah Wylie is a row away, he isn't playing and doesn't want to hear you playing.

  • Most importantly, don't be too big to Nominee-watch. Try to spot the actor and actress nominees when they come in and keep your eye on them. Watch them anticipate their category - watch them pretend to enjoy the other nominees' names being mentioned - watch them while the winner gives their speech. Trust me. You will come home with a bucket full of memories.

I will never forget Della Reese having her mind blown when she didn't win the Emmy she had told Joan Rivers "God wants me to have." I'm sure I don't have to tell you the year was 1998. And the winner in her category, Camryn Manheim, only made things worse by proclaiming "This is for the fat girls." Della did not hide her displeasure, and didn't work her scowl up into anything more attractive. You know she was thinking, "Fat girls? I could eat you and then eat a meatball hero. I walked through a plate glass window, bitch!"

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