Can the Oscars Win an Emmy in the Year of Envelopegate?

ABC and the Film Academy are courting TV Academy members, hoping to keep their most critically acclaimed telecast in years from being overshadowed by its chaotic finish.
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Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty on the 89th Oscars telecast

Just when people were beginning to move on from the craziness of the 89th Oscars (yes, the one that ended with the best picture envelope fiasco), the network that broadcast it, ABC, and the organization behind it, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, are encouraging people to remember it — at least, those people who are voting members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

That's because they would like the Oscars to be nominated for an Emmy — yes, that can happen — in the outstanding special class Emmy category, among others. And, for the first time, they are mounting an actual campaign to try to make that happen.

ABC and AMPAS, which have partnered on the Oscars for decades (and recently extended their deal through 2028), have run digital ads on a number of trade-related websites and in email blasts (including The Hollywood Reporter's — see inset) recommending the telecast to ATAS members "For [their] consideration in all categories" and urging them to "Relive the moments." The ad clicks through to a website that features gushing quotes about the telecast from industry publications, as well as a video that previously was sent around to Academy members titled "And then this happened..." It showcases snippets of the show — nominee Justin Timberlake's opening number, host Jimmy Kimmel surprising tourists with a walk past the front row, Damien Chazelle becoming the youngest-ever best director Oscar winner — and, unavoidably, the shocking ending as well.

Why, you might wonder, would ABC and AMPAS lean in to that moment, which undoubtedly will go down as the most infamous in Oscars history? Because, while it represented a massive systems failure on the part of AMPAS' longtime accountants PwC, it also showcased the deftness of the telecast's creative team in the midst of on-stage chaos — from director Glenn Weiss ordering a camera to zoom in on the card with the word "Moonlight" on it (rather than cutting to a commercial) in order to preemptively silence any conspiracy theories, to producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd urging Kimmel to get back to the stage to try to regain control of the situation (he already was in motion).

In other words, at the end of a show that otherwise went swimmingly (as confirmed by critics' reviews, if not ratings barometers), it made for great live television, which is what the outstanding special class program Emmy was created to recognize.

The Academy Awards have been recognized at the Emmys — or, recently, the Creative Arts Emmys — many times since 1981, when Marty Pasetta was nominated for outstanding directing for a variety series for the 53rd Oscars. From 1959 through 2008, the primary category in which the Oscars could be recognized was outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program, which highlighted the contributions of several Oscars hosts: Billy Crystal won in 1991 and 1998 and was nominated in 1992, 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004; Whoopi Goldberg was nominated in 1994 and 1996; and Steve Martin, Ellen DeGeneres and Jon Stewart were nominated in 2001, 2007 and 2008, respectively.

In 2008, ATAS eliminated that category and instituted the outstanding special class program category, for which the Oscars have been nominated every year since — even the much-derided 83rd Oscars, which infamously were hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway — losing every time, more often than not to the more performance-centric Tony Awards. In the meantime, the Oscars have been recognized with wins in smaller categories, in 2014 for outstanding art direction for variety, nonfiction, reality or reality-competition programming and in 2015 for outstanding technical direction, camerawork, video control for a limited series, movie or a special.

But in all of those years, sources say, ABC and AMPAS never mounted even a small-scale campaign of the sort with which they are currently engaged — so why start now? Neither ABC nor AMPAS would comment, but it's safe to assume that they are doing so as a vote of approval, support and confidence in the 89th Oscars' producers De Luca and Todd, who already have agreed to return for the 90th edition, as well as Kimmel, ABC's reigning king of late night, who's also returning as host. That trio would share in any Emmy nomination or win — barring any surprises from ATAS' accountants!

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