Emmy Flashback: With Just 4 Categories, 1965's Ceremony Was a "Deplorable Bust"

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Barbra Streisand, then 23, accepted her Emmy for 'My Name Is Barbra' at the critically trounced 1965 Emmys.

The widely panned show featured a new format that saw, among other changes, the drama, comedy and acting awards lumped into Individual Achievement in Entertainment, which made for some confusing winners: Dick Van Dyke starring in a half-hour sitcom got the same award as Barbra Streisand for her hourlong special 'My Name Is Barbra.'

A strong contender for the least well-reviewed Emmys would be 1965's. For The Hollywood Reporter to call it a "deplorable bust" in a headline says something about how unloved the show was. The review went on to say that it was "the worst mishmash in TV Academy history" and if the organization did "another show like this one, no network will want to carry it."

THR wasn't alone in this opinion. "Instead of bubbling like champagne, it was like molasses from the deep freeze," wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Hedda Hopper. The problem lay with the new format devised by TV Academy president Rod Serling. Instead of presenting drama, comedy or acting awards, these categories were lumped into Individual Achievement in Entertainment.

The choices made by a committee seemed arbitrary: Dick Van Dyke starring in a half-hour sitcom got the same award as Barbra Streisand for her hourlong special My Name Is Barbra. (In her speech, the 23-year-old singer noted of TV's power: "I'd have to work in the theater in Funny Girl 58 years to reach the same amount of people.")

The show began with technical awards like lighting and makeup; THR said it was one hour and 45 minutes before anyone who "any of the millions of viewers was in the least familiar with" received a statuette. To add insult to injury, the bar at the Hollywood Palladium was shut down during the telecast. The new format was gone by 1966. 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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