Emmys -- The Oddest Award of All

10/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Of all the awards - and there certainly are a lot of them - the Emmys are by far the strangest. No other award I'm aware of gives out multiple recognitions for the same performance.

Peter Falk won four Emmys (1972, 1975, 1976 and 1990) for portraying the supershlep sleuth Columbo. John Larroquette also took home four (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988) playing the sleazebag attorney, Dan Fielding, on Night Court.

Don Knotts won five Emmys (1961, 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1967) as Andy Griffith's jumpy deputy, Barney Fife. Candice Bergen garnered five (1989, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1995) playing Murphy Brown.

I can't explain it, but there feels, to me, something disturbingly wrong about that. It's like the actors are cashing the same check multiple times. Not to brag, or complain - and then proceeding to do both at the same time - I won two Emmys (Lily Tomlin, 1975, and The Cosby Show, 1984) and was nominated for four others.

Six nominations in all. But the thing to notice is, every time I was nominated, I had to write a different thing! These guys do the same job over again, and they give 'em another prize.

Of course, there is the discomfiting "flip side." The one that keeps actors up at night.

In 1992, an actor named Craig T. Nelson won an Emmy Award for playing the role of Hayden Fox, Head Coach of the "Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles" on the long-running ABC comedy, Coach.

The next season, 1993, Craig T. Nelson, continuing in the role of Hayden Fox, was not nominated at all.

What exactly can that mean?

Actors, by nature, are sensitive people. And when something jostles their delicate temperaments, like, for example, winning an Emmy Award one year and not even being nominated the next - for playing the exact same part - it can really eat them up.

"Let's see, now. Last season, I won the Emmy for my portrayal of Hayden Fox. This season, I play Hayden Fox exactly the way, I sincerely believe, I played Hayden Fox last season, but this season, I don't even get nominated?"

"What the hell is going on!?"

"I'm an actor! I won an Emmy, for heaven's sake. And what did I win it for? For playing the role of Hayden Fox, a role, which, according to the Emmy nominating committee, I no longer know how to play."

"What do I need to do? Watch films of my performance as the Emmy-winning Hayden Fox, so I can pick out the flaws in my not even nominated Hayden Fox? Baseball players do that. They find a hitch in their swing. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a hitch in my acting."

We shouldn't make fun. Therapists make a lot of money off such problems. And that's not even the scariest example.

In 1990, Jerry Seinfeld was nominated for playing Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld, and he was not nominated the following year. How do you imagine Jerry felt?

"Could this possibly be true? Could I actually have gotten worse at playing myself?

"Lemme tell you something. I know how to play myself. I've got "myself" down. I practice the role constantly. I am myself all the time. 24/7. Day and night. I'm not myself for a few days, then I'm somebody else, then I'm myself again. I am always. Myself. And not partially myself. I am myself, head to toe."

"And yet, for some mysterious and inexplicable reason, the people on the nominating committee are telling me, I'm wrong. They're saying, 'Jerry, sometimes - like the season when you were nominated - you were very much, and most hilariously, yourself. But this year, I'm sorry, it just wasn't there.'"

"Something is terribly wrong with those people."

On Emmy Night, the big story is, understandably, "Who will be the winner?" But I believe there's another even more intriguing story going on. Somewhere in that audience Sunday night, earlier winners and nominees who didn't get a nibble this year are sitting there, torturing themselves with the nagging, maybe unanswerable, question:

"How do I get it back?"

Earl Pomerantz's blog can be reached at