Emmy Flashback (Made for Television Movie – 1996)


Since we’re in the middle of a very heated and controversial Oscar season, now seemed like the best time to discuss a random Emmy category from 1996. The truth is, I had always been interested in watching the HBO film The Late Shift, which was about the Jay Leno vs. David Letterman late night feud during the early nineties. In 1996, that movie was nominated for many Emmys, including for Best Made for Television Movie. This seemed like the best time to watch the nominees (and winner) in that category and write a post about it. In 1996, Truman ended up winning..

A few months ago, I also reviewed the nominees for Best Made for Television Movie from 1997. That year, the wonderful drama Miss Evers’ Boys, about the tragic Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, won the Emmy. However, there’s something strange about the winners for 1996 and 1997. Neither of those movies received Directing nominations. Despite the fact that Truman and Miss Evers’ Boys were directed by awards favorites Frank Pierson and Joseph Sargent respectively, neither of them received Emmy nominations for films that would end up winning the big prize. I’m not saying that the nominees for Direction and Program always need to line up perfectly (and obviously in the Directing categories, miniseries and TV movies have to compete together). But, still…how can a movie be considered the best if the directing isn’t even deserving of a nomination? And both Truman and especially Miss Evers’ Boys are very well directed. It’s a strange phenomena that hasn’t occurred since 2000 when Tuesdays with Morrie won for Best Movie without a directing nomination.

Anyway, here are the nominees, ranked in order as to my preference…

Outstanding Made For Television Movie – 1996

  1. Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story (Lifetime)
  2. The Tuskegee Airmen (HBO)
  3. The Late Shift (HBO)
  4. The Heidi Chronicles (TNT)
  5. Truman (HBO) *WINNER*

So, of these five nominees, The Heidi Chronicles (Paul Bogart), The Late Shift (Betty Thomas), and Almost Golden (Peter Werner) all received Directing nominations as well. I guess there’s something kind of nice about the three films starring leading  actresses getting recognized here. They were all beaten by the miniseries Andersonville. This was a very strong year for TV movies, but I’m definitely a sucker for the standard “based on a true story” Lifetime soap opera. Almost Golden, which is based on the tragic story of one of America’s first female leading news anchors, isn’t perfect (the 90 minute run time doesn’t do the film many favors), but the story itself is so fascinating and dramatic, that I was captivated during the whole ride. On the other hand, while, again, Truman is incredibly well made, with a great performances by Gary Sinise and Diana Scarwid, like other HBO movies I’ve seen about presidents, the movie as a whole is a bit too dry. Kind of like Spielberg’s Lincoln. The perfect movie…but it’s not necessarily something I’d watch again, unless I had to.


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