The television academy is facing uncomfortable questions about its procedures after Ellen Burstyn was nominated for a best supporting actress Emmy for a 14-second performance.
Burstyn appeared briefly in the HBO movie “Mrs. Harris,” playing a former lover in a flashback scene reminiscing about Scarsdale diet doctor Herman Tarnower.
She spoke two lines, totaling 38 words, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which measured her on-screen time.
Burstyn is competing against three other actresses: Kelly Macdonald, Shirley Jones and Cloris Leachman.
“Based on the popular vote, this is a legitimate nomination,” said Pam Ruben Golum, spokeswoman for the television academy.
There’s no rule setting a minimum participation requirement for award consideration, but the TV academy is willing to consider one for next year, she said.
For an entrance fee of $200, actors or actresses can be considered for an Emmy, the academy said. Generally, names are submitted for consideration by agents, movie producers or the actors themselves.
Burstyn didn’t submit her name for consideration; it was done by someone at the movie’s production company, according to an executive at HBO who would speak only on condition of anonymity. The network had no comment about the nomination.
A total of 41 actresses were up for nomination in this category; a pool of 2,000 eligible performers, directors or casting directors were able to vote on who should be nominated.
The academy wouldn’t discuss this process, but critics say it’s clear that the nominations were little more than a popularity contest and, based on Burstyn’s brief role, voted upon by a number of people who didn’t even see what she did in the movie.
A blue-ribbon panel that does view the work will select the winner, the academy said.
“The whole incident reveals that the Emmy Awards are a mess. Take them with a grain of salt if you’re planning to watch,” wrote New York Post critic Adam Buckman in an article headlined “Emmy-barrassing.”
A message left with Burstyn’s publicist went unreturned Tuesday.
The awards are scheduled to air Aug. 27 on NBC, with Conan O’Brien as host of the Shrine Auditorium ceremony in Los Angeles.