14 seconds of acting, 15 minutes of fame

Chaos has erupted in Hollywood over Ellen Burstyn’s Emmy Award nomination for best supporting actress in an HBO film in which she appeared on screen for 14 seconds and spoke two lines containing some 38 words. Nice work if you can get it. (In case you were wondering, words 37 and 38 of this missive are “nice” and “work.” You probably weren’t.) I thought Burstyn was dead, so this can only boost her profile. She’ll win, too. Here’s a good analogy from the sports world: Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove in 1999 as the American League’s best-fielding first baseman, despite playing only 28 games at that position during the 162-game season. He was apparently pumped up on steroids much of the time, making his absence from the infield either more or less perplexing, depending on your point of view. But I digress. For me (I’m tragically unhip), the real Emmy stunner was recognizing two of the other supporting actress nominees: Cloris Leachman (Mary Tyler Moore’s sidekick, who spun off into her own show) and Shirley Jones (Mrs. Partridge, who knew Danny Bonaduce when he was just weird looking, not all gravel-voiced and psycho-fidgety). Add Valerie Harper and Florence Henderson, and it’s 1974 all over again! Anyhow, commercial time cuts so deeply into shows (on average, there’s less than 40 minutes of content in most hour-long broadcasts), it’s just a matter of time (literally) before a wink or nod garners kudos. And if Burstyn prevails, she’ll be the first Emmy winner whose acceptance speech lasts longer than her performance.

—Posted by David Gianatasio

Photo: HBO