Daytime Emmys Boycott Called After ‘Bulls—‘ Decision to Strip Actresses of Award (Exclusive)

Backlash over the question of what constitutes an “episode” is at the center of a heated industry debate

Patrika Darbo

The drama behind the scenes of the Daytime Emmys is getting as juicy as the soaps they honor.

At least three top daytime veterans on Monday called for a boycott of the event after the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ recent decision to revoke the awards of two actresses over submissions errors, while allowing a male actor who committed a similar infraction to keep his.

Emmy-nominated producer Michael Caruso, Emmy-winning director and producer Sonia Blangiardo and Emmy-winning actress and producer Crystal Chappell told TheWrap that they “are not willing to participate in future Emmy competitions” until NATAS agrees to an outside audit of all submission reels in the digital series category and clears up the underlying issues about submissions.

“That is an insult to our creative teams and we are no longer willing to look the other way,” they said in a joint statement.

A spokesman for NATAS denied that there was any double standard and rejected a call for an audit. “All individuals were subject to the same standards regarding each rule,” the organization said in a statement. NATAS had no comment on the calls for a boycott.

The question of what exactly constitutes an episode is at the center of what has become a heated debate in the digital series world.

The mess blew up after actress Patrika Darbo, who won a Daytime Emmy in April for best guest performer in the digital series “The Bay,” was stripped of her Emmy over two rules violations. Not only had she appeared in a previous season, her submission reel also included scenes from three episodes, instead of the allotted one.

Darbo’s award was then given to the performer with the second highest number of votes in the category, Jennifer Bassey from “Anacostia.” But in a bizarre twist, Bassey’s win was also revoked after it was discovered that her reel had also included scenes from more than one episode.

Upon further review, NATAS deemed the entire category “questionable” because the entries were all “a little off.” The Academy then announced it would forgo the award altogether.

NATAS senior vice president David Michaels apologized for the “mistake,” blaming the oversight, in part, on an unprecedented number of submissions.

But the decision to revoke the Emmys came under further scrutiny after it was discovered that the winner for best supporting actor in a digital series, Eric Nelsen from “The Bay,” had also included one episode too many in his submission reel. But unlike Darbo and Bassey, Nelsen was allowed to keep his Emmy.

NATAS insisted Nelsen’s case was different because his extra scene was “fleeting,” and because — and here’s where the Academy seems to have hit a nerve with critics — it’s difficult to say what really constitutes an “episode.”

Gregori Martin, the executive of “The Bay,” argued that since his show dropped multiple installments on the same day each week, they should be considered “chapters,” not episodes. Hence, Martin argued, Nelsen’s reel wasn’t in violation of NATAS rules.

While NATAS insisted it had “not taken a position on this argument,” a spokesperson told Variety that the ambiguity over what constitutes an episode is because digital dramas are in still in their “wild, wild, West” phase.

“In the case of the prior appearance rule, all those found in violation were disqualified,” NATAS said in a statement. “However, in the case of the episode count rule, NATAS opted not to overrule the judges’ decisions, given the rule’s ambiguous guidance, the reasonable disagreement over its terms, and the rule’s planned elimination from future competition. Those found to be potentially in violation of the rule were permitted to keep their awards or nominations.”

“It’s bull s—,” Chappell, a veteran soap actress who also stars in the web soap “Venice: The Series,” told TheWrap. “I’m thinking of calling my episodes ‘sagas’ and I’m going to drop four sagas in one day.

Blangiardo, a director on NBC’s “Days of our Lives” and the creator of the web series “Tainted Dreams,” said the Academy’s response amounted to “spinning.”

“An episode is an episode,” she said. “It’s what happens from the opening title sequence to everything that happens until the credits.”

Meanwhile, NATAS’ interim president Adam Sharp sent an email to Chappell denying her request for an independent audit. In the email, forwarded to TheWrap, Sharp said that the Academy had “conducted a comprehensive investigation and discussion regarding the issues raised,” and that the “process is now complete.”

But Chappell is not satisfied with the response. “I see no reason why the reels can’t be released,” she said. “The Academy allows the release of broadcast reels after the awards show so fans can enjoy watching them, so there’s no reason they wouldn’t be able to release the digital reels.”

Darbo has also told TheWrap she wants an outside audit. “If there were so many infractions in this one category, how do we know there aren’t more infractions in other categories?” she asked.

“Rules are rules, episodes are episodes and violations are violations, period,” Caruso said.

NATAS is a New York-based organization that administers the Daytime Emmys, the Sports Emmys and the News and Documentary Emmys. It is a separate organization from the Los Angeles-based Television Academy (formerly the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences), which oversees the Primetime Emmys.