Let's talk about the Emmys
NKC Tribune, Thurs., September 17, 1992

By M.J. "Squeak" Giaudrone

Alright, let's talk about the Emmys. Northern Exposure fans are widely aware that the popular Monday night television show filmed, in part, in Roslyn was nominated for 16 Emmys--those annual awards presented to members of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. On Sunday, August 30, during the 44th annual presentation of same, Northern Exposure & Company picked up six--the most Emmys awarded during the ceremony to any one show.

Joshua Brand and John Falsey are the creators of the show. Between their new show, 171 Fly Away (NBC), and Northern Exposure (CBS) 36 Emmys were awarded. Valerie Mahaffey, who plays the part of Eve, the hypochondriac wife of recluse Adam, won her Emmy for Best Supporting Actress. "[3.10] Seoul Mates" is the name of the episode for which writers Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov earned Emmys. The technical awards were presented on September l9th and Northern Exposure took honors for the best cinematography for a series, the best single-camera editing and the best art direction.

Ken Berg is the art director for Pipeline Productions, the company which moves the show from Redmond to Roslyn every other week or so for location filming. In a telephone interview with him, Berg explained the Emmy process and a lot about what his job is. The Emmy recipient's work is judged by a peer group, fellow members of the Academy. That's what makes the award so special.

Selection is not based upon popularity, which can be credited to a good advertising agency. The show's merits or ability of its performers or technical people is not based on the television ratings, although they can be critical when sponsors are renewing shows, but by people who are more than just familiar with the craft. A show must be submitted to the Academy for consideration of a nomination--a particular episode.

The episode submitted by Berg was the show that just aired again Monday night, "[3.23] Cicely." The title of the episode is both the name of one of the founders of the fictitious Alaska community and the town itself. The story took a step back in time, to when lovers Cicely and Roslyn first discovered their place on the planet where they hoped to live peacefully in their unorthodox lifestyle. Berg says that each script is discussed by the production designer and producers (What is needed?) Then it's on to the engineers whose drawings and calculations determine if what is needed is possible. If the answer is "yes", it goes to the art department. "It's my job to carry out the orders and make sure the sets get built and completed," Berg stated.

The most challenging thing about doing the "Cicely" show was the fact that there were three different time periods involved. "We took it from raw (dirt streets) to cleaned up (sidewalks, paint, buildings) and we had to do it overnight," Berg said. But he also said that he couldn't have done it without his crew. "I've got one of best crews in the business. Two or three of them have been with me since I came to Seattle." (Berg had been working in Africa before Northern Exposure, and is originally from Sussex, England.)

From the mini-opinion poll I took from people involved with the show, "Cicely" was the all-time favorite to put together. And from Berg's standpoint, "all went incredibly smoothly." Berg said that one of the nominees from the show, head make-up artist Joanie Meers, did a really excellent job. With three time periods to transcend, getting the makeup authentic is really important. Meers, however, was competing against Star Trek: The Next Generation. The make up in that type of a show, Berg said, while certainly worthy of an Emmy, should have its own judging category, such as "Make Up, Special Effects."

In a similar situation, Northern Exposure won the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series. But, is it a drama? That question even had Brand and Falsey wondering enough to share their secret with the Academy: "It's a comedy," Falsey said to the members and audience during the awards ceremony. Once a show has been submitted to the Academy, the nominating committee takes over. They prepare a ballot for the members. If a particular show is good enough to be nominated more than once in a category, it is pretty clear that someone will walk away with an Emmy, but just as clear that someone will not. Northern Exposure had more than one nomination in some categories, which explains why, if there were 16 nominations it would be impossible to get 16 Emmys.

After the nominations have been made, Berg said, the submitted tapes are viewed by a "blue-ribbon panel" who then make the final decisions. "They're the ones who write the winners' names that are pulled from the envelopes." When Berg and I talked, the Emmy excitement was still evident when he spoke of the award. But, he is well into the grips of another episode and life goes on.

The "[3.8] Thanksgiving" parade which was filmed in Roslyn last week was another big production--the largest yet for the show--as the residents of Roslyn can attest. Pennsylvania Avenue was closed for 24 hours or so to accommodate filming of the parade; additional extras were hired to make up the crowds lining the streets; 90 costumes were made for the parading people of Cicely; and the floats were built in Redmond, unassembled, trucked to Roslyn, then reassembled for the parade.

Lori Melendy is Berg's right and left hands when the show moves to Roslyn. He usually stays in Redmond. Melendy is another whom Berg says is invaluable, and she and the set decorators take responsibility for the art direction while on location. If winning an Emmy is what doing a show is all about, then Berg has done it all. But if the Emmy is an asset on a resume, then this man has plans to keep on working. Either way, an Emmy makes an awfully nice birthday present. If you don't believe me, ask Berg. He's 39 today.

Created 2/13/02
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