Do These Emmy Categories Have the ‘Best New Artist’ Curse?

outstanding main title

The Swingle Singers. A Taste of Honey. Jody Watley. What do these names mean to you?

Maybe nothing, but each of these musical artists has won the Grammy for Best New Artist at some point. The long-running joke in pop culture has been that those who win Best New Artist are cursed and go on to be one-hit wonders, never able to do anything substantial passed their first musical effort (see: Hootie & the Blowfish and Men at Work).

But is there a similar curse in the Emmys? Maybe.

There is no Outstanding New Series Emmy, but there are two categories that could substitute: Outstanding Main Title Theme Music and Outstanding Main Title Design. Why? Because most shows don’t change up their title design or music year to year, so when a series is first introduced to the world, so is there music and title sequence.

Let’s look at some Outstanding Main Title Design winners:

  • Dilbert (1999)
  • Carnivale (2004)
  • Huff (2005)
  • Bored to Death (2010)
  • True Detective (2014)
  • Manhattan (2015)

All of these shows were critically acclaimed only to be canceled before their time (although that second season of True Detective is debatable). Dilbert only lasted two seasons, despite its cult following, with creator Scott Adams citing UPN and Shasta McNasty as the main culprits of its early demise. Meanwhile, HBO’s Carnivale set an early record for ratings, only to be unable to maintain this momentum. The dust settled on the show at just two seasons, even though it was scheduled for six. Meanwhile, the poor bastards who were fans of Huff never learned how the show ended, as Showtime canceled the series two days before the Season 2 finale, which had a lot of unresolved storylines.

Now, let’s look at some winners in the Outstanding Main Title Music.

  • seaQuest DSV (1994)
  • Murder One (1996)
  • Gideon’s Crossing (2001)
  • Masters of Horror (2006)
  • Pirate Master (2008)

First, let’s talk about who these winners beat out in their categories. seaQuest DSV beat out classic main title music from Frasier and The X-Files, which were both nominated in this category that particular year. (As much as I loved the late, great Jonathan Brandis, and may or may not still have a seaQuest DSV bookmark, this is insane considering the impact these two other shows have had on popular culture.) Furthermore, Gideon’s Crossing beat out the theme song to Survivor in 2001. (I will give you $5 if you can sing the Gideon’s Crossing theme right now.)

But if you look at other nominations in these categories, it’s pretty random, with not only forgettable songs, but forgettable shows. For example, the year Pirate Master won (the ill-fated Mark Burnett pirate-themed reality show), it was competing against Kid Nation, one of the WORST experiments on children in TV history, and TNT’s Saving Grace, the forgettable Holly Hunter crime drama in the era of “Let’s milk the The Closer formula for all its worth.” Pirate Master winning HAS to be a consolation prize for never giving Survivor the Emmy in this category, since it’s a cheap rip-off of tribal theme only with swash bucklers.

The moral of the story is that the nominations in these Emmy categories are just as wacky as Best New Artist, and there’s definitely a weird freshman curse at play. You think it’s weird that Esperanza Spaulding beat out Drake and Justin Bieber for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011? Well, Star Trek: Voyager beat out Friends for the Best Main Title Music in 1995. Astounding, right? I guess it just wasn’t Friends day, week, month, or Emmy year.

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