In an unfortunate turn of events that might easily qualify for their soap opera, the writers of "The Young and the Restless" have been told that the Emmy Award they accepted on national television last week for best writing on a daytime drama doesn't really belong to them.
The real winner was the writing staff of "Guiding Light," another CBS serial.
A spokesman for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences blamed the mix-up on "a clerical error" by the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand.
Having to tell his writers that they hadn't won after all "was the most unpleasant job of my life," William J. Bell, co-executive producer of "The Young and the Restless," said in an interview Monday.
"From a night of triumph you just go to a moment of humiliation," he said. "Far better that nothing had happened than that this happened."
What happened, according to Academy spokesman Murray Weissman, was that in compiling a news release announcing the winners of the 13th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, someone at Coopers & Lybrand correctly listed the writers of "Guiding Light" but incorrectly identified them as working for "The Young and the Restless."
That news release was used as the basis for writing the names of the winners that were sealed in envelopes to be opened on the national telecast last Thursday, he said. Because there were so many writers names, though, the card inside the envelope simply said, "The writing staff of 'The Young and the Restless.' "
Such a mistake involving the national Emmy Awards had never been made before, Weissman said Monday. Coopers & Lybrand had never previously handled a national Emmy Awards process, he said.
The academy's auditing committee met with Coopers & Lybrand officials and reviewed all the ballots to confirm that there were no other errors, he said. The academy still believes that the accounting agency is "an outstanding, very reliable firm," he continued, and plans to continue using it for the Emmy Awards, including the prime-time ceremonies that are in the nomination process now.
Bell said that he had no reason to believe there was anything other than human error involved, but he branded the mistake "unforgivable" and said it hurt the accounting firm's credibility.
"Obviously the whole system broke down if they let just one person make up the (winners') cards without anyone checking it," he said.
"The greatest impact," Bell said, "is that a group of awfully fine, talented people were hurt the way few people can be hurt, because ultimately it became a great indignity, and it never should have happened."
Bell said that he was prepared to let the matter drop. Noting that "The Young and the Restless" had won the Emmy as best daytime drama for the second year in a row and also had picked up awards for directing, editing and sound, he said, "We have much to be proud of."
The winning team of writers from "Guiding Light" consisted of Pam Long Hammer, Jeff Ryder, Addie Walsh, John Kuntz, Christopher Whitesell, Megan McTavish, Stephen Demorest, Victor Gialanella, Mary Pat Gleason, Trent Jones, Pete T. Rich, Gail N. Lawrence and Nancy Curlee.