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Hollywood First Person

So, then they gave out the Emmy for Sitcom Writing and, well, yada, yada, yada. . .

September 27, 1997

Editor's note: Former "Seinfeld" writer Peter Mehlman was an Emmy nominee in the writing for a comedy series category. In a word, actually, in two words, he lost. As part of his therapy he has recounted the experience in excruciating detail. We at Calendar are happy to participate in Mehlman's recovery by publishing his account.

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The curious thing about not winning an Emmy is that you get better gifts than the standard fruit baskets you get for winning. It reminds me of when I was in college and my aunt sent me $10 for my birthday. Two months later when I got mononucleosis, she sent me $50.

Anyhow, I don't want to create any false impressions: I'm deeply sickened about losing. So much so, I've envisioned my friends saying at my memorial service: "He was never the same after losing that Emmy."

The source of all this wasted emotion began March 5 when "Seinfeld" finished shooting episode No. 0819: "The Yada, Yada." It was our 145th episode, but when director Andy Ackerman said, "It's a wrap," a wave of young love euphoria warmed the set, a euphoria we felt after such episodes as "The Contest" ("master of my domain") or "The Outing" (" . . . not that there's anything wrong with it").

I co-wrote the "The Yada, Yada" with Jill Franklyn, a friend who's not on staff but writes beautifully oversexed screenplays. I turned to her and said, "Get out your Emmy dress."

Zipping forward to April 30, after months of anticipation, "Ellen" came out of the closet as a lesbian during a one-hour show called "The Puppy Episode." I missed it because I was reading a book (no, really), but Jill said, "If we get nominated for an Emmy, 'The Puppy Episode' will be our main competition."

I say: "No, 'The Puppy Episode' is an hour. We're in the half-hour comedy category."

Jill: "You think so?"

Me: "Sure. An hour comedy is a completely different form of writing."

Jill: "Are you sure?"

July 24, 1997: Apparently not.

The hourlong "Puppy Episode" is nominated for an Emmy in the half-hour comedy category, along with three Larry Sanders episodes and "The Yada, Yada."

I'm more relieved than anything. None of my scripts has ever been nominated before. Not "The Sponge" ("spongeworthy"), not "The Implant" ("double dipping"), not "The Hamptons" ("shrinkage"), not "The Smelly Car". . . . (The rest of my resume is available upon request.)

Anyhow, I really wanted this nomination, and now I have it.

Unfortunately, I already know I'm going to lose.

"The Puppy Episode" had the kind of emotional moments Emmy voters like to reward. A week ago, I overheard a woman at my health club say she cried during "The Puppy Episode." Well, if you make people cry, you can win an Emmy for . . . comedy writing. But at "Seinfeld," poignancy is forbidden. And really, if you think about it, 95% of the world is on the verge of tears anyway, so it's no big trick to push them over.

Still, I try to convince myself I can win. After all, the phrase "yada, yada" is sweeping the nation. President Clinton uses it in a speech. Katie Couric says it on "The Today Show." Then "yada, yada" is added to the new Webster's Dictionary.

But I'm going to lose.

So I whine about "The Puppy Episode" being an hour (only to learn there isn't a separate category for longer episodes), about how lesbianism isn't exactly big news ("It's 1997!"). However, I'm assured by an actress friend that "The Puppy Episode" meant a lot to her lesbian friends.

So I start thinking how the eight weeks between now and the awards will be a great time in my life. You see, I know I'll lose, but there's a ray of hope that I'm wrong. And, the thing is, you can live pretty well on a ray of hope.

July 25: I stop off at the "Seinfeld" office. Jeff Shaeffer, one of the writer-producers, tells me I'm going to win the Emmy. Now I have no chance. I love Jeff Shaeffer, but his powers of prediction are so off he can barely see into the past.

Aug. 5: The writer's arm of the television academy hosts a party honoring the writing nominees. Since I know I won't be honored on Emmy night, I'll take anything I can get. "Politically Incorrect" nominee Arianna Huffington tells me I'm going to win the Emmy. We become friends.

Aug. 10: I come up with the first line of my acceptance speech: "You know, I didn't want to just win this Emmy. I wanted to win by a lot."

Aug. 23: I happen to know this is the day the Emmy voting takes place. I wear the exact same clothing as I did the day I was nominated. Unfortunately, on Emmy day, I have to wear black tie. Five years ago, when "Seinfeld" was racking up nominations left and right, I went haywire and bought an Armani tux. After a spate of Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, People's Choice Awards, Writers Guild Awards, this ceremony will bring down the price of my tux to just under $400 per wearing.

Sept. 1: I should mention that I'm no longer with "Seinfeld." After six years, I joined DreamWorks to create my own sitcom.

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