EMMYS: Exec Producer Defends Choice Of Cory Monteith For Individual Tribute

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Cory Monteith will be among the deceased to whom special tribute is paid at Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards in an effort to appeal to a younger generation, the Emmy show’s exec producer Ken Ehrlich told reporters on a conference call this morning. On Monday, CBS and the TV Academy announced that, in addition to what has become the traditional In Memoriam segment, the Emmycast also will include special tributes to recently deceased industry figures James Gandolfini, Gary David Goldberg, Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton and Monteith. Some reporters on the call questioned the inclusion of the former Glee star, while others felt more deserving folks, including Larry Hagman and Jack Klugman, were left out.

“Cory’s appeal was to maybe a little different generation than some of the others, and we felt they needed to be represented,” Ehrlich said, reminding the reporters Monteith was “just 31” when he died under “very tragic circumstances.” “It was important to be responsive to younger viewers, to whom Cory Monteith meant as much as the other four individuals meant to their own generations. We made the choice it was important to have, as part of these segments.”  Ehrlich admitted that when the decision was made to include Monteith, “there was discussion about the fact that this probably is going to become an interesting topic of conversation. We stand by what we’re doing.” Last weekend’s controversial 45-Second Rule – in which winners at the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony were given 45 secs to get to the stage and deliver a speech — will not be in place Sunday when CBS broadcasts the Primetime Emmys show, Ehrlich and CBS Specials EVP Jack Sussman indicated on the conference call. Winners will be warned to “use that time efficiently,” Sussman said, in response to questions about how they expected to fit in the many extras being added to this year’s broadcast. To date those announced extras include the five tributes, a number celebrating choreography, several “surprises” Ehrlich teased on the call but would not discuss, and this morning’s announced tribute to the 50th anniversaries of two landmark TV events — coverage of the JFK assassination and the Beatles’ U.S. debut — followed by a Carrie Underwood-performed medley of Beatles tunes and other music from that era. The longer some winner speaks early in the show, the less time another winner will have later in the show, Sussman said ominously. “We want to give them their moment,” he said, but winners have a responsibility to “keep the show moving.” That’s the deal with the devil an academy makes when it accepts a license fee from TV networks to turn its awards ceremony into a TV special.

“Many of these people, it’s not their first time coming to the Emmy Awards show, it’s not their first time up to be celebrated,” said Ehrlich. “They know the rules, they know what’s expected of them, and I like to think that by in large they really do respect that. They understand the constraints we’re all under to produce a good show and a show that does get off the air on time.” Winners also will be directed to “be emotional” and “be personal.” “We want to be respectful, but … they know we have a job to do as well,” he said.

Asked if the Emmy show would benefit from slashing the number of awards dispensed, to more closely emulate the Grammy Awards — a performance-focused special in which about 10-ish statuettes are delivered — Sussman answered candidly: “Viewers want to be entertained … but we are obligated to get out a certain number of awards, and our job is to make the best and most entertaining show possible. Ultimately if you could put more entertainment in it, you’d probably make a better show.”

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