The 63rd annual Emmy Awards are gearing up to honor TV's best Sunday in a live three-hour telecast (Fox, 8 ET/5 PT) that kicks off next week's new fall-season rollout.
In all, 25 awards will be handed out in a ceremony hosted by Jane Lynch. And though she plays a mean-spirited cheerleading coach on "Glee," viewers will see Lynch's sunny side, a contrast to Ricky Gervais' funny but caustic hosting stint at this year's Golden Globes.
She's "an energy force of light and positive fun," says first-time Emmy producer Mark Burnett. "The point of it all is a celebration of the last year in television."
Lynch takes a piecemeal approach to avoid angst. "I actually had the gall to compare it to playing Hamlet," she says. "When you look at playing Hamlet, you go, 'Oh, my God, I'm playing Hamlet.' You're going to freak out. But if you say, 'I've got this speech, I've got this scene, I've got this soliloquy,' it's reasonable."
Burnett is no stranger to live TV. Survivor airs a live finale each season, and he produced MTV's Movie Awards and CBS' People's Choice Awards several times. But the Emmys' sheer size and stature makes it a tougher task. "It's a huge show with a lot more awards," he says.
He's using last year's "fantastic" NBC telecast, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, as a model: "Our goal is to be equally as good." Look for another big pretaped opening, with Lynch visiting the sets of some "very big TV shows" with cameos by major stars.
Another bit highlights "the fact that every show in America is made in New Jersey," he says, with a nod toward MTV's "Jersey Shore." A memorial segment was hastily updated this week to reflect the death of Cliff Robertson and "Spartacus'" Andy Whitfield. And look for a big musical number at the show's midpoint.
"I'm a huge believer in pacing and starting out big," Burnett says. "The best kind of awards show has a lot of performances and comedy and music and energy; the challenge is to craft it so we have enough memorable moments in the show."
Politics plays a role as the TV Academy tries to balance the need to entertain viewers with the goal of honoring TV's best. The four major broadcast networks that air the Emmys on a rotating basis prevailed in their quest to pare back the number of movie and miniseries awards, which are dominated by HBO and PBS, so the two will compete in a single category (just as actors in those projects already do).
And despite reality shows' ratings dominance, only the reality-competition category will be presented on air. (Emmys for "Survivor" host Jeff Probst and reality series "Deadliest Catch" were awarded at last weekend's Creative Arts ceremony.) "Before I produced it, I was probably one of the biggest complainers that more reality shows should get in on the Emmys. Now I'm producing it and I think, 'Uh-oh, what we really need is more stars.'"
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