News Column

EDITORIAL: Death casts shadow over the Emmys

September 25, 2013


Sept. 25--From the dark and drug-crazy "Breaking Bad" to the nerds-and-science-are-hilarious "Big Bang Theory," television these days offers an array of diverse and powerful programming worth celebrating.

Witness "House of Cards," the first TV show nominated for an Emmy that never aired, well, on TV. (It's only available via the Web and Netflix.)

It's too bad so much of that cutting-edge acting and innovation got overshadowed by -- gulp! -- death at the 2013 Emmy Awards broadcast Sunday on CBS.

In addition to the traditional "In Memoriam" film honoring industry greats who died the past year, show producers sprinkled in special tributes to five apparently extra-special actors. Not only did these additional somber moments drag down an already-struggling show, but they put much of the post-show spotlight on who was (and was not) honored.

Tops on that list: One of the five special tributes was to "Glee" star Cory Monteith, who died in July of a drug-and-alcohol overdose at age 31. In addition to the circumstances of his death, his "Glee" role was his only substantial TV role.

Obviously, show producers chose the Monteith memorial to attract younger viewers. In doing so, though, they overlooked spotlighting numerous TV greats, starting with three-time Emmy winner Jack Klugman and including actors Annette Funicello, Larry Hagman, Dennis Farina and Jeanne Cooper, and broadcast journalists Roger Ebert and David Frost.

While all those made the "In Memoriam" tribute, it's easy to see why fans balked at spotlighting Monteith ahead of them. Others remembered individually were James Gandolfini, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Winters and Gary David Goldberg -- all very deserving.

Admittedly, creating any kind of "best of the best" list creates its share of hard feelings. Obviously, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences knows that, because since 2006, it's maintained an "In Memoriam" website to point out not every person can be honored during the show. (

With that in mind, it's even more perplexing as to why the show would add extra tributes bound to fuel an unwinnable debate. Then again, perhaps controversy (and youth) are what producers wanted. Nielsen ratings provided Tuesday showed more than 17 million people were watching at any given time of the three-hour-plus telecast, up from about 13 million in 2012.

Numbers aside, Sunday should have been a night to celebrate all the innovative and compelling programming going on in television these days.

Instead, it made headlines for focusing too much on death.


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