Emmys must add excitement to familiar races

GOOD MORNING: When the Oscar nominees were announced this year, the cry was “No one (at home) will know who the hell they are!” And now that the Emmy nominees are out, the bleating began with “It’s the same old names!” So, at 6:30 ayem Thursday after the nomination announcements, Don Mischer, producer of the Emmy show (Sept. 14, CBS), was already at work in his office planning where and how to add entertainment with the participants and their nominated programs. He happily reports, “I think it (they) will make for an exciting show. And I think the races will be exceedingly close at the highest level and there is genuine competition in most of the categories. After all, the viewers basically look to see who is going to win — there is news in who wins.” He knows whereof he speaks, having won 12 times. Last year, while producing the Emmy show, he also was a nominee (and won) as producer of “The Kennedy Center Honors.” His Emmy show director Louis J. Horvitz also won for directing the “Honors.” This year, both are doing repeat chores on the Emmy show, but they will be opposing each other in the awards category of directing for a variety or music program: Mischer, for the “Centennial Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies” and Horvitz for directing the Oscar show. Horvitz considers himself “a protege” of Mischer’s. Gil Cates is also nominated for producing the Academy Awards show. Horvitz, examining the list of nominees, observes, “There is real proof of quality TV across the boards. We see (in TV) the same names who are in $100 million movies. It makes TV more viable.” F’rinstance, a perfect example is the category of lead actress in a miniseries or a special: nominees are Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Alfre Woodard. Stockard, for one, told me “I am grateful” to be in that company. She’s now working in USA’s Lee Rose production of “An Unexpected Life,” the sequel to her nominated role in “An Unexpected Family.” She next starts Showtime’s “Baby Dance” with Laura Dern and Ron Silver — again, cable competing with the bigscreen’ers.

MOVING ON TO LIVE ENTERTAINMENT, Liza Minnelli, who’s now in Vegas at Ballys and who arrives at the Pantages July 31, admits she’s “scared” coming into her “home town.” But she promises, “No one will be cheated. I never felt better”: she’s been off cigarettes now for eight days. Minnelli’s throat is still “healing” and she laughingly admits, “I sing better than I speak” (a little hoarse). The show is “brand new and gentler,” she says, taking a page from the delivery of Charles Aznavour. F’rinstance, “When I sing ‘Gigi,’ it’s like a mother to her child.” Paris is on her tour, also Monte Carlo, Sicily, Verona, London, Chicago and New Orleans, but with enough time between the dates so she can work on her producing plans for B’way — about which she is even more excited than usual. … B’way icon June Havoc (a snappy 83) is here to regale the visiting press corps for her upcoming appearance on the PBSpecial, “American Masters: Vaudeville.” Havoc was a vodvil headliner in her own right at the age of 5 while the younger sister of Gypsy Rose Lee. Havoc will surely brighten the days of the vidpress at the Ritz Carlton. … And while Fox News Channel’s anchor Bill O’Reilly is also in town to im-press, he’ll meet with his CAAgent Todd Smith to talk pic deals for his first novel, “Those Who Trespass” (Bancroft Pub). It’s about a network correspondent who turns serial killer to get even with those people who sabotaged his career.

DINNER FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON at Edie and Lew Wasserman’s Saturday night will not be a political event and the guest list is the White House’s. It includes Michael Eisner, Bob Daly, Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Les Moonves, Jeff Katzenberg and Roger Clinton. … Friends of Eddie Fisher are sorry to learn he is ailing. Manager Tino Barzi had to cancel a date at Carnegie Hall and the Drury Lane in Chi. Fisher recorded an album and was set to make appearances with it. Those who’ve heard it include ex-wife Connie Stevens, who praised it to me. Stevens is now winding up color-balancing on her docu “A Healing,” set in Vietnam; she’s honored to learn it will be shown during the dedication festivities of the Women Veterans’ Memorial in Arlington Oct. 16-17. Hillary Clinton co-chairs. Stevens says “Healing” will also be shown to Congress, plus fests in NY and Toronto. … David Kelley will be honored Sept. 16 at the BevWilshire with the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Center for Law in the Public Interest. … Dwayne Hickman plays the father of “Saturday Night Live” cast member Molly Shannon in Par’s “A Night at the Roxbury,” bigscreen version of the “SNL” sketches starring Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell. Last season, Hickman played “Clueless'” Elisa Donovan’s father. Hickman, the father of 33-year-old son John and 4-year-old son Albert, is writing, with wife Joan Roberts, the feature “My Nerves Are Shot — Fatherhood, The Second Time Around.”

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