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New blood brings element of surprise

Tyros put edge on show

There’s no anniversary to celebrate and the entire production is being scaled down from last year’s four-hour extravaganza, but what may make this year’s Emmy broadcast intriguing is an element of surprise.

With no offense to comedic giants like “Seinfeld” or drama heavyweight “The X-Files” who have been there before, many of those taking the podium at the Shrine Auditorium on Sept. 12 and accepting celebratory hardware are venturing into new waters and could add a bit of intrigue to the festivities.

Such was the case last year when Camyrn Manheim won for best supporting actress in a drama for her role in the highly regarded “The Practice.” Holding her statuette up high and proclaiming, “This is for all the fat girls!” was worthy of page one headlines the next day. Not your typical acceptance speech.

“The thing you like the least is when people get up and make acceptance speeches and pull out real long lists of names,” says Don Mischer, the executive producer of the broadcast, which will be seen on Fox. “You want the winners to speak from the heart and just let their exuberance bubble to the surface because, in the end, those are the moments that make or break an awards show.”

If “The Sopranos” star James Gandolfini hears his name called for best actor in a drama, who knows what the reaction might be? He could thank his cast, his agent, as is usually the case, or, maybe, the New Jersey Mafia for research material.

The same can be said for other nominated “Soprano” thesps: Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco and Nancy Marchand — names that only a year ago weren’t known for being the best television has to offer.

Last year’s show was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Emmys. Not only was the telecast four hours, but it went without a host. Director Louis J. Horvitz, who is a veteran of these award shows and is himself a nominee for helming “The Kennedy Center Honors,” says this year’s version, back at the normal three hours, should be less stressful on those in the truck.

“It was incredibly hard last year. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Horvitz says. “It takes a lot of perseverance to stay focused for four hours. It’s like playing a football game for two hours and then you go into overtime for another two hours.”

Mischer adds that there won’t be as much time this year for other presentations and retrospectives. He estimates that with 27 awards being handed out (awards for the nonbroadcast categories will be handed out Aug. 28 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium), there are only about 25 minutes for everything else.

Some would say that’s a good thing. One thing for sure is that, unlike the Oscars, there won’t be a lot of musical numbers to fill time.

“Last year we had Brandy singing from ‘Cinderella’ because that had eight nominations and we had (dance troupe) Stomp, which had six,” Mischer says. “If it makes sense for us to use music, we’ll use it, but we just can’t go out and do an opening number for its own sake. Those don’t work.”

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