A somber Emmycast gets a go

Show to look at TV as a communal medium, tone down competition

Despite grumblings from some industry quarters, the 2001 Emmy Awards are going forward– but the show won’t look like any previous kudocast.

Show producer Don Mischer, along with execs at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, said Tuesday the show will go on Oct. 7 as previously announced, although some celebs and execs have argued privately in recent days that an awards ceremony might not be appropriate given the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

“There’s been a great divergence of opinion, great passion,” Mischer said. “My phone rings off the wall with people I trust who have great judgment, some of whom feel we need to go on as they always have been.

“(Some people wonder), how can we interrupt this and let terrorists feel satisfaction of changing the way we live? On the other side, people say it feels extremely self-indulgent to even be thinking about an Emmy Award at a time like this.”

Nonetheless, Mischer believes most of the TV industry is behind the kudocast.

“We do have the support of the community,” he said. “People are coming, they are attending, they want to be there. The only question is from people (from “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos”) coming out from New York. There’s some reluctance to get on an airplane and leave loved ones.”

Several changes have been made to address certain concerns, however:

  • Attendees will ditch tuxes and gowns for “dressy business attire.”

  • The red carpet area will be scaled back, with no fan bleachers. Camera crews will dot the red carpet, however.

  • The annual Governors’ Ball is now being called a Unity Dinner. Other post-show parties have been canceled.

  • One-on-one press tents for broadcast skeins like “Access Hollywood” have been eliminated. Journalists, both print and electronic, will gather in one tent for post-awards interviews.

Ellen DeGeneres still is set to host, although Walter Cronkite is expected to open the show. Most of the presenters previously announced have confirmed their attendance.

TV as community

Mischer said the program would emphasize “how TV makes us witnesses to history, how TV is a connector and how through TV we share our grief together.”

But the producer warned the messages would not be “self-congratulatory.” “We will be doing pieces which focus on things that have happened since Sept. 11,” Mischer said.

Segments also will “look at, historically, how entertainment has helped us get through national tragedies in the past.”

“NYPD Blue” star Dennis Franz is set to contribute a taped piece on Gotham cops.

Awards still will be given out, though Mischer is looking at different ways that might be done. It’s unlikely, for example, that music will accompany talent on- or offstage.

“We’re exploring several ways. There might be a little twist that makes it feel less competitive and more like we’re a member of a big family,” he said.

Overall, Mischer said he, the Academy and CBS are trying to juggle numerous issues all at once to ensure the right feel for the show.

“As producers, we’re walking a real delicate line here, trying to come up with the right tone where actors will feel comfortable up there and feel proud being up there,” he said. “It’s a tough job. In my 30 years in the business I’ve never have had to deal with anything this difficult.”

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