Swag still the talk of the town

Emmy attendees riff on freebies, nomination process

On Emmy’s scorching day in the sun — when it was hot enough for paramedics to treat a few people overcome by heat — there were three points that perked up everyone’s ears.

There was the still-broiling controversy over the new awards nomination process; the IRS crackdown on swag; and the show being pushed into the ratings black hole of August.

Presenter Ron Livingston said he’d like to donate any gift bag he got to charity, but added, “If rich people can’t get free stuff without paying taxes, then the terrorists have already won.”

MPAA topper Dan Glickman said, “If the government tries to regulate (swag), the industry could ask the MPAA to step in and we could set up a rating system based on good taste/base taste.”

When William Shatner was asked if there was an “official Shatnerian policy” on swag, he replied: “Sort through it.” And Howie Mandel said, “Swag to me means free stuff, and if you pay tax on it, doesn’t that kind of negate it?”

But the issue that most touched nerves was the new awards nomination process.

It’s still sensitive enough that two cable execs requested anonymity when one said: “This was a wake-up call. There’s nothing the Academy hates more than bad publicity. There’s going to be a close look at the nominating process next year.”

The other said: “You bet they’re going to clean up their act.”

Hugh Laurie, one of the more egregious examples of the new system’s buzzed-about snubs (“House” was nominated for drama, but he wasn’t for actor) was politic, saying, “There’s a system and I don’t know what the system is.”

As for the move to August, NBC Universal topper Jeff Zucker said, “It will be great. The ratings will be what the ratings will be. Advertisers clamored to get onboard. It was the media who made it into this big story. In the real world, it’s not a big thing.”

When it was mentioned how it is hard to think of the Emmys as part of the real world, Zucker laughed and said: “I know that.”

On the other hand, no less an expert on awards shows than Gil Cates said he though it was “a bad time to do a show. The holidays are not over and people aren’t ready to contemplate the real world.”

Mandel’s line was that “being outside in a suit in August is not a good idea fashion-wise even if it does make sense for programming.”

The most popular item on the red carpet was a small, battery-powered fan that VIPs received as they went through the metal detector. The stars’ handlers could be seen electronically fanning themselves while their charges were being interviewed.

And “ET” had their own bottled water with the show’s logo imprinted on the side that they brought out by the case.

Overall, the arrivals played to mixed results. Some declared this was smoother than in past years, while others were trapped in gridlock just minutes before the show.

Those unlucky enough to be stuck in their cars/limos said people — including Matthew Perry — got out and started walking, but the cops put a halt to that since folks had to be in their autos for the checkpoint.

Then there was John Lithgow, who said, “I’m straight here from Broadway. I went to rehearsal yesterday and I drove to Pasadena. Really.”

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