Emmys: Cory Monteith Tribute Discussed, Defended by Exec Producer Ken Ehrlich

Cory Monteith dead

Ehrlich acknowledges that controversy was inevitable, but defends the inclusion of Monteith

The last thing anyone wants is for the Emmy tributes to the passing of major names in television to become controversial.

Nevertheless, Primetime Emmys exec producer Ken Ehrlich acknowledged (during a conference call Wednesday) that conflict was fairly inevitable when the decision was made to single out James Gandolfini, Cory Monteith, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Winters and Gary David Goldberg for special attention — in addition to the traditional In Memoriam segment set to run during Sunday’s kudocast on CBS.

“Honestly, there is no way (to prevent the debate),” Ehrlich said. “It’s so individual – I hate to use the word arbitrary, but there’s only so much you can do. In essence, it’s kind of an extension of the In Memoriam piece we’ve done – inevitably, the next day people say, ‘Why not this one?’  In all candor, this becomes a producers’ option, and in this case we selected these five individuals knowing that there are certain others that could have been treated this way, but in particular we felt these five were the ones we wanted to focus on.

“No matter what we do, there will be people who think we could have done other things. Obviously, we felt there was a limit to the number of people we could do. … There was discussion about the fact that this was probably going to become an interesting topic of conversation. I think at this point we’d just like to stand by what we’re doing.”

Ehrlich did defend the debated inclusion of Monteith, the young “Glee” co-star whose body of work doesn’t match that of the other honorees or others who weren’t singled out, such as Larry Hagman and Jack Klugman.

“It was a rather personal choice,” Ehrlich said. “Cory’s appeal was to maybe a little different generation from some of the others we were honoring, and we felt maybe he needed to be represented. The fact that at 31, he passed away under tragic circumstances, the fact that we felt it was important to be responsive to younger viewers for whom Cory meant as much as these four others meant to their own generations.”

The tributes won’t be the only somber notes to be struck in an Emmycast that Ehrlich maintains will be celebratory in tone overall. There will also be a segment, manned onscreen by Don Cheadle, marking the 50th anniversary of coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – “the first time a country mourned collectively for the death of a president” via television, Ehrlich said.

That will segue into a look back at the Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” 80 days later, on Feb. 9, 1964.

“The Feb. 9 date was to a very real extent was a time we could (first) begin to celebrate,” Ehrlich said. “We could cheer, we could yell, we could scream, we could begin to come back. I was a college student at the time, so I remember it well.”

Former “American Idol” champ Carrie Underwood will perform during the Beatles segment. Ehrlich said “the connection is pretty obvious,” in that television helped make the Beatles, and Carrie Underwood is an example of a star made by television.

Other musical segments in the Emmycast will feature Elton John performing a tribute to Liberace, coordinated with a presentation by “Behind the Candelabra” stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, and a dance number about television featuring Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris that was created by the nominees for the choreography Emmy.

Ehrlich declined to spoil the kickoff number of the kudocast, other than to say that it “will open in a way that is definitely unexpected.”

All the non-award segments obviously add to the challenge of bringing the Emmys home within the three-hour window allotted for the show on CBS, but Ehrlich called himself an optimist on that front.

“There’s honestly only so much you can do,” Ehrlich said. “We have tried things in the past, some of which have been successful, some of which have not been. The key is to try to keep it moving, and you know with Neil he’s going to be trying to keep it moving.”

CBS exec veep of specials and live programming Jack Sussman added that to some extent, the pace of the show is in the hands of the winners and their acceptance speeches.

“We will ask people to be sincere and concise and realize there’s a lot of awards to give out that night,” Sussman said. “We want people to thank the appropriate people and say what’s in their hearts and move on.  The longer they go, the less other people might get down the line.”

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  1. Debbie says:

    I don’t really care that Cory Monteith was included in the tribute. I do care that Jack Klugman, Larry Hagman and Charles Durning were not. This was a serious blunder on the part of this so called “producer”. Klugman, Hagman and Durning were iconic and so were the characters they portrayed. Monteith was a talented young actor (who may have attained greatness one day) who tragically took his own life. His inclusion should not have meant excluding the others.

  2. suxanne says:

    There’s nothing complicated in how the Emmys honor the deceased. Sadly, it is ALL about ratings, and ratings mean money PERIOD. That’s why the glee Guy is being singled out. Was he a good actor…yes. was he young….yes. can anyone compare his career to those of jean stapelton. Jack klugman…no. ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY NO MATTER HOW THE PRODUCERS SPIN IT!!

  3. Fran says:

    The creators and cast of Glee did manage to introduce a young audience to the concept and fun of the “musical” genre. Larry Hagman admitted to being drunk during most of the filming of the original Dallas. He received a liver transplant, and proceeded to pickle that one too. Someone else on the transplant list probably died because they wasted a liver on a self destructive man who could not control his drinking. While we can argue body of work to infinity…Jonathan Winters was spectacular, we can argue demons too. There are many splendid actors who have died in similar fashion including River Phoenix, similar in the fact that the drug was heroin, and Heath Ledger, similar in the fact that the overdose was accidental. The death does not cancel out the quality of their work. Let the people that run the Emmys honour who they’d like. Just because an article on the internet includes a comments section, does not mean that the content of the article is up for a public opinion poll.

  4. Sharon Carroll says:

    So, a 50 year body of work of an icon means nothing compared to a guy whom has been in the business for a hot minute comparatively? Yes, sad he died, but how does his body of work merit that over an icon like Larry Hagman? Not to mention you basically are admitting to using this young guys death for ratings! Yeah, what an honor! Try all you’d like this is indefensible!

  5. JerseyGirl says:

    “Tragic circumstances”!!!!!!?????? He did drugs for goodness sake!!! You play YOU PAY!!!! How dare they snub LARRY HAGMAN over that drug addict!!!!

  6. Jaime says:

    I don’t understand how Ken Ehrlich can sit there and try to justify how an icon such as Larry Hagman, who’s had a 50 plus year career in the industry, whose portrayle of one of the most revered and reviled characters in television history, J.R. Ewing, defined the 80’s, whose show Dallas was a worldwide sensation and “Who Shot J.R. episode a national phenominon, culminating in it being the highest rated television broadcast for decades, is somehow not worthy of being included in these special tributes. But the even bigger question is, why the need to single anyone out at all, especially if you know it will create controversy? Could it be….ratings? Congratulations Television Academy! The Emmy’s and Ehrich have now even made death a popularity contest. Absolutely reprehensible!

  7. TBullet says:

    So let me get this right. He died young and tragically (which is redundant). He was on a show that appealed to a younger generation. Then why wasn’t Ryan Dunn even mentioned a few years back.

  8. lessthantolerant says:

    Why have a tribute to a dead drug addict? Hollywood is truly a sick environment.

  9. Mandy says:

    THANK YOU kind Emmys producer sir! You hit the nail on the head: Cory represents a new generation of actors. I agree that he deserves to be recognized. Cory was a part of an ensemble cast of a show that is considered by many to be a cult phenomenon. Some of Lea Michele’s best scenes on that show have been with Cory Monteith and she herself has said that Glee would not have been the same experience for her had she not had the opportunity to work with Cory. It hurt my heart to read so many negative comments about this beautiful and sweet young man who had a heart of gold. If there was anything that Cory Monteith didn’t deserve, it was all of the hateful and disgusting posts and comments written about him in these last couple of days.

  10. debb says:

    I would like to say kudos to unbiased observer and just my 2 cents.. I agree with their statements about Cory and also feel he should be included in the memoriam.

  11. Jon Weisman says:

    I don’t think most people are trying to put down Monteith or diminish his loss. I think some fans simply find it hard not feel the actor they loved, be it Hagman, Klugman or whomever, isn’t diminished by being left out of the special tributes. In other words, it’s not just about Monteith.

  12. Chris says:

    The Emmy Awards program is a symbol of peer recognition from over 15,000 Television Academy members. It’s an industry show where their members vote – we the people simply get to watch and judge their outfits.

    Many of these entertainment industry people held Monteith with hope and high regard; if they as a community of professionals want to spend some time to remember him with a nice tribute, then so be it. It seems tacky to me that people are wasting virtual ink and time to even make a discussion out of it. Honestly, get over yourselves.

    Condolences to all the family, friends and colleagues who lost their loved ones; I think they were all wonderful.

  13. Goodbyenoway says:

    Leaving Larry Hagman — a true icon — out and including Cory Monteith who spent 3 years on a show almost no one watches is ridiculous.

  14. unbiased observer says:

    I agree with the inclusion of Cory Monteith in this tribute. I have never seen the show, but there is no denying the impact that he had on the younger generation. His career may have been short, and his body of work small, but based on everything I have read about him, he was a kind, wonderful man that always maintained his humility and concern for others. The way he died should not have an impact on how he is remembered or if he should be honored in this way. He was a man that apparently had demons he couldn’t overcome, but that doesn’t mean his accomplishments should not be celebrated. The younger generation, most of whom have never lost a beloved celebrity, also need to know their love for this man should not be something they have to be ashamed of. Most of the celebrities mentioned also had their demons, yet we still loved them. The younger generation needs to have their voice heard, too. This is a good way of doing that. I hate this controversy about all of this, and I hate that this young man’s family, friends, coworkers, and girlfriend have to be stuck listening to people say that this special tribute isn’t deserved. What is done is done, and honestly people just need to let things be.

    • Just my 2 cents says:

      I could not have said it better! It is impressive how Cory Monteith’s career and life developed, despite his background. But it is even more impressive to read about the kind of man he turned out to be—humble and grateful, hard working, joyful, focused on helping others, kind to both coworkers and fans. He was not a “typical reckless Hollywood actor,” as some have implied, wasting away newfound money and reputation on drugs and alcohol. I cannot imagine the strength it must have taken to fight against an addiction begun at so young an age. Mr. Monteith’s admirers are not all young people, though. I am in my 60s, and his death has been the first time a celebrity’s passing has affected me. I hope that part of his legacy will be a renewed effort to discover how to treat addictions of all sorts more effectively. Just my 2 cents.

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