The glitz and glamour that would normally surround the Emmy Awards has been replaced by a sense of fear and resignation as the TV industry reluctantly prepares to honor its best and brightest this Sunday.
Despite earlier fears that many celebs and execs would boycott the reskedded kudocast, most top nominees are set to attend either the main event at the Shrine or a satellite ceremony in New York. But in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, few seem particularly happy about it — and some are even a little afraid, despite the unprecedented security arrangements made by Emmy organizers.
“This is the first big Hollywood event since Sept. 11, and some people are scared something could happen,” said one senior studio exec.
As a result, some thesps and execs will be skipping Sunday’s ceremonies. Those who plan to attend seem to be doing so “out of a sense of duty,” as one top publicity exec put it.
“I just have a sense that a lot of people are going through the motions, that it’s an obligation to go,” she said. “There’s not the genuine enthusiasm that normally accompanies the Emmys.”
PMK publicity exec Heidi Schaeffer is a tad more upbeat, arguing that attending the kudocast can be seen as a positive act. “A lot of people are feeling supportive right now of our industry and each other,” she said. “They’re not looking to kick up their heels.”
Emmy producer Don Mischer, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, has promised a toned-down broadcast, with far less of the pageantry normally associated with Hollywood awards shows.
Instead of screaming fans, there’ll be metal detectors and limo searches. Celebs will don business suits and cocktail dresses rather than dazzling gowns and blinding jewels.
“It’s this weird dichotomy: It’s a celebratory affair where you’re not supposed to celebrate,” one industry vet said.
TV Academy chairman Bryce Zabel, however, dismissed concerns that this year’s Emmycast may prove too somber an event. Much of the show’s mood will depend on how nominees respond to their win at the Emmy podium, he said.
“Ideally, you’ll have a variety of different speeches on a variety of different topics,” Zabel said. “There is humor involved throughout the show.”
But two pieces in particular — one featuring “NYPD Blue’s” Dennis Franz, who pays tribute to police officers, the other from the cast of “Third Watch,” who focus on firefighters who lost their lives — will dramatically address the Sept. 11 tragedies.
“Like any good show and any show under these circumstances, there will be highs and lows in terms of emotion,” he said. “We have a reasonably good shot of lifting America’s spirits with the telecast we’ve put together.”
Studio and network honchos really don’t have an option about whether to attend: Their absence would be perceived as a slap in the face to both the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences and their own talent in attendance — especially those who win. But one studio spokeswoman said a number of low-level execs have opted not to attend.
“People are feeling creeped out by the fact that all these people will be in one spot. They’d rather be at home watching the show with their families rather than the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in a super high-profile situation,” she said.
That spokeswoman said she is leery about attending the event but that her job required it. “I’m going to place myself next to an exit,” she said.
Producers, execs and thesps are also wary of what are expected to be amusement park-length lines just to enter the auditorium.
“There are going to be massive lines and a long wait to get into the Shrine,” predicted one exec, “especially if they use just one entrance.”
Zabel has promised the tightest security measures in Emmy history.
Not liberal with limos
The new rules include keeping limos off Shrine property. (In years past, limos have been allowed to make dropoffs at the artists entrance inside the gates.) Limos are also subject to search.
Also, talent that would prefer not to go down the red carpet have been given an alternative entrance. Several cast members from “The West Wing,” for example, are expected to skip the media glare.
And metal detectors will be used at all entry points to the Shrine. To allow for security slowdowns, guests will be allowed to begin arriving at 2 p.m. (the show kicks off at 5 p.m.).
Jefferson Boulevard between Figueroa and Hoover will close at 12:30 p.m. to any traffic in either direction without a limo pass placard. Guests who are driving themselves will park in a nearby lot and be shuttled over. The area over the Shrine is a no-fly zone except for police helicopters.
Meanwhile, many New Yorkers are forgoing the L.A. festivities, choosing to attend the hastily arranged Gotham ceremony set to take place at NBC.
The entire “Sopranos” gang has opted to attend the Gotham-based Emmy ceremony at Conan O’Brien’s NBC studio. “They felt collectively that it was important for them to be with their families,” said an HBO spokeswoman.
‘Letterman’ staying home
As for the staff of CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” they won’t be attending the Emmys in L.A. or New York — even though they’re nominated for five awards.
“We’re back at work. We’re just not ready to celebrate,” said the show’s executive producer, Rob Burnett, through a spokesman.
Others are more defiant, saying they aren’t about to let terrorists dictate whether they take part in one of Hollywood’s biggest nights.
“At some point we have to start going on with our lives,” said PR maven Pat Kingsley of PMK. “I don’t think people should be scared off of doing something because of some thugs.”
Another publicity vet predicted the post-show “Unity Dinner” — the new name for the annual Governors’ Ball — will ultimately end up being a not completely atypical party.
“Once all those people are in the room, they’re going to be running from table to table and schmoozing,” she said.
And the media will be there to cover it: Both “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood” plan to cover the Emmys, with their top on-air talent involved. But producers expect a different kind of coverage.
“The audience always is excited about who comes with whom and the preshow jitters stars have and what they’re wearing. This year that is not top of mind,” “Entertainment Tonight” exec producer Linda Bell Blue told Daily Variety.
“It won’t be nearly as flashy (as years past), and it won’t be nearly as upbeat,” said “Access Hollywood” exec producer Rob Silverstein.
Indeed, both skeins will skip their usual coverage of Emmy-night fashion. And E! canceled its Joan Rivers-led red carpet coverage entirely.
(Paula Bernstein, Melissa Grego and Bill Higgins contributed to this report.)