Swamped by all the business to be conducted, award shows sometimes forget to entertain us. Now the Emmys (8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, CBS) have taken two important steps -- hiring Neil Patrick Harris as host and Ken Ehrlich (who has worked wonders with the Grammys) as producer. Here's the story I sent to papers; if you scroll down, you'll see a list of key nominees:
By MIKE HUGHES
What can we expect from the Emmy telecast Sunday?
There will be music and memories, a little bit of dancing, a
little more comedy…. and a lot of Neil Patrick Harris. “Neil’s personality and
his style are what we’re going to ride for three hours,” said Jack Sussman,
CBS’ head of specials.
Harris – also CBS’ favorite Tonys host – has shown a knack
for openings that are large and offbeat. This one, producer Ken Ehrlich said,
is “something you definitely would not expect.”
Surprises are important in the show, because they’re so rare
in the awards themselves. “Modern Family” has been named best comedy in each of
its first three seasons … “The Amazing Race” has been best reality competition
series for nine of the past 10 years … “The Daily Show” tops that, being named
best variety series 10 straight times. A few HBO films tend to dominate the
movies category; “Under the Candelabra,” the Liberace tale, has already won
eight Emmys before the televised portion begins.
So the show itself needs to surprise and entertain. Those
are Ehrlich’s specialties.
For 33 years, he’s been in charge of the Grammy telecast,
which is long on music and short on talk; now – for the first time in five
years -- he returns to the Emmys, which are the opposite. “We try to bring more
entertainment and performance to the show,” he said.
Harris will provide some of the comedy, but there’s more,
including Ehrlich’s passion for music. One piece will have Elton John perform a
tribute to Liberace; another, with Carrie Underwood, will note a period, 50
years ago, when two opposite events brought Americans to their TV sets.
First was the John Kennedy assassination in November of 1963
when, Ehrlich said, TV helped “a country collectively mourn.” Then, 80 days
later, the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan show; it was a time, he said,
“when we could cheer, we could yell, we could scream.”
Another performance covers new ground: For the first time,
Ehrlich said, the choreography Emmy will be presented in prime time. To
celebrate it, the nominees were asked to combine and create a piece.
All of them, it seems, are happy to be there and be
nominated. “We’re just a couple of hip-hop dancers,” said Napoleon Dumo, nominated
with his wife Tabitha. “We got an Emmy. Are you kidding?”
Their previous Emmy (two years ago) was handed out at an
alternate ceremony, a week before the telecast. If they win this time, it will
be in prime time, on a telecast trying for music, dance and laughs.
Emmy awards, 8-11 p.m. Sunday, CBS
The E cable channel has a preview at 5 p.m. and
red-carpet arrivals, 6-8 p.m.
The show will be split into four categories –
comedy, drama, movies-and-mini-series and reality.
In addition to the memorial segment, there will
be personalized ones for five people – James Gandolfini (Edie Falco), Cory
Monteith (Jane Lynch), Jean Stapleton (Rob Reiner), Jonathan Winters (Robin
Williams) and “Family Ties” producer Gary David Goldberg (Michael J. Fox).