Emmy producer defends special Cory Monteith tribute; says NPH won’t pull a MacFarlane

September 18, 2013

With the Emmy Awards just four days away, executive producer Ken Ehrlich and CBS exec Jack Sussman held a conference call with reporters Wednesday to discuss details of the ceremony – and all anyone wanted to talk about was the exclusion of certain people (and the inclusion of Cory Monteith) in this year’s “In Memoriam” segment.

Earlier this week, the TV academy announced that in addition to the traditional video reel honoring industry stars who have died in the past year, five people would be singled out for special, personal tributes. The list included actors James Gandolfini, Jean Stapleton and Jonathan Winters, along with producer Gary David Goldberg, and 31-year-old Cory Monteith of “Glee.”

That set off some controversy, as some wondered if the actor really had enough of a body of work to be included among the industry veterans. When it was brought up during the phone call, Ehrlich staunchly defended the decision,

“It was a rather personal choice, but Cory’s appeal was to maybe a little different generation than some of the others we’re honoring,” Ehrlich said. (For the record, Galdolfini was 51; Stapleton was 90; Winters was 87 and Goldberg was 68.)

Ehrlich continued: “We felt it needed to be represented, that at 31, he passed away under very tragic circumstances. And that it was important to be responsive to younger viewers, to whom Cory Monteith meant as much as perhaps these other four individuals meant to their own generations.”

Some reporters on the call asked why stars such as Larry Hagman (most famous for CBS’s “Dallas”) and Jack Klugman didn’t make the cut.

Ehrlich hedged before calling it a somewhat “arbitrary” decision, one that was purely up to the producer’s discretion. “No matter what we do, there will be people who feel we could have made other options, and done other things,” Ehrlich said.

Meanwhile, as for as whether the Emmys will take the tone of this year’s mean-spirited Oscars, one reporter pointed out that Neil Patrick Harris was recently on “The Tonight Show” saying he didn’t really want to make fun of people, as some hosts – Seth MacFarlane, maybe? – are prone to do during the ceremony’s opening banter.

Turns out NPH will stick to what makes him comfortable.

“He’s a nice guy who cares a lot about the people he works with,” Ehrlich said. “He loves TV and wants to use the show to celebrate TV, and not as a bully pulpit to take shots at other people.”

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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Chris Richards · September 18, 2013