It was another big night for Home Box Office at the Emmy Awards, topping all networks with seven awards presented during the primetime telecast Sept. 18, including three more awards for the voters’ favorite program this year, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
Added to the tally from the Sept. 11 awards for creative achievement, HBO received 27 Emmy awards, the most of any network this season. ABC had the second-best total with 16, followed by CBS, 11; NBC and PBS, 10 each; Cartoon Network, 7; Fox, 6; Comedy Central, 3; Showtime, 3; Nickelodeon, 2; and A&E, Discovery Channel, Hallmark Channel and USA Network with one each.
|<p>And the Awards Go To …</p>||<p>Cable’s Multiple Emmy Winners</p>|
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, HBO
Warm Springs, HBO
Death in Gaza, HBO
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Cartoon Network
Classical Baby, HBO
Lackawanna Blues, HBO
Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol. 2, Cartoon Network
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central
The Sellers biopic was this year’s most honored show, topping even broadcast juggernauts Desperate Housewives and Lost.
On Sunday night, Sellers star Geoffrey Rush won for his portrayal of the late comic star. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and director Stephen Hopkins also won, raising the movie’s Emmy tally to nine.
But Sellers did provide one of the evening’s head-scratchers. It was deemed to have the best actor, script and direction, among other awards, yet the voters chose another HBO film, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt biography Warm Springs, as the best made-for-TV movie.
Warm Springs co-star Jane Alexander was honored for her role as matriarch Sara Roosevelt. (Alexander had previously starred as Eleanor Roosevelt in 1976’s Emmy TV movie award-winner, Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years). Warm Springs earned a total of five Emmys.
Cable’s other multiple winner during the Sept. 18 ceremony telecast was The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, taking home honors for best variety, music or comedy series. It also won the writing award for that category.
Tony Shaloub won best actor in a comedy series for his work in USA Network’s Monk.
Shaloub, along with a flustered S. Epatha Merkerson, were among the press favorites backstage at the awards.
Shaloub confessed he considered accepting his statuette in character. Since Monk is a compulsive germophobe, that would have required him to grab the much handled award with a handkerchief over his hand. But then he decided, since the statute is of a woman’s body, that the quirky Monk wouldn’t want to touch it at all, so he just played it straight and graciously accepted the honor.
Shaloub said he thinks Emmy voters today give as much attention to cable nominees as those from broadcast.
“HBO’s cleared the path” for cable Emmy contenders, said the USA star.
Merkerson, named outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie for her role as Nanny in HBO’s Lackawanna Blues, had still been unable to retrieve her acceptance speech notes when she hit the press room about an hour after she accepted her award. During the awards broadcast, she confessed she’d tucked the note into the bosom of her dress, and backstage she giggled nervously about its mysterious migration across her chest and under her bust sometime during the night.
On a more serious note, she happily noticed the night’s trend toward acknowledgement by Emmy voters of mature actors over younger leading men and women. She said she hoped casting agents, and Emmy voters, would continue to acknowledge older women.
“I think I’m cute when I’m glowing from a hot flash,” quipped the actress.
Politics and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath were hot topics backstage. The Warm Springs performers and creative team gently criticized the current administration when asked about the enduring interest in the Roosevelts.
Executive producer Mark Gordon said people still love FDR because “he’s the kind of empathetic president we could certainly use today.”
Winner Jane Alexander added during a different interview that great leaders come along in times of great crisis.
“I’m still waiting,” she said.
Alexander added she learned a lot about politics as the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, which chronically faces the threat of losing funding because of the choice of arts and messages it bankrolls. That experience made her long to get back to the business of performing, she said.
Retired news anchors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather were asked their opinion of the hurricane-disaster coverage, and their thoughts on the future need for “star” anchors on the cable and broadcast news platforms.
Brokaw said his best advice to current broadcast journalists is to remember to always get it right and to keep in mind “you’re not the story.”
He supported the proliferation of news channels. Viewers benefit from choices, he offered. Though viewership continues to erode due to a proliferation of news sources, broadcasters need to continue their dedication to newsgathering. “I hope that [the news operation] doesn’t become a swamp of mediocrity.”
The newsmen added that the days of the trusted anchor really ended with the era of Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Without specifying a network or news personality to which he was referring, Rather said TV news has become too egocentric. Anchors shouldn’t concentrate on becoming brand names but on “doing their damnest to get the story.”
During a later Q&A, Dick Askin, chairman and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, was asked what his organization will focus on in the future.
The Academy wants to be ahead of the curve, not trailing it, he said. ATAS is monitoring the success of new platforms, such as content to cell phones and interactive applications. Just this year, the award program elevated the interactive Emmy, with winners receiving a traditional statuette rather than a certificate.
Could innovations include an Emmy telecast on one or more cable networks? During the last bidding cycle for the telecast, HBO expressed interest, but carriage was eventually awarded to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, which rotate the ceremony production duties. Askin noted that contract expires in 2010, so the Academy will entertain bids from interested networks beginning in 2009.
Given the level of innovation, “Who knows what television will look like by then,” Askin said.