To protests by no one, the EP of this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards says he’s working on a tribute to Robin Williams that will be part of the NBC broadcast of the awards ceremony. Also not surprisingly, Don Mischer says they’re still in the discussion phase – word Williams had been found dead in his northern California home broke just this past Monday afternoon.
The Academy will want to tread carefully with this year’s tribute. It took a thumping with last year’s expansion of the traditional In Memoriam in which Williams played a role. He spoke eloquently about Jonathan Winters, who had died in April of '13, and was among five industry figures singled out for separate tributes -- also including James Gandolfini, Gary David Goldberg, Jean Stapleton, and Cory Monteith.
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It was a controversial programing decision, angering some who objected particularly to the special treatment afforded Monteith, while industry veterans such as Larry Hagman and Jack Klugman were not afforded the honor. Some cynics – guilty here – also suggested Winters may have been included so as to give CBS, which broadcast that Emmy ceremony, an opportunity to spotlight Williams, who was starring in the network’s new comedy series The Crazy Ones, debuting just days later.
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Toward the end of the ceremony, Modern Family exec producer Steve Levitan joked it had been “the saddest Emmys of all time,” and, as soon as the ceremony wrapped industry pundits began to pontificate as to what went wrong with the memorials, and if it would lead to heavy tribute-lobbying this year.
"Plans for the In Memoriam segment are in discussion," Emmys executive producer Don Mischer said in a statement about plans to pay tribute to Williams in this year's Emmycast, on August 25. "While we are all still coming to terms with this week’s tragic news, we are working to give Robin Williams the proper and meaningful remembrance he so well deserves.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences already had tripped up with its tribute to Williams. Monday evening it Tweeted a screen-shot from Disney’s Aladdin, in which the Genie – voiced by Williams -- hugs Aladdin. The image was accompanied by a message from the Academy that read: “Genie, you’re free” – a reference to the film, in which Aladdin uses his final wish to free the Genie from the lamp. By Tuesday, it had been retweeted about than 300,000 times which, according to Topsy, means as many as 70 million people could have seen it. Among them, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Christine Moutier, who told The Washington Post “if it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” explaining the Tweet implies suicide is an option and “suicide should never be presented as an option” because “that’s a formula for potential contagion.” Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion and the Internet has been criticized in the past for romanticizing high-profile deaths, Moutier’s group explained.
"Jonathan Winters was my mentor," Williams told Emmy viewers less than a year ago. “I once told him that, and he said, ‘Please – I prefer “idol”.’ But I knew it was true. I knew the moment I saw him on The Tonight Show, when Jack Parr handed him a stick. What happened next was a genius at play. John and that stick transformed into a dozen different characters, complete with sound effects – a fly-fisherman, a matador, Bing Crosby playing a round of golf…he was comedy at the speed of thought and I was hooked...Twenty years later, I got to play Jonathan’s dad on Mork And Mindy...Jamming with Jonathan was like dancing with Fred Astaire. He always brought out your best…The beauty of Jonathan was that he was a big, brilliant kid that never grew up and the world was his playground. In April, Johnny turned out the lights, but he sure burned bright while he was there. Thanks for the spark, Big Guy.”