An Emmys Postmortem – How Appropriate

Death became the Primetime Emmy Awards last night, which enjoyed the franchise’s biggest crowd in eight years with a major show of mourning. With the Emmy Awards now almost completely morphed into the old CableAce Awards, the broadcast networks that take turns airing it are constantly on the prowl for ways to include more broadcast-TV moments in the ceremony — you may have noticed presenter Allison Janney plugging her new CBS sitcom’s debut. This year’s Emmycast cleverly focused on one industry category that broadcast TV still completely dominates: death. A good chunk of last night’s Emmycast was devoted to it. In addition to the traditional In Memoriam segment, five Very Important Dead People were singled out for individual tributes. And four of them were best, or entirely, known for their work on broadcast — Gary David Goldberg, Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton and the controversial Cory Monteith. CBS execs didn’t mind the kerfuffle about Monteith’s tribute — they know that more people are tuning in to trophy shows these days for the social aspect of it all — aka The Snarking. Oh, and make that five out of six special tributes going to broadcast TV figures, counting Elton John’s musical tribute to Liberace. Congratulations broadcasters!

Related: Emmys: Cory Monteith Tribute Greeted With Tepid Applause

Another of the Emmy dirges, rolled out a few VIP memorial tributes after the show’s lackluster opening, looked at role broadcast TV played in covering a slew of historic events that happened 50 years ago, in 1963. Viewers were treated to footage surrounding the assassination of JFK and its aftermath, including the on-air killing of his accused assassin, followed by footage of the Beatles who performed on the Ed Sullivan Show less than three months later and gave America permission to move on with its life, said CBS’ Showtime star Don Cheadle. That may have worked in ’63, but not in ’13, because we all know Beatle John Lennon was subsequently murdered outside his home in 1980. Also included in the segment: footage of the historic March on Washington, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his memorable “I Have A Dream” speech — five years before he was assassinated, in Memphis.

“This may be the saddest Emmys ever but we’re happy,” Modern Family exec producer Steve Levitan apologized when he picked up up the penultimate award of the night, for best comedy series.

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