Five stars who died this past year were honored by colleagues as part of the traditional “In Memoriam” segment of the show. Rob Reiner spoke for his All in the Family co-star Jean Stapleton, Edie Falco for Sopranos star James Gandolfini, Robin Williams for his Mork and Mindy co-star and mentor Jonathan Winters, and Michael J. Fox for Family Ties producer Gary David Goldberg. Monteith’s Glee co-star Jane Lynch honored Monteith at the ceremony, acknowledging the drug overdose that took his life:
“Cory was a beautiful soul. He was not perfect, which many of us here tonight can relate to. His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction. Tonight we remember Cory for all he was, and mourn the loss of all he could have been.”
Critics of the Monteith tribute included the son of Jack Klugman, who felt that his father should have been one of the five honorees.
“They’re celebrating this self-inflicted tragedy instead of celebrating the life of my father, who won three Emmys,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Cory Monteith never won an Emmy.”
Larry Hagman of I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas fame died this year and was also not among the five honored. Andrew Wallenstein wrote in a Variety op-ed that honoring Monteith over actors like Hagman is inappropriate, based on body of work alone:
“By putting Monteith in this elite group, the Academy is risking having its honorable intentions misconstrued as using the actor’s memory to cater to the younger audiences that are in decreasingly short supply for award shows these days. Monteith could have gone on to a tremendous career, but Larry Hagman, for instance, already had a tremendous career, and putting Monteith on a pedestal casts a shadow over the memory of this iconic Dallas star.”
Emmys producer Ken Ehrlich said in a statement that Cory belonged among the five honorees:
“Every generation of television viewers has its favorites, and when we decided to expand the ‘In Memoriam’ segment to remember certain individuals, we wanted these pieces to be representative as well. To a younger generation, Cory Monteith’s portrayal of Finn Hudson was highly admired, and the producers felt that he should be included along with the four other individuals we have singled out.”
A scan of Twitter during the show indicated that some viewers felt overwhelmed by the tributes scattered throughout the show. Emmys host Neil Patrick Harris told Access Hollywood that he thought this change in how the Emmys recognizes stars who have died actually made it less of a competition.
“I always find the In Memoriam is just really interesting because sometimes it seems weird that they keep the audio on in the house, so some people get applause and some people don’t, and it turns it into this weird moment, and you want that moment to be honoring those people, and not a competition. We’ve come up with this idea five different people that we chose sort of from different areas of television are being spoken about by people who were important to them. [They’ll speak about them] not in a pitying way, but I think in a respectful, classy way that will make you remember their life in a positive, forward-momentum kind of style.”
I think this is a tough call. Career longevity is definitely worthy of honor, and I grew up watching Jack Klugman and Larry Hagman on television. My grandmother was addicted to Quincy, so I watched it, too. And I don’t know anyone who lived in the 1980s who doesn’t get it when you randomly say “Who shot J.R.?” (You remember who did it, right?) At the same time, I love Glee, and I was a Cory Monteith fan. His death was and remains a tremendous loss for not only his loved ones, but also, in a different way, for his many, many fans. If, as NPH says, the goal is to represent a cross-section of the industry in this segment, it makes sense to choose a variety of people. Emmys are given to newcomers as well as veterans all of the time, and I’m not sure it makes sense to reject someone based on age or experience.
I am also really uncomfortable with the idea that the way someone dies should have an effect on the way in which they are remembered, or if they are honored at all. Plenty of actors and musicians have died from alcohol- and drug-related causes, and their loss remains significant, as does any person’s passing.
Bottom line: I don’t envy the task of choosing five stars to honor in a special way out of so many who die in a year. Because this is the entertainment industry, after all, I can understand choosing stars to feature based on how different segments of the audience relate to them, their careers, and their legacies. And how do you even begin to put a value on a life in that way? I’m glad it’s not my job. Regardless of who is chosen to highlight, I hope that each person lost in the television community has his or her appropriate moment this evening.That said, I also wasn’t a fan of the impact spreading the memorials out over the broadcast had on the mood of what should ultimately be a celebration and recognition of the television industry. I was a fan of many of the people who passed away last year, and always enjoy the opportunity to remember them, but I think it is best left to the usual montage, which is respectful, understated, and in perfect contrast to the rest of the program.
What do you think? Was the inclusion of Cory Monteith over actors like Klugman and Hagman an Emmys misstep?
Image credit: Pacific Coast News