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PBS Has Big Night

Sep 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Public Broadcasting Service programming and CBS News led the parade of winners Sept. 3 at the 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards in New York City, hosted by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Three Emmys for “Frontline” helped boost the PBS haul to seven Emmys by the evening’s early end.

CBS News picked up five Emmys, including two for third-ranked “CBS Evening News.” The network also received Lifetime Achievement Emmys for “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt and past and present correspondents and producers of the 35-year-old show. A quiet highlight was that on the same night “60 Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon picked up his 17th and 18th Emmys, his daughter, Tanya Simon, an associate producer for Ed Bradley, picked up her second Emmy.

A crowd-pleasing moment in the evening was a clip reel that included black-and-white footage of a much younger Mr. Hewitt in action-banging desktops and tabletops and shouting into two phones at a time.

“Evening News” executive producer Jim Murphy was cradling an Emmy like a baby as he left New York City’s Marriott Marquis Hotel in a happy daze not long after he had taken the stage and declared himself “kind of stunned.”

Neither of his counterparts, ABC’s “World News Tonight” nor “NBC Nightly News,” nabbed Emmys.

ABC picked up three Emmys, two for “Good Morning America” and one for “Nightline.” NBC also claimed three Emmys, one for “Today” and two for “Dateline.” CNBC’s “The News With Brian Williams” earned one Emmy. MSNBC got credit for the three Emmys earned by “National Geographic Explorer.” Discovery also nabbed three Emmys.

One-Emmy winners were HBO, Sundance Channel, The Learning Channel and CNN for an installment of “CNN Presents” that was executive produced by Vivian Schiller, now the general manager of Discovery Times Channel, which will televise portions of the News and Documentary Emmy ceremony in 2004.

In a sort of dry run for that instant-turn-around telecast, NATAS President Peter Price set out to bring the program, which traditionally has made for a very long evening, down to about three hours. By shortening the cocktail reception, scheduling dinner for 6 p.m. and the program for a 7 p.m. start, limiting comments by presenters and recipients and similar nips and tucks, Mr. Price actually ended the evening at 9:15, about 45 minutes earlier than he had hoped.

Such efficiency meant that Paula Zahn’s CNN show was just ending when the Emmy program got to the point where she was to have stepped out on stage to serve as the evening’s final presenter. Ms. Zahn was still at her CNN studio when NATAS Vice Chairman for News and Documentaries Bill Small came onstage to hand out the final Emmys of the night.

Mr. Price said he felt good about a number of things, including the addition of video clips from nominated programming, and that he had received at least a couple dozen e-mail messages from attendees complimenting him on an evening that used to produce “this overwhelming hue and cry about, `Oh, I’m not going to that anymore. It’s boring. It’s too long and it’s embarrassing when half the room has left when you’re getting your award.’ Hey, I’ll take that `I missed my meal’ problem. You can quote me on that.”

The Emmy ceremony capped what had been “60 Minutes” Day, which started with a morning symposium at which the principals talked about the newsmagazine’s 35-year reign.

Audience members were slightly unnerved that the usually indefatigable Mike Wallace, 85, explained his “hearing, memory and sight have suffered” since he slipped on a wet jetty on Martha’s Vineyard and hit his head in mid-August. He said doctors have told him he’s fine. Colleagues said he has been coming into the office and working and is scheduled to conduct interviews this week, but he skipped the black tie gala Wednesday night and the lunch honoring the newsmagazine and recently retired Associated Press CEO Lou Boccardi. Also missing at the convivial lunch was correspondent Ed Bradley, 61, who spent his summer vacation recovering from a coronary bypass performed at the end of April. He did appear at the dinner and awards ceremony.