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Emmys Focus on Reality

Sep 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

From the Shrine Auditorium’s exposed control room to host Garry Shandling’s monologue to behind-the-scenes sketches, reality salutes were abundant at the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday night.

“I cannot tell one reality show from the other,” Mr. Shandling said at the top of the show. “It’s to the point now, when a commercial comes on, I thank God for professional actors and a story.”

The focus on reality programming was striking, considering only two Emmy categories honor the genre and both were established last year.

Before the show, ceremony producer Michael Seligman acknowledged the theme was an attempt to keep pace with the burgeoning popularity of the genre.

“Five of the top 10 shows are in the reality category,” Mr. Seligman said.

In a year when many veteran sitcoms are taking their bow, however, not every performer seemed thrilled with the shift.

“They say television is changing,” said David Hyde Pierce, who won outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for his role as Niles Crane in “Frasier.” “When it changes back, call me.”

“Frasier” had its series finale last season. Mr. Pierce’s comment was the first of several poignant goodbyes of the evening.

“I don’t think I’ll ever have another job like this one; I miss it,” said “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, who took a

statuette for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.

“This is a great way to end a series,” said Kelsey Grammer, who enjoyed his fourth win for his role in “Frasier.”

In one salute to reality, two “regular people” — Amy Scholson and Bruce Milam Jr. — were blindfolded and guided onto the stage to present the Emmy for outstanding reality-competition program.

“You are live on stage in front of 200 million people, and I’ve just

made you very famous,” Mr. Shandling said.

The duo’s jaw-dropped shock at their surrounding provided a moment that successfully illustrated the appeal of reality shows.

Other than reality-versus-scripted tension, surprisingly quick orchestra cues during acceptance speeches also provoked some drama.

“I’d like to sing this now, if I may” quipped Mitchell Hurwitz,

writer for “Arrested Development,” as the orchestra sneaked up on his acceptance speech.

Outstanding variety or music program winner Elaine Stritch was a bit more firm, however, and made good on her threat to continue thanking people until somebody pulled her off stage. The moment instantly became fodder for comedians.

“Elaine Stritch has some people for me to thank,” said Jon Stewart, beating Mr. Shandling to the punch, as he accepted his award for outstanding writing for a variety, music or comedy program.

Backstage, Mr. Stewart denied rumors that he might replace Craig Kilborn, who has stepped down as host of CBS’s “Late Late Show.”

“I can categorically tell you how false that is,” Mr. Stewart said. “Three cheers for basic cable!”

Other notable backstage moments:

–“Amazing Race” executive producer Bertram van Munster took the bait when asked if he was tempted to tell Donald Trump he’s fired. “I think it’s quite obvious,” Mr. Munster said.

–Ms. Stritch took on the reality debate. “I don’t watch it. I’m having a hard time with reality in life,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t get too big for its britches.”

–“The Sopranos” writer Terence Winter tried to put to rest a lingering question among “Sopranos” viewers on whether Drea de Matteo survived her off-camera execution. “I’ve heard that before too,” Mr. Winter said. “She’s dead.”

–“It’s wise to leave people wanting more,” said Sarah Jessica Parker on the demise of plans for a “Sex and the City” movie.

–“Hopefully, anybody’s who on the fence about trying us out will hopefully have more impetus next year,” said “Arrested Development” actor Jason Bateman on what winning the Emmy could do for the show.

— “It can get worse,” said “Sopranos” creator David Chase on why the show will end next season.

At the show’s conclusion, despite the parade of stars, Mr. Shandling held hands with the previously unknown Ms. Scholson and Mr. Milam Jr. for his goodbye shot, giving reality the evening’s last word.