Emmys Telecast Tips Hat to Hurricane Victims

Sep 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Primetime Emmy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres acknowledged the thousands of victims of the disaster surrounding Hurricane Katrina at the top of the telecast, but mentions of the disaster in the Gulf Coast appeared in just a handful of acceptance speeches at the “57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Dressed in black and wearing a magnolia in what she referred to as a show of support for Katrina victims, Ms. DeGeneres said it’s important to be able to laugh during troubled times. The host speaks from experience. Ms. DeGeneres, who hails from Katrina-ravaged Louisiana herself, drew rave reviews for hosting the Emmys in 2001 that were postponed twice after the 9/11 attacks.

Sunday night’s telecast was considerably more jovial and less subdued than the 2001 Emmys show. A handful of attendees Sunday also wore magnolias, but the attire overall was in line with the glamour of most years.

Those who did choose to mention Katrina victims did so passionately. Patricia Arquette, who won for best lead actress in a drama series for her role in NBC’s “Medium,” said backstage that she “can’t sleep at night” lately because she is so distressed by the suffering of the hurricane victims.

Blythe Danner-the fifth award winner of the night-was first to talk about current events in an acceptance speech. She said her late husband, Bruce Paltrow, would have wanted her to.

“I know Bruce [Paltrow] would want me to pay tribute to New Orleans, his favorite city, and all the Gulf Coast and our kids in Iraq. Let’s get the heck out of there,” said Ms. Danner in accepting her first Emmy, the supporting actress in a drama series trophy for her work on Showtime’s “Huff.” Ms. Danner was nominated for two other awards but did not win either.

Ms. Arquette echoed Ms. Danner during her acceptance speech and was particularly outspoken backstage. She said she has been involved in relief efforts backed by her show and by CBS’s “CSI” and ABC’s “Boston Legal.”

“I was one of a lot of people who did a little and I want to do more,” she said backstage of relief efforts. “This is like wartime. There’s a half a million people homeless overnight. All the poor, all the working poor who live paycheck to paycheck. …”I know [Mississippi Sen.] Trent Lott’s gonna get a new house, but a lot of people are not. That’s not right. This is America. This is the richest country in the world.”

Stephen Hopkins, who won the Emmy for directing for a miniseries or movie for his work on HBO’s “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” and Jane Alexander, who won an Emmy for supporting actress in a miniseries or movie for her role as Sara Roosevelt in HBO’s telefilm “Warm Springs,” were among the other winners who mentioned Katrina.

Jon Stewart, known for skewering government officials, offered his take on government response to the crisis in gulf coast, but not during acceptance speeches for either of the two Emmys his Comedy Central series “The Daily Show” nabbed.

Before he returned to the stage to present the award for outstanding directing for a comedy series (the nod went to “Desperate Housewives'” Charles McDougall), Mr. Stewart offered a taped skit in which he appeared to be severely edited while ranting against local, state and federal officials for their bungled response to Katrina.

Dick Askin, chairman of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which administers the Emmys, said backstage that it’s tough to strike the right tone for an awards show during difficult times, but that the Emmys team seemed to have pulled it off.

“I think we hit the right balance,” he said, noting that the television business already has mobilized with telethons and other relief efforts. “TV already stepped up. All in all I think we’re catching the right balance right now.”

Christopher Lisotta contributed to this report.