Emmy Awards catch wave of baby-boomers. ABC narrowly garners most honors, and cable enters the competition
UNDER the supervision of a producer who reportedly warned ahead of time that ``this show won't take itself too seriously,'' the televised Emmy Award ceremonies nevertheless showed proper respect toward a lot of deserving talent, and, in passing, showcased some surprisingly warm moments, despite obviously hot competition. The Emmy show Sunday was produced by Lorne Michaels of ``Saturday Night Live'' and was televised by Fox Broadcasting Company for the second year in a row. The pace was agreeably swift, despite the customary formal staging, and cameras, as usual, picked out significant individuals in the glamorous audience. Most delightful were the inserted morsels of programming now part of television history: bits of Lucille Ball, Don Adams, Phil Silvers, to mention only a few.
The awarding of top honors to ABC's oddly but memorably titled ``thirtysomething'' (best dramatic series) and ``The Wonder Years'' (best comedy series) appeared to reflect the numerical impact of the baby-boomers, or perhaps the widely shared interest in their problems. NBC must be genuinely puzzled by the failure of its ``L.A. Law'' to win more than two Emmys after receiving the most nominations, 19.
In all, ABC won 21 awards, CBS 20, and NBC 19. PBS won 7, syndicated shows 3, and Home Box Office 3. This was the first year that cable television was included in the awards.
The sponsoring Television Academy of Arts and Sciences presented a Governor's Award to Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, animators who have worked together for, as one said, 50 years without an argument. The other put a comical twist on the comment by insisting that they hadn't been on speaking terms most of the time. Such glints of humor born of decades of intimate hard work and shared achievement were typical of the best parts of the televised awards show.
Another glowing minute occurred when Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore came to the lectern and basked in applause that grew in warmth and intensity as the audience recalled how many half-hours had been brightened by their early situation comedy.
Though many younger viewers may be put off by the adulation accorded to industry old-timers, the planners of the televised awards show seem to sense that there is some justice, as well as considerable audience appeal, in bringing them back for curtain calls. Maybe the film clips from bygone series, most in black and white, could use some identification, but they need no defense. They are part of TV history, and the performers were Emmy contenders in their day and ratings winners week by week.
A compassionate word now for actor Tony Danza, the ``designated acceptor'' of Emmys for all those winners who could not be present. This was an idea that must have seemed funny around the planning table, but it seemed to dawn on Mr. Danza early in the show that the idea wasn't working and that he - not the planners - would be the one paying the price of the irreversible decision. His ad lib acceptance speeches got more difficult and embarrassing for everyone, and he could not have been paid enough money to compensate for this thankless role.