Emmy faces 'real life'

TV's latest Emmy awards ceremony was in its way a little like the night on a Boston stage when star Nicol Williamson left the rest of the cast in the lurch and walked out on his own performance of "Hamlet." Even when he reluctantly returned, the turmoils of Shakespeare paled beside the real-life turmoil which the audience had suddenly glimpsed. On Sunday the wilder make-believe of television, in which even the news blends with entertainment, was given a real-life edge with the boycott of the Emmy program by almost all of the stars who might have been expected to be there.

The actors' absence was in support of their strike to share in the anticipated bonanza from new forms of video presentation. This absence -- and the up-and-down efforts of the show to cope with it -- gave the evening something the usual packaged Emmy extravaganza doesn't have. The performers who did turn up, some of them expressing solidarity with the strikers, facing a sympathetic but presumably a similarly uncomfortable theater crowd, they were very funny at it. And the reminders of how good TV can be amid all the dross did come through in the awards to talents on progams like "The Miracle Worker" and "Baryshnikov on Broadway."

Then there was the one winning actor who accepted his Emmy in person -- Powers Boothe, fr his portrayal of cult leader Jim Jones. Was this a relative unknown's ploy for attention? The applause seemed rather for one who, though supporting the stand of the absent actors, said he believed in the TV academy and "this is America and one has to do what he believes in."

Not to get too solemn about it, that was America the other night -- the freedom to strike, the freedom to boycott, the freedom to accept the limelight, the freedom for anyone to go on with his particular show. Hey, folks, someone ought to do a TV program like that!

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