With trophy shows so dull these days — owing in large measure to the current trend toward laundry-list acceptance speeches delivered by Hollywood luminaries more frightened of forgetting to thank their agent, manager, publicist and spouse than of boring to death tens of millions of viewers — the broadcasting networks struggle to find ways to make sure the gowns are not the most interesting part of the broadcast. This morning, CBS and the TV Academy announced that, in addition to what has become the traditional In Memoriam segment, this weekend’s Primetime Emmy Awards broadcast will also include special tributes to recently deceased industry figures. For better or worse, death does well at trophy shows because viewers will pick watching beautifully decked-out celebrities having an actual genuine moment over beautifully decked-out celebrities thanking agents and lawyers any day. LL Cool J’s heartfelt prayer for the Whitney Houston — who had died the day before — followed by Jennifer Hudson’s moving performance of Houston signature song “I Will Always Love You” sent the 2012 Grammycast skyrocketing in the ratings, also on CBS.
Sadly, death has been a big story in the TV industry since the last Emmy ceremony, including the unexpected deaths of James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith. In Sunday’s special tributes, Edie Falco will remember her Sopranos co-star and Jane Lynch will remember her Glee colleague. Michael J. Fox, starring in a new NBC comedy, will pay tribute to Family Ties producer Gary David Goldberg. Robin Williams, starring in a new CBS comedy, will remember friend/mentor Jonathan Winters, and Rob Reiner will fete his longtime All In The Family castmate Jean Stapleton.