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Emmy Producer Defends Widely Dissed 'In Memoriam' Tributes

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The decision to spend more time honoring Cory Monteith than Larry Hagman or Jack Klugman drew numerous complaints. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Did you enjoy the Emmys' new approach to memorializing stars we lost this year?

If so, you're in the minority. Most people felt it not only was disrespectful to stars who got lumped into the usual 'In Memoriam' montage, but with so many memorial segments (including a lengthy recap of the JFK assassination), it turned the ceremony into "the saddest Emmys ever," to quote Modern Family's creator. As the L.A. Times put it, "death quickly became an unintentional leitmotif."

Even before the show aired, criticisms flew fast and furious over their decision to single out a few a few stars for individual tributes while giving everyone else the run-of-the-mill montage treatment.

Most controversial was the decision to focus on Glee's Cory Monteith, who died of a heroin and alcohol overdose, rather than more established stars like Jack Klugman and Larry Hagman, who also died in the past year. Relatives of the two older stars called the oversight "criminal" and "an insult."

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Or, as TMZ phrased it, "Emmy B.S.: Honor a Drug Addict, Diss a TV Legend."

Emmy producer Ken Ehrlich defended the new approach to TV Guide, saying, "I know there was vocal reaction from Jack Klugman's kid. Honestly, I would have loved to do more. But there's only so much time you have. And I thought we devoted the proper amount of time to those five pieces and then to the 'In Memoriam' segment."

He explained the decision not to show clips for any of the late stars was "a very conscious decision." (The Times critiqued the "In Memoriam" tributes for being "all talk and few visuals.") Ehrlich said, "I felt it was more important to focus in on the faces of the people that were talking about them, because of their personal relationships, and allow them to speak. We've all seen clips of All in the Family or Tony Soprano. What we haven't seen is Edie Falco or Robin Williams or Michael J. Fox talking about people they really loved."

Host Neil Patrick Harris also had a hand in the new approach, telling Access Hollywood it was a "more positive" way to honor stars rather than the usual "competitive clapping" moments that crop up during the montage. (Which occurred anyway this year.) Harris described the new idea as being a "respectful, classy way [to memorialize people] that will make you remember their life in a positive, forward-momentum kind of style."

Forward-momentum. Okay then.

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The stars who received individual tributes were James Gandolfini, Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton, Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg, and Monteith. Stars included in the montage were Hagman, Klugman, Dennis Farina, Annette Funicello, Conrad Bain, Lee Thompson Young, Eileen Brennan, Bonnie Franklin, Jeanne Cooper, Allan Arbus, Charles Durning, Alex Karras, Julie Harris, Andy Williams and Roger Ebert.

Hagman's son Preston told Entertainment Tonight , "How I felt last night watching [the Emmys] was not anger, it was disappointment. I think my dad was a trailblazer in the industry to set the stage for other actors. So it's not anger, it's definitely disappointment for what he contributed to the profession." He suggested that all the stars be treated equally.

Jack Klugman's son, Adam, told The Associated Press, "It's an insult and it really seems typical of this youth-centric culture that has an extremely short attention span and panders to only a very narrow demographic of young adults."

Ehrlich had earlier explained that including Monteith was indeed a nod to "the younger generation," to whom the actor was "highly admired."

"What about the people who should be introduced to somebody like my father?" Adam Klugman asked. "I don't mean to say anything disparaging about Cory, but he was a kid who had won no Emmys and it was a self-induced tragedy."

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Lynch, who paid tribute to Monteith, told TMZ she'd be upset too if she were Klugman's kin.

Meanwhile, Monteith fans seemed mostly pleased with the tribute.

Among those tweeting their dislike of the way the Emmys handled this year's 'In Memoriam' were Albert Brooks, TV director Guy Norman Bee and movie blogger Peter Avelino.

Related:
Liveblogging The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards
Cory Monteith Will Be Honored At The Emmys, And Some People Are Upset About It
Cory Monteith Died Of Heroin, Alcohol Overdose
Jack Klugman, "Odd Couple" Actor, Dies At 90
Larry Hagman, TV Actor And "Dallas" Villain, Dies At 81