There was an outcry when the Emmy producers announced that they were paying special tribute during Sunday’s telecast to five people the industry had lost over the past year.
The rumblings were so loud about what some saw as favoritism that even Emmys host Neil Patrick Harris stepped into the fray to explain the reasoning.
“I always find the In Memoriam is just really interesting because sometimes it seems weird that they keep the audio on in the house, so some people get applause and some people don’t, and it turns it into this weird moment,” he told Access Hollywood. “And you want that moment to be honoring those people, and not a competition.”
Came airtime, the tributes were a heartfelt salute to comedian Jonathan Winters, All in the Family‘s Jean Stapleton, Glee‘s Cory Monteith, Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg and Sopranos star James Gandolfini, and few could argue with that sentiment.
Here are portions of what was said by people who knew them well.
• Jonathan Winters
“Jonathan Winters was my mentor. I once told him that and he said, ‘Please. I prefer “Idol,” ‘ ” said his Mork and Mindy costar Robin Williams. “The beauty of Jonathan was that he was a big, brilliant kid that never grew up and the world was his playground. In April, Johnny turned out the lights, but he sure burned bright while he was here. Thanks for the spark, big guy.”
• Jean Stapleton
“All of us who knew Jean felt the way Archie did when he said goodbye to Edith: ‘You had no right to leave me that way without giving me one more chance to say “I love you,” ‘ ” said a tearful Rob Reiner, who played her son-in-law on All in the Family before he went on to become a director.
• Gary David Goldberg
“Gary had a great laugh,” remembered Michael J. Fox who got his big break playing Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, which Goldberg created. They went on to collaborate again on Spin City. “Whenever I catch a rerun of one of our shows, I can hear him – not in my head but right there on the soundtrack.
• James Gandolfini
“He had tremendous warmth and heart. He was kind; he was uniquely generous. One got the feeling Jim was never entirely comfortable with all the attention he got. Usually because he said it every chance he got,” said Tony Soprano’s TV wife, Edie Falco. “You all knew James Gandolfini the actor; I was lucky enough to know Jim the man. It’s Jim the man, the very dear man, that I will miss most of all.”
• Cory Monteith
“I’m here to say that all that warmth and that charm, that open-hearted quality that we loved in Cory was no act. Cory was a beautiful soul. He was not perfect,” said his Glee costar Jane Lynch, touching on the addiction demons that led to Monteith’s premature death at the age of 31. “To a generation that loved Cory so, please know that this gifted and wonderful young man was worthy of your love. And if you were lucky enough to know Cory as we did and witnessed first-hand Cory’s goofy, breezy sense of humor, his natural instinct for inclusiveness and his unbridled sense of generosity, day in and day out, I promise, you would have loved him even more.”