This Year's Emmy Model: Occasionally Goofy

It was a very different backstage at the 2002 Emmy Awards. The press contingent returned to its tent behind the Shrine Auditorium here, which was roomy compared to the Chinese restaurant into which it was shoehorned last year.

Space was so tight in 2001 that the lights for the pool camera set the ceiling draperies on fire, and writers practically had to eat in rhythm.

Security was still pretty tight. This reporter set off the metal detectors and had to be "wanded" by a guard on Jefferson Boulevard as limousines crept toward the entrance. The reason: Too much zipper on the gown. Geesh!

After last year's twice-cancelled awards, the joy appeared to return to the ceremony, and even some goofiness was detected. For instance, talent calmly humored a reporter for Australian television (black-tie garb: tux jacket, cargo shorts and hiking boots) urging them to say "G-Day to the folks in Sydney." It was amusing the first dozen times.

Cable had some of the most ebullient winners. Michael Chiklis of FX's The Shield
said he was amazed by his win.

(Some of the press, was, too. Sample conversation: "Is The Commish
still on somewhere?" Me: "No, he's in a new series on FX." Other reporter: "F … X?" Me: "It's a basic-cable network." Other: "I'll take your word for it.")

FX 'extraordinary'

Chiklis said he though he had three factors going against him: The Shield
is on basic-cable; they shoot 13 episodes, versus 22 for a broadcast network; and the show's in its first season. But he gave credit to the FX promotional machine for heightening awareness of his work. There were so many trade ads, he said, he began to get embarrassed.

"When we started, they said, 'We're a basic cable network, we don't have (big) budgets. Just go make the best show you can make.' They've been extraordinary," he said of his network home.

The interview effectively ended when The Shield
posse of fellow actors, writers and spouses tracked Chiklis down in the deadline press room. The actor hooted at them and waded into the throng to the left of the dais for a round of hugs, kisses and smacks upon his bald head.

Six Feet Under
creator Alan Ball — a winner for directing the pilot of the show he created — was a bit more subdued, generously crediting Home Box Office senior vice president of original programming Carolyn Strauss for the inspiration for the funeral home-centered series. He said the two were having lunch when Strauss mentioned she had just finished reading the final book by funeral industry muckraker Jessica Mitford, An American Way of Death.
"Something just went 'ping,' " Ball said. He added that he's at a loss to explain why the show has been accepted so quickly.

"There's something for everyone … the spiritual, the existential," he guessed. "And no matter what we do, something worse has happened on Oz
(HBO's gritty prison drama)."

Director Michael Patrick King confessed that the job of the writers on Sex and the City
may be eased now due to the popularity of the salacious series. People at parties tell the staff anything, he said.

"We are the ringleaders. We're willing to listen to every story at a dinner party," he added, laughing.

Laura Linney, who won a best-actress statuette for her work in the Showtime movie Wild Iris
graciously turned aside a reporter's suggestion that work on television — and especially cable — carries less prestige than theatrical movies.

"I'm one of those lucky people to work in three mediums: Movies, television and stage. It doesn't matter where you're from," she said. She added she took the Showtime job cause the project screamed "good script."

But she hasn't seen the film yet. She's one of those people who have to wait about five years to view their work without obsessing on how she could have played the part differently.

MTV: Music Television veteran Joel Gallen, executive producer of the Sept. 11 benefit America: A Tribute to Heroes,
said it was as hard to muster up that concert with about one week's prep time as it is to plan aVideo Music Awards
show with months to plan. He added he was grateful that the broadcast networks stood back and "just let me go with my instincts. They trusted my vision."

His favorite moment in a very emotional tribute telecast: "Neil Young singing Imagine,
" he said wistfully.

Churchill ruled

Director Ridley Scott said his film — HBO's Winston Churchill biopic, The Gathering Storm —
was just as important to him as Band of Brothers
was to Americans.

"My dad was in the War Office, and I remember sitting under the stairs in Ealing," he said. "Being British, Winston Churchill is very important. It's part of my generation … (World War II) was the most significant war of the century."

Other Gathering Storm
winners demonstrated the fact that writers get no respect in Hollywood. Scribes Larry Ramin and Hugh Whitemore took the podium in the press room and stood awkwardly for about a minute, waiting for questions on their triumph that never came. Finally, the moderator took mercy and excused them.

Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing,
continued to be gracious in victory back stage, heaping praise on competitors Six Feet Under.

"I'm sure it was incredibly close," he said of the vote between his show and the HBO series. But cable shows have "creative opportunities we don't have," he added. "We have commercials (to work around), we make 22 episodes … but cable TV is great, it's knocked down a lot of doors."

The final cable award take was 24 for HBO (a tie with NBC); six for A&E Network (topping ABC, which captured five); Discovery Channel, four; Turner Network Television, three (including a best supporting actor, movie, Emmy for Michael Moriarty in James Dean);
Showtime, two; FX, one (Chiklis's Emmy); MTV, one (The Osbournes
was named best reality show during the non-televised creative arts ceremony) and Nickelodeon, one.