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A Night of Firsts... and Many Happy Returns : FOX EMMYCAST: CRISP SHOW AND A FEW SURPRISES

September 21, 1987|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

Most of the choices made sense. But the biggest news emerging from Sunday's Emmy telecast on Fox Broadcasting Co. was that some of the judges snapped under the pressure.

What other explanation is possible for Gena Rowlands getting an Emmy for her work in ABC's "The Betty Ford Story?"

That has to be why she prevailed over Lee Remick in the best-actress-in-a-miniseries-or-special category, right? Rowlands over Remick, who soared as the mad Frances Bradshaw Schreuder in NBC's "Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder?" And Rowlands over Ellen Burstyn in "Pack of Lies" on CBS and Ann-Margret in "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" on ABC.

Rowlands is an excellent actress who did a very nice job as Betty Ford. But very nice is not supposed to surpass outstanding .

Meanwhile, the other big news from the telecast was Phylicia Rashad's audition for Jell-O commercials.

That was what Rashad, of "The Cosby Show," was doing as a presenter and as one of Fox's backstage reporters, wasn't it? Talk about mugging. The woman has obviously spent too much time around Bill Cosby.

Those backstage segments with Rashad and Alan Thicke were unintentionally hilarious. "I'm here in the green room," Rashad whispered melodramatically at one point. Ooooooh, what excitement.

"I think these behind-the-scenes' things are really starting to work," said presenter David Letterman with barely a straight face. "The one I think I'll take home with me is the one on fashion."

The one I'll take home is Thicke in the press room with syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck. "People are very tired back here," she reported to Thicke, who deserves an Emmy for not yawning. "They're very tired, and it's not a very animated press room." All right , take it away Marilyn.

There were times that the telecast seemed so business-like that it could have been produced by balding accountants with heartburn, in spite of its record four-hour length.

Otherwise, Fox's first-ever Emmy broadcast was a nice, clean, efficient show. You had to applaud Executive Producer Don Ohlmeyer's decision to abandon the usual production numbers and placing more emphasis on the creative people being honored on this evening.

Those extended bio's of the nominees were another good idea. The tribute to the late Jackie Gleason was sweet and well-deserved, a man who had an enormous impact on contemporary TV comedy getting his due. And what a fine tribute to the recently departed "Hill Street Blues," which certainly will be remembered as one of TV's most inspired series of any era.

Credit Ohlmeyer with another good decision in emphasizing comedy. Jay Leno was funny. Letterman was funny. And so was Emmy- winning Dabney Coleman. The man who deserves the most credit though, is Philip Lathrop, an Emmy winner for cinematography in a miniseries, who made the best mini-acceptance. "This is the shortest speech," he said, simply. Sign him up for next year.

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