The decision to delay the 53rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards for three weeks — from Sept. 16 to Oct. 7 — marks a first in Emmy history: Never before has a news event delayed TV's biggest night. But clearly, never before has there been a news event quite like last Tuesday's deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.
"In the past, TV academy leaders always decided, in the great Hollywood tradition, to go on with the show no matter what happened — even in 1980 when no stars showed up because of an actors' strike," notes award show expert Tom O'Neil, author of The Emmys and host of showbiz-awards website GoldDerby.com. "But this year Emmy leaders were afraid that it might look heartless of Hollywood to carry on with a posh party for itself and bestow gold trophies for best comedy actor and actress at a time of national mourning."
There was no disagreement between the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and CBS about postponing the telecast, O'Neil says. However, the length of the delay was a subject of some debate. "CBS leaders pressed hard for the Emmycast to take place on Sept. 23 — just one week after it was originally scheduled," he explains. "But TV academy leaders insisted that more time was needed for America to cope with the shock of recent events."
Tragic news stories have delayed the film world's big kudofest — the Academy Awards — on two occasions: In 1968, the Oscars were pushed back two days following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and in 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot just a day before the telecast — leading officials to postpone the show a day.According to O'Neil, next month's Emmy awards — hosted by Ellen DeGeneres — will "reflect the seriousness and gravity of the national mood." As a result, DeGeneres's original opening monologue reportedly has been dropped, as has a Saturday Night Live clip package. A tribute to David Angell — the late co-creator of Frasier who was a victim in Tuesday's attacks — is also being considered.