In Defense of the Emmys’ Cory Monteith “In Memoriam” Montage

Nothing can be said to be certain when it comes to award shows except for one thing: the “In Memoriam” montage. It’s a somber note compared to the industry back-patting we enjoy hate-watching so much, and it’s usually paired with a performance of some sad song. And while the montages are never outwardly political, there is the common fact that some dead famous people get more applause than others. The quest for popularity doesn’t end in the afterlife. At last night’s mess of an Emmy Awards ceremony, we were treated to five bonus montages in addition to the usual one, each dedicated to a television luminary and each representing various levels of fame and experience. Unsurprisingly, it has caused some controversy that one was dedicated to the very young Cory Monteith.

Monteith, who died in August after struggles with substance abuse, was just 31. In his brief career, he was known primarily for a single role: Finn Hudson on the widely popular musical sitcom Glee. It’s no great surprise that the ceremony’s producers would dedicate a segment to him as long as they were spotlighting other beloved actors and producers (which also included James Gandolfini, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Winters, and Gary David Goldberg), considering his popularity with the youth market. This is, after all, a show that is vying for ratings (against the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, no less), and it’s not like they’d go with a more serious, respectable awards ceremony when Neil Patrick Harris was available to goof off on stage for a few hours.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way, and at least one person was very vocal about the lack of a special dedication to his famous father. Alan Klugman, son of Odd Couple co-star Jack Klugman, blasted the Emmy producers before the show even began. “I think it’s criminal,” Klugman told the AP. “My dad was at the inception of television and helped build it in the early days. To a younger generation, Cory Monteith’s portrayal of Finn Hudson (on Glee) was highly admired, and the producers felt that he should be included along with the four other individuals we have singled out.”

Don’t get me wrong: I love Jack Klugman. This is not to suggest I’m some sort of outlier, but I’m not sure there are many other people my age (30) or younger who might write the same sentence. Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the awards ceremony, replied with a very succinct and (thankfully) respectful response: “Cory’s appeal was to maybe a little different generation than some of the others, and we felt they needed to be represented.” That’s an absolutely fair thing to say!

It’s understandable, of course, that Adam Klugman is publicly grieving for his father, who was a three-time Emmy winner and TV legend, but it’s also incredibly tacky for him to single out Monteith as being undeserving of a special tribute for his lack of achievements and the circumstances of his death. “What about the people who should be introduced to somebody like my father?” Klugman remarked. “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.” (Typical example of “I don’t mean to do [this offensive thing],” and then going ahead and doing said offensive thing.)

It doesn’t matter that Monteith had no Emmys or that his death was the result of his own problems with addiction: he meant as much to people as Klugman did, and one can safely argue that his recent death probably affected a much larger audience than Klugman’s. It’s one thing to take the Emmys producers to task for turning the “In Memoriam” segments into popularity contests on which they can capitalize, but it’s hardly appropriate to use an already sad occasion to disrespect another person’s legacy. Klugman’s remarks only come off as ungrateful and rude, and it’s a shame his public display of grief turned so nasty.