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Politics crept then crashed into Sunday’s Emmy telecast, with trophies going to such socially conscious fare as “John Adams” and “Recount” and plenty of zingers and pleas to vote Nov. 4.
Tom Hanks, in accepting the best miniseries award for “John Adams,” drew a parallel between the Federalist period and today.
“The election between Adams and Jefferson was filled with innuendo, lies, a bitter partisan press and disinformation,” the producer said. “How great we’ve come so far since then.”
Hanks was far from the only celebrity who spoke out.
Accepting a “celebratory Emmy” to remedy being left out when “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” won a 1968 Emmy for writing, Tommy Smothers wasted no time getting off a barb at the current occupant of the wartime White House, just as he did for Democrat Lyndon Johnson at the height of the Vietnam War.
“It’s hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is attainable through war,” Smothers said. “And there’s nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action.”
Smothers added, “I dedicate this Emmy to all the people who feel compelled to speak out and are not afraid to speak to power and refuse to be silent.”
Laura Linney, who won for best actress in a miniseries for “John Adams,” said the victory helped her reflect on “the community organizers who helped form our country.” Community organizers in general — and Barack Obama in particular — were a favored target at the Republican National Convention.
Jon Stewart was nonpartisan in his acceptance speech after “The Daily Show” won a record sixth consecutive Emmy for comedy/ variety.
“I look forward to the next administration, whoever it is,” he said. “I have nothing to follow up with. I am just saying I look forward to the next administration.”
Also nonpartisan was a well-known Hollywood liberal, Martin Sheen, who appeared behind a replica of the “West Wing” desk to exhort viewers to vote Nov. 4 “for the candidate of your choice.” That was seconded by “Recount” executive producer Paula Weinstein, who dedicated the show’s made-for-TV movie award to the election workers “on the ground fighting to have every vote count, and they will be there again Nov. 4. Vote.”
Jay Roach, who directed “Recount,” seemed to think that the November election might have the makings of another miniseries. “It’s going to get close again this election,” he said. “Keep your local officials honest and please, vote, vote, vote, vote.”
Not that the program itself didn’t have some built-in spaces for politics. The 60th anniversary tributes honored, among other series, “Laugh-In,” “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The West Wing” and “M*A*S*H.”
One of the canned lines between Kathy Griffin and Don Rickles drew comparisons to another recently united duo. “The world hasn’t seen a pairing like this since John McCain and Sarah Palin,” Griffin said.
And it took only about five minutes for an Emmy nominee to mention politics.
That honor went to a Canadian, “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel, who referenced the GOP vice presidential candidate in what might be one of the most uncomfortable bits in Emmy history.
“We are like on Sarah Palin’s bridge to nowhere. That’s where we are right now,” Mandel said as it became clear that the five reality series hosts were bombing. “This is not a joke. I’m serious. The government can’t even bail us out of this.”
Oprah Winfrey, who caused a stir among some viewers for her TV endorsement of Obama, stayed away from politics in her opening remarks. But she made a veiled reference to what’s going on.
“These have not been easy times in television, or in the world generally for that matter,” Winfrey said.
On the other hand, the one winner who played a president — “John Adams” star Paul Giamatti — joked about it when he accepted the award for best actor.
“I’m living proof, kids at home, that anyone can play the president,” he said.
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Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences