TV

Does Cory Monteith deserve a special Emmy Awards memorial segment?

Sep. 17, 2013 at 10:19 AM ET

Cory Monteith.
Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images
Cory Monteith.

Lots of people were thinking it, but Variety's Editor-in-Chief Andrew Wallenstein said it: "Does Cory Monteith Deserve A Special Emmy Memorial?" 

That was the headline on his opinion piece for the Hollywood trade publication Monday, written shortly after it was announced Monday that the late "Glee" actor, who died on July 13 of a heroin and alcohol overdose, would be just one of five individuals with TV careers who will receive a special tribute on the Sunday, Sept. 22nd's Emmy Awards broadcast. The others? James Gandolfini, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Winters and Gary David Goldberg.

There's no question that Monteith's end was tragic, and that his star had burned brightly. "Glee" and the actor have millions of fans, and he died while still a cast member of a currently-running show. But he was 31 when he died, with a relatively short resume. That's in contrast with the others being honored, who left behind long careers, numerous awards and iconic presences in the Hollywood firmament.

Which is part of what Wallenstein argued: "When Monteith's name is elevated alongside the other four people who are being elevated from the usual In Memoriam reel ... his inclusion risks coming across (as) ill-considered. The unspoken, uncomfortable truth of the matter is that while the work he did on 'Glee' showed great promise, it was not equal to the incredible careers the other four amassed."

He continued, "There will surely be disagreement from his ardent fans, but if Monteith had really achieved that status, those accolades would have been coming even before his death. Unlike many of his co-stars, Monteith never received an Emmy nomination."

An online poll included with the story had nearly 1,800 votes and results were almost evenly divided over whether Monteith should have the honor or not.

Those who left comments on the piece were also divided: "To consider putting Monteith in a category with those other artists and others who died this past year, is an insult to their memories," wrote Michael Filerman.

Noted Jess, "You're making this about something it's not.... For a lot of young kids, who haven't experienced a loss of a celebrity they adored, Cory's death was a first. It was a big deal to them, his impact was real ... so yes, he is deserving of the honor."

Overall, the pro-Monteith memorial comments focused on the actor's charity work or "Glee's" impact on social issues, and were populated with emotional arguments ("You should debate Cory's family and friends. Ask his mom, 'Why was this guy important?'" insisted Adam Spiegelman.) 

But Wallenstein's argument isn't emotional. His editorial unpacks the process of selecting actors for special recognition, and wonders at what feels to him like less of an honor of one late actor than a ratings grab for a younger demographic.

"The Emmys needs to aspire to timelessness, demonstrating its relevancy whether being watched on the night of the telecast or 20 years later," he wrote. "The way to ensure it resonates both now and in the future is to stick to the accomplishments of the talent or the production.

"It's about what has been achieved — not what could have been."


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