At first glance, the Creative Arts Emmy Awards looked like any other glitzy Hollywood awards show.
The Shrine Auditorium swarmed with guests in tuxedos and fancy gowns. There was a parade of limousines and a mile-long red carpet flanked with photographers.
But there was hardly a star in sight.
Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmys honored television’s behind-the-scenes workers — the makeup artists, casting directors, sound editors, set designers and others who bring TV shows to life.
The celebrities get their party next Sunday, when the Primetime Emmy Awards are presented.
The Creative Arts awards are like a junior Emmys, producers said, a prelude to the big show.
“The only thing you notice that’s different is instead of stars coming up to accept the awards, it’s people from makeup and hair and so on,” producer Michael Hoey told The Associated Press. “For all intents and purposes, (this) looks exactly like the primetime show.”
Indeed, the set was decorated with giant-sized Emmys. Tables backstage held the real thing — sort of. Stand-in trophies were used during the ceremony and winners collected their actual awards in another room.
“They have a real one for you out there,” one stagehand said backstage as he snatched a trophy from a winner’s grip.
Seventy-two prizes — the bulk of the television academy’s annual primetime Emmy honors — were presented Saturday night. HBO was the leader with 17 awards, followed by ABC with 10 and NBC with eight. CBS, Fox and PBS received seven each. The most honored program was HBO’s miniseries “Elizabeth I,” which received five awards.
A few famous folks were on hand to help celebrate their less-visible colleagues. Comedy duo Penn & Teller, nominated for three Emmys for their “Showtime” series, hosted the three-and-a-half hour ceremony, which will be edited into a two-hour show scheduled to air next Saturday on the E! cable channel.
“I just hope I don’t (mess) up,” Penn said backstage.
His normally silent cohort, Teller, sipped tea and chatted with a stage worker.
Patricia Clarkson, Christina Ricci, Allison Janney, Mark Harmon and Isaiah Washington were among the night’s celebrity presenters. Clarkson also took home a trophy for her guest appearance on “Six Feet Under,” one of only four acting prizes awarded.
“I’m really in shock, I have to be honest,” a slightly flustered Clarkson said after her win.
The actress was honest on stage too. While presenting awards for sound editing, she wasn’t quite sure where to stand. She asked the stage manager for direction in front of the entire Shrine audience.
“Do we have to go back up there or can we do it from here,” she asked. “I’m exhausted.”
No orchestra, plenty of nerves
This was definitely not live television.
When winners gave lumbering speeches, there was no orchestra to play them off. Instead, producers groaned to themselves backstage.
Christian Clemenson, who won for guest actor in a drama series, “Boston Legal,” was so moved he could hardly say anything at all. His lips trembled as he thanked the academy.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said backstage. “What do I do? Can I go back and sit down?”
Apparently not. A woman wearing a headset and a black dress whisked him away to the press room.
Even with the flubs and lack of major star power, it felt like a big-time awards show.
“The people in this room are the ones who basically make television go,” Dick Askin, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, said backstage. “Creative Arts is the backbone of the television industry.”
But don’t expect it to outshine the star-studded Primetime Emmys, producer John Moffitt said.
“It doesn’t have the audience appeal obviously,” he said. “But it’s a show where everybody in the industry can tune in and see their peers get awards.”