It was meant to be funny. But a fake plane crash during the opening Emmy awards skit made many cringe on Sunday — the same day 49 people died in a fiery plane crash in Kentucky.
The skit, aired live at the start of NBC’s Emmy telecast, brought a swift response from the general manager of NBC’s Lexington, Ky., affiliate, WLEX.
“It was a live telecast. We were completely helpless,” Tim Gilbert was quoted as saying on the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Web site.
“By the time we began to react, it was over. At the station, we were as horrified as they were at home,” Gilbert said.
Criticism of the sequence also appeared on other Web sites Sunday night, including the Los Angeles Times, where television columnist Scott Collins called it “cringe-inducing” and “of questionable taste.”
The prerecorded opening segment began with Emmy host Conan O’Brien boarding a private plane to Los Angeles. Asked by a stewardess if he was nervous about hosting the show, O’Brien answered “Nervous? What could possibly go wrong?”
The plane then shook and pitched violently, sending O’Brien out of his seat and seeking shelter in an overhead baggage compartment.
The skit didn’t show the plane crashing. Instead, it cut to O’Brien emerging from the ocean onto an island resembling the one in “Lost,” where he meets a cast member.
Emmy show executive producer Ken Ehrlich declined comment when asked about criticism of the skit at the Governors Ball after the show.
The skit aired live on NBC just hours after a commuter jet in Kentucky crashed into a field and burst into flames, killing all aboard except a co-pilot.
Gilbert said he was home watching the Emmy show with his family when he was “stunned” by the Emmy skit. He said if he had known about it beforehand, Lexington viewers wouldn’t have seen it.
Gilbert said he plans to ask NBC for an apology.
“They could have killed the opening and it wouldn’t have hurt the show at all,” Gilbert said. “We wish somebody had thought this through. It’s somewhere between ignorance and incompetence.”