Sunday night’s Emmy Awards featured the standard “In Memoriam” segment, in which the faces and clips of the recently deceased played to varying levels of applause. But this year, they made a decision to single out five people to receive special tributes, delivered — sometimes tearfully — by former costars.
One of the most curious decisions made for these tributes was that no actual clips were used to demonstrate said person’s exceptional mastery of the craft. Instead, we got secondhand descriptions of Jonathan Winters’ best comedy bits courtesy of Robin Williams, or a pivotal scene between Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton as re-created by Rob Reiner.
Not that there’s ever a chance to redo the Emmys, but if there were, we humbly submit these clips that could have been played to better remember the five deemed deserving of the honor.
Though Robin Williams referenced this improvised bit and even did a little bit of it himself, there’s nothing quite like watching the original play out straight from the mind and mouth of Winters himself. This took place on the “Jack Paar Show” in April 1964.
Yes, there were plenty of important, trailblazing scenes between Stapleton’s long-suffering Edith Bunker and her bigoted, sexist husband Archie (Carroll O’Connor), but above all, “All in the Family” was a comedy, and so it seems just that the clip to best remember Stapleton’s performance was one that evoked laughs, not tears. Therefore, we suggest this moment from the 1976 episode “Archie’s Operation.”
The Canadian actor’s career had just started to take off when he died at the early age of 31. But if nothing else, it was his proficiency at singing and dancing that launched his profile, so perhaps the best clip to remember him would be the first time audiences really felt like this kid had something to offer. We suggest the cast performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” from the very first episode of “Glee” back in 2009.
There were many scenes from Gandolfini’s six seasons on “The Sopranos” that showcase the range of his textured portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano, who could be loving, cruel, silly and violent, sometimes all in the same scene. However, most of those scenes involved more swearing than we’re allowed to post here. So instead, we offer up the much-discussed final scene of the series, with Soprano hunkering down for a quiet dinner with his family in a New Jersey diner. The ending of this scene was an enigma and so was Gandolfini, an intensely private actor. By coincidence, this scene also features Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’” the song of choice for great TV moments.
Gary David Goldberg:
Goldberg wasn’t an actor, but as a TV writer and producer, he had to have an eye for great acting talent. So what better way to showcase that skill than this scene from the 1984 “Family Ties” episode “Say Uncle,” in which guest star Tom Hanks played Alex Keaton’s Uncle Ned. Michael J. Fox and Hanks sharing a scene on a network sitcom just before both became global movie superstars. The moment carries a message (very important for sitcoms from the 1980s) but was also funny.