Emmy is her new best friend TV: After six years, Baltimore's nTC hometown NBC show, 'Homicide,' has finally been recognized with an industry award.

Radio and Television

September 02, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Sometimes the good guys do finish first.

That was one of the big story lines this weekend in Los Angeles as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced winners in several major off-camera and technical categories as part of the 50th annual Emmy Awards.

Baltimore and Emmy have not exactly been on best terms since the annual ritual of "Homicide: Life on the Street" getting shortchanged at award time began six years ago. But some of that wrong was undone Saturday night when Baltimore's Pat Moran and "Homicide" won the coveted Emmy for Best Casting in a Series over "Ally McBeal," "ER," "Frasier," "Law & Order" and "NYPD Blue."

"It's overwhelming and totally unbelievable," Moran said yesterday, back at her desk in Baltimore working on "Homicide" and the feature film "Liberty Heights," with the gold Emmy statue on display.

"Here's why I say it's unbelievable. This is my philosophy, and I'm one of those kind of gals where the cup's half empty. But they don't want to necessarily give a runaway production -- which is what anything shot outside of Hollywood is called -- the Emmy. That's just the deal for anything outside the mother ship.

"So, we never ever thought we weren't as good. In fact, we always thought we were better than the others. But we also knew we were different. 'Homicide' had a look like nothing else had. And we just didn't think that we could overcome the politics."

This year's Emmy nomination was the third for Moran and her partner, Lou Digiaimo. Sharing it with them this time was Brett Goldstein. Moran said she went out to Hollywood the first year to see what the dinner and awards presentation was like but skipped last year and wanted to skip this year as well. She says she only went because Digiaimo convinced her NBC would be insulted if they didn't make the trip.

Here's Moran's description of what it felt like when the "Homicide" team was announced as winners:

"If Lou hadn't grabbed my hand and led me up on stage, I'd still be sitting in that chair, because I'm just going, 'Oh my god, oh my god, of my god,' like a moron, you know. So, then, Brett made this speech. I think it sounded intelligent. I don't know what he said. And then we got offstage, and they gave us this thing. They gave us this thing, this big thing [the Emmy], they gave us the thing!

"And, then, we had to go and check in with 'E!' -- you know, the Entertainment Network -- and all the reporters and have some pictures taken. And, all the time, I'm still saying: 'Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.' "

When asked what memories or thoughts flashed across her mind, Moran said she remembered going to a party at actress Polly Bergen's house "around the time of 'Cry Baby,' " the 1990 John Waters film she worked on, and seeing Bergen's two Emmys on display.

"And that came in my mind the first 10 minutes, staring at Polly Bergen's Emmys and thinking: "Gee, I wonder what it would be like to ever win one of those." But I never even thought I'd work in television, let alone win an Emmy."

Moran said she didn't take any chances with the Emmy on the way home, carrying it through the metal detector at LAX, holding it in her lap on the plane and walking with it through the terminal at BWI.

Under the heading Only In Baltimore, on her way through the terminal, Moran says someone yelled, "Hey, hon, did ya win the Golden Globe?"

While the writing and acting of "Homicide" are regularly and correctly celebrated, casting has every bit as much to do with the distinctive look of the show. Moran -- who started way back when with Waters and whose resume includes a stint running the Charles Theatre -- is committed to casting from the Baltimore area and hiring people who don't look like the "20-year-old blonds" they mass produce in Los Angeles. Typical was Erik Todd Dellums, from Washington, who played Luther Mahoney.

Moran says they've got another distinctly "Homicide" villain on tap for the season that starts Sept. 25 -- a 6-foot-7, 350-pound, bald-headed character named Lemonhead Boggs. He's an arms dealer.

"I swear, you'll see him and you'll laugh," Moran said. "He's one of ours. We love him."

Cinematographer wins

Another coveted Emmy was awarded Saturday in Los Angeles to Baltimore cinematographer John Chisolm for his work on a National Geographic special, "Don't Say Goodbye: America's Endangered Species," which aired in January on NBC.

The formal title of the category for which Chisolm won is Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for a Non-Fiction Special. What it means is that Chisolm did the best photography on any documentary done last year. His competition included, for example, Spike Lee's celebrated "4 Little Girls." This is as close as nonfiction television gets to art.

"I'm not sure what it means yet to my career. I'm just a free-lance cinematographer," Chisolm said yesterday, back home in Baltimore, doing child-care duty with his son.

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