NEW YORK — Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy paid tribute at the International Emmy Awards Monday night to television legends Norman Lear and Alan Alda, whose cutting-edge, socially-conscious shows in the `70s changed the face of television.
Unlike previous years when Britain dominated the awards honoring excellence in television production outside the U.S., the winners in the nine categories this year spanned six countries. Argentina, Brazil and Britain each won two Emmys; Australia, France and Germany had one apiece.
Murphy closed the awards ceremony by delivering a moving tribute to Lear, now 90, and "M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H" star Alda as he presented them with the 40th Anniversary Special Founders Award. The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences marked the milestone anniversary by presenting special awards honoring a producer and performer who had groundbreaking shows on TV in 1972 when the International Emmys were first presented.
Fittingly, the night's big winner was Argentina's "Television x la Inclusion," a drama produced by On TV Contenidos dealing with issues of social exclusion and inclusion. It became the first series in the history of the International Emmys to sweep both acting categories.
Dario Grandinetti, who starred in Pedro Almodovar's film "Talk to Her," won the best actor award for his portrayal of a divorced, xenophobic taxi driver determined to drive out his Peruvian neighbors.
Cristina Banegas, a Argentine theater, film and TV actress, was honored as best actress for her role as the mother of a girl with Down syndrome who fights her health insurance company when it won't authorize life-saving heart surgery for her daughter.
The British winners were in the documentary category for "Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die," about the author who after his Alzheimer's diagnosis travels to a Swiss clinic for a first-hand look at assisted suicide procedures, and "Black Mirror," a suspenseful and satirical look at the unease created by modern technology, in the TV movie/mini-series category.
Both of Brazil's wins went to TV Globo productions. "The Invisible Woman," about a publicist married to his boss whose relationship is threatened by the appearance in his life of his imaginary ideal woman, was chosen the best comedy. "The Illusionist," the story of a scam artist who becomes an illusionist after meeting a magician in jail, won in the telenovela category.
Murphy himself was honored midway through the awards ceremony hosted by Regis Philbin at the Hilton New York Hotel. Jessica Lange, the star of Murphy's contemporary gothic TV series "American Horror Story," presented him with the honorary 2012 International Emmy Founders Award.
Murphy, the writer, director and producer whose credits also include "Nip/Tuck" and "Popular," was recognized for the impact his shows have had in recognizing diversity and encouraging people to become more inclusive. With "Glee," Murphy also essentially created a novel TV format mixing music with drama/comedy.
At the end of the ceremony, Murphy returned to the stage to give the awards to Lear and Alda. Murphy recalled how moved he was when he watched Lear's sitcoms in his youth – "All in the Family" and its spinoffs "Maude" and "The Jeffersons," which decades later inspired him to produce "Glee" and "The New Normal."
Lear's shows were funny but tackled the key social issues of the day – racism, sexism, even abortion, rape and homosexuality – a sharp contrast to `60s hits like "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres" which avoided race or other social problems.
Alda starred as the wise-cracking, anti-authoritarian Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on "M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H, in which the Korean War served as a stand-in for social commentary on the Vietnam War. He became the only person ever to win U.S. Emmys for acting, writing and directing in the same series.
The other Emmy winners included France's police drama "Braquo," about a group of Parisian cops who circumvent the law, using violence and intimidation, for best drama series; Germany's "Songs of War," in which "Sesame Street" composer Christopher Cerf explores the relationship between music and violence after learning his songs had been used to torture prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, for arts programming; and "The Amazing Race Australia" for non-scripted entertainment.
Six International Emmys for children's programming will be presented at a new awards ceremony on Feb. 8 in New York.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a taped introduction before Korean entertainer J.Y. Park presented the honorary International Emmy Directorate Award to Kim In-kyu, president of the Korean Broadcasting System.