08/26/2014 06:04 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

FACE IT: A Different Kind of Emmy Snub

A Different Kind of Emmy Snub
By Michele Willens

There are many things to complain about regarding the Emmy Awards: the show's predictability, the surprising un-funniness of people like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, the "music" of Al Yankevich, Julia Roberts' "its about me" incoherence, Lena Dunham's dress. One thing most everyone agreed worked well was Billy Crystal's heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams. So let me be a grouch for a moment and point out that while I agree it was moving, it was one third of what could have been an amazing segment.
Robin Williams burst into our consciousness on television, and remained a popular talk and variety show guest even when he moved on to feature films. But Mork and Mindy was only on for a few seasons, and I would argue that two other performers, whose faces were shown in the Memorial segment, were even more important in the history of television.
My hunch is that the man who brilliantly morphed into Mork-- would himself have said that had there not been a Sid Caesar, there may never have been a Robin Williams. Caesar's iconic comedy series defined antic genius, not to mention found a place for future greats like Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Neil Simon. Never has one show been populated by such a stellar group of writers. To whip quickly past Caesar's photo was to do a great disservice to the man who many think is the funniest person to ever come into our homes.
The other television figure under-appreciated in the Emmy telecast was James Garner. Okay, we got to hear a few snippets from his Maverick and Rockford roles, but he too represented far more than a couple of hit shows. Garner was, along with Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood, one of the first TV stars to make the transition to the big screen. One forgets what a great leap that was at the time. in fact, it's still not a guarantee. Just ask David Caruso and all the Friends stars minus one. (The jury is still out on Jon Hamm)
Not only did James Garner transition smoothly, he--unlike McQueen and Eastwood and more so than Williams---continued to honor television with his class and presence. No one equaled his string of high quality Movies of the Week, from Heartsounds to Decoration Day to Barbarians at the Gate, to My Name is Bill W and more. These were not only impeccably made and well received, but were about important issues. For his willingness to continue to move back and forth between mediums, and not look down on where he began, he should have been more fondly singled out.
We are all Monday--or in this rare case, Tuesday--morning Quarterbacks. But I keep envisioning a powerful trilogy: Billy Crystal on one end of the stage remembering Robin; Mel Brooks on another musing on Caesar, and Julie Andrews or Mary Tyler Moore recalling their former co-star Garner. Ah well.
This is not about who ended up the biggest star in the end. It's about television honoring those who truly took it to new places and paved the way for many to follow.