NEW YORK (AP) — "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy didn't hesitate when given a chance to pay tribute to his American idol, legendary TV producer Norman Lear, at the 40th International Emmy Awards.
Lear's sitcom "All In the Family" — and its spinoffs "Maude" and "The Jeffersons" — mixed humor with an honest examination of the key social issues of the day — racism, sexism, even abortion, rape and homosexuality. Decades later, Murphy is following the path blazed by Lear with his shows, "Glee" and "The New Normal."
Murphy and Lear are to receive honorary awards at Monday night's International Emmy Awards Gala. A total of 38 nominees from 15 countries will compete for awards in nine categories. British television productions received a leading seven nominations, including best actor and actress nods for Jason Isaacs, the villainous Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, in the crime mystery "Case Histories" and newcomer Joanna Vanderham in "The Runaway."
"I remember watching his shows when I was young and being moved by them," Murphy said of Lear from his production office in Los Angeles. "The way he tackled social issues so directly and opened a conversation about things no one wanted to talk about was fascinating to me.
"I try to do the same in my work, most recently with the 'Obama Mama' episode of 'The New Normal,' which was inspired by 'All in the Family.'"
In that Sept. 25 episode of his new NBC sitcom, about a gay male couple and the surrogate hired to carry their child, there's a heated discussion at a dinner party over whether to support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney reminiscent of Archie Bunker's debates with his liberal son-in-law Mike, whom he called "Meathead." Ellen Barkin's character Jane Forrest, the surrogate's ultraconservative grandmother, is prone to making racist and homophobic remarks much like the curmudgeonly working-class Bunker.
At Monday night's ceremony, hosted by Regis Philbin at the Hilton New York Hotel, Murphy will be presenting the 40th Anniversary Special Founders Award to Lear, now 90, and "MASH" star Alan Alda. The organizers wanted to mark the milestone anniversary by honoring a producer and performer who had groundbreaking shows on the air in 1972 when the International Emmys were first presented.
"Each of them is an iconic person in the history of the television business ... who were part of that incredible vanguard of a new kind of socially relevant, often in-your-face, television programs that really did change the medium," said Bruce L. Paisner, president and CEO of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which presents the International Emmys honoring excellence in television programming produced outside the U.S.