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Chad Lowe’s Emmy Win in 1993

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  • charleswidmore
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    #315560

    Hello, I am doing a research project on the impact of early film and TV portrayals of AIDS. I understand that in 1993, Chad Lowe, who was then only in his early twenties, won an Emmy for his supporting role on “Life Goes On” as Jesse McKenna, a young man who is dying of AIDS (he is the boyfriend of one of the main characters.) I am curious if this win may have been the TV Academy making a statement on supporting AIDS victims more than it was about this performance’s quality. It seems like a very odd Emmy win to me. Lowe was not part of the original cast of the show and joined the cast only in the third season in 1992, and won this award the very next year. The show had never really been on the Emmy radar until Lowe and the girl who played his girlfriend were suddenly nominated in the supporting categories in 1993, coniciding with their AIDS storyline. I have been unable to find too many clips of the show but from what I have seen, Lowe’s performance doesn’t seem to rise too far above after school special level. It certainly isn’t something I would have expected to win an award (again, I may be off the mark, I’ve only scene a few clips.) So my questions are, for anyone who was around and following the Emmys back then, was Lowe’s nomination and win expected? If not, who was expected to win, and was Lowe’s win a huge surprise? Was this a performance that was generating a lot of buzz at the time? It seems to have been all but forgotten over the years as I can barely find any mention of this storyline or Lowe’s Emmy win on the internet except brief mentions in articles about his relationship with Hillary Swank (“Lowe, who won an Emmy in 1993 for Life Goes On…” etc.). There is no recording available of Lowe’s speech at the Emmy ceremony either (if he did in fact show up.) I’m curious as to what mention he made of the AIDS crisis and how the audience reacted etc. I’d love to hear from people who followed TV and the Emmys back then as to whether or not you think this was a case where an award was given to make a political point or to reward Lowe for his “bravery” in taking on an AIDS role rather than on the artistic merits, or whether he really did just give such a great performance that it somehow propelled him as an obscure twenty-something kid on a non-prestige show to win an Emmy. I find the parallels to Hanks’ win at the Oscars that same year for Philadelphia striking, but again, while so much has been said and written about that role and the Oscar win and its impact on the AIDS crisis, humanizing victims, Hollywood embracing the cause of AIDS victims, etc, pretty much nothing has been written about Lowe’s role and Emmy win. Thanks in advance to anyone who can offer some insights!

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    Boidiva02
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    #315562

    You have to keep in mind where the world as in 1992-1993, espeically as it concerned AIDS and HIV… not only was a diganosis of AIDS still a death sentence, but many in the general public were still very unaware or underinformed about AIDS, and this story which portrayed Jesse as a sympathetic character and not a moralless monster was very groundbreaking at the time.   I’d like to believe that this win was as much for the merit of the performance and story as it was for the political issues surrounding it.

       
    The tone of Life Goes On for sure at times got sappy and melodramatic, but that was simply the style of many series at the time who tackled social issues… Life Goes On had always been critically acclaimed, but was also known for being oftentimes sappy…. It’s focus on special needs was what made it noteworthy to start with, but the introduction of the Jesse McKenna character brought the show to a whole new level of fame…   and simply brought it attention it otherwise wouldn’t have gotten… However, the show was on Emmy’s radar prior to the nominations for Lowe and Kellie Martin, it received a guest actress nomination in 1990 and a nomination for Music and Lyrics in 1991… It was the AIDS story however, that brought it to greater acclaim.

    As for your question about if this win was about a political statement, I can only guess, but I’d say I have no way to answer that.   Perhaps it was, but I do believe the work in question was well-received enough and had generated a considerable amount of press and critical support that is was very much earned.

    Also keep in mind, just a few years later the Academy had the chance to honor Gloria Ruben for her work on E.R. as Jeanie Boulie, a physicians assistant who gets AIDS from her husband.  That work was very critically acclaimed and was on the #1 show of the time, but did not earn Ruben an Emmy win. My thought is that if ny show was going to be used as a political statement regarding AIDS, it would have been E.R.        

    These are just my opinions and I am no expert on this subject, so take it for what it’s worth, I’m just guessing.  

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    That Don Guy
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    #315563

    You have to keep in mind where the world as in 1992-1993, espeically as it concerned AIDS and HIV… not only was a diganosis of AIDS still a death sentence, but many in the general public were still very unaware or underinformed about AIDS, and this story which portrayed Jesse as a sympathetic character and not a moralless monster was very groundbreaking at the time.

    I thought Jesse wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS at first, but just tested HIV-positive…which, IIRC, was a plot point in an episode (I think he got cut, and some of his blood landed on the floor, and Becca blurted out to the others in the area something like, “Get back – he has AIDS!”).

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    Boidiva02
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    #315564

    [quote=”Boidiva02″]You have to keep in mind where the world as in 1992-1993, espeically as it concerned AIDS and HIV… not only was a diganosis of AIDS still a death sentence, but many in the general public were still very unaware or underinformed about AIDS, and this story which portrayed Jesse as a sympathetic character and not a moralless monster was very groundbreaking at the time.

    I thought Jesse wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS at first, but just tested HIV-positive…which, IIRC, was a plot point in an episode (I think he got cut, and some of his blood landed on the floor, and Becca blurted out to the others in the area something like, “Get back – he has AIDS!”).[/quote]

     

     

    You very well could be right, I haven’t seen the series in many years and when I did I was very young….

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    Boidiva02
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    #315565

    It would appear that you were correct That Don Guy…

     

     

    Here is what I found on Wikipedia:

    “By the second season, the writers had begun to expand the show’s scope beyond Corky, and the third and fourth seasons centered on Becca and a new character named Jesse (Chad Lowe). Jesse, a junior, met Becca through the school’s theatre department. As the two became friends, Jesse told Becca he was HIV-positive. Tyler became a less prominent figure in Becca’s life, and was jealous of Becca’s closeness with Jesse. The character of Tyler was soon written out of the show; he was given the memorable sendoff of dying in a car accident with Corky as a passenger.

    Much to the surprise of those around them, Becca and Jesse began a relationship despite his HIV. The writers began to explore life with HIV through Jesse’s character, and the difficulties the disease causes with romantic relationships. The relationship between Corky and Becca, previously portrayed as close, was also explored, as Corky briefly turned his back on his sister for dumping a mutual friend in order to date Jesse.

    The fourth season’s first episode, in which a 40-something Becca (Pamela Bellwood) tours the house she grew up in while remembering the events of 25 years earlier, establishes that Jesse would ultimately die from AIDS and that Becca would move on to marry a man named David. The series itself ended ambiguously but on an upbeat note, showing Becca five years later, married with a son, named Jesse”— from Wikipedia…

     

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    RobertPius
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    #315566

    Lowe wasn’t there to accept the Emmy. (looking over the other nominees I would think Lowe won since most of the other nominees were semi-comedic performances in the drama category while Lowe was the only out and out dramatic performance.)

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