Like so many in Hollywood, the Creative Arts Emmy Awards is preparing for prime-time with a crash diet.
The lesser-known Emmy show, which honors various achievements in television (costumes, casting, makeup, voice-overs), has less than a week to slim down from a hefty 3 1/2 hours to a sprightly 89 minutes.
''Try to cut that laugh out,'' says producer Spike Jones Jr. ''And lose 'Lovely, dreamy.' ''
Jones and his crew are holed up in an editing room at E! Entertainment headquarters, where they're meticulously sculpting more than 25 hours of tape into a tight two-hour special set to air Saturday on E! They watch five side-by-side monitors -- some with multiple pictures -- and carefully trim a word here, a walk there.
''This is a game of seconds,'' says postproduction supervisor Leslie Vincent.
The crew has to cram almost 80 awards -- ''All the winners get face time,'' Jones says -- into the telecast and transform an industry-insiders' event, with far fewer famous folks than the Primetime Emmys boast, into entertaining television for a broad audience. It makes it hard to know what to add and what to cut.
''We have spirited discussions,'' supervising editor Larry Fitzgerald says diplomatically. ''Collegial debates.''
''In the end, it's like choosing among your children,'' Vincent says.
Jones' crew has been working round-the-clock since the curtain fell on last Saturday's show. With three days to air, they're still 20 minutes over. A seven-minute speech becomes 90 seconds long.
Still, they want to give ample airtime to hosts Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Chalke, and celebrity winners Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman and Cynthia Nixon. They also hope to cut in clips of winners' work so viewers can better understand behind-the-scenes achievements -- but without bloating the telecast.
''We don't want to come across as a show that's done in a high-school gym,'' Vincent says.
''This is our Emmys,'' adds E! executive producer Jeff Fisher. ''We don't look at it as a stepchild.''
The better-known, star-studded Primetime Emmys will be broadcast live Sunday on ABC.
Making the creative-arts show tight can be tedious, but the job has gotten easier thanks to changes made in the live ceremony. The script is structured to be cut, Fitzgerald says, and the director shoots extra footage from eight cameras just for the telecast edit.
In the end, though, it's a careful weeklong slim down, overseen by Jones' crew, that gets the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ready for its TV close-up.