Five emotional tributes to deceased TV personalities punctuated Sunday night’s Primetime Emmy Awards, including a salute to the late Glee actor Cory Monteith.

The B.C.-born performer's co-star Jane Lynch spoke about the young actor, who died in July at the age of 31 from an overdose of heroin and alcohol.

"From the first time you saw Cory, he had a star quality and a genuine sweetness that made it impossible not to fall in love with him. And millions did fall in love with Cory," Lynch said during the ceremony.

"I'm here to say that all that warmth and that charm, that open-hearted quality that we loved in Cory was no act," she continued.

"Cory was a beautiful soul. He was not perfect, which many of us here tonight can relate to. His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction. Tonight, we remember Cory for all he was, and mourn the loss for all he could have been. To a generation that loved Cory so, please know that this gifted and wonderful young man was worthy of your love. And if you were lucky enough to know Cory as we did and witnessed first-hand Cory's goofy, breezy sense of humour, his natural instinct for inclusiveness and his unbridled sense of generosity, day in and day out, I promise, you would have loved him even more." 

The tributes also included Robin Williams speaking about his mentor, comic actor Jonathan Winters; actor-director Rob Reiner's heartfelt remembrance of his "TV mother-in-law," All in the Family's Jean Stapleton; Michael J. Fox's memories of Family Ties and Spin City creator and his "second father and beloved friend" Gary David Goldberg; and Edie Falco’s teary recollections of her Sopranos spouse, actor James Gandolfini.

A controversial choice

The extended individual salutes, which came in addition to the traditional “in memoriam” montage, sparked controversy last week when producers first announced them.

TV critics, fans and family members were among those who blasted the idea, with many questioning the inclusion of Monteith, who was not a past Emmy nominee and whose high-profile role on teen-centred musical series Glee had been the most prominent work of his short career.

Many noted that tributes to Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie star Larry Hagman, Evening Shade’s Charles Durning or Jack Klugman of The Odd Couple and Quincy M.E. would have been more appropriate.

"It's an insult and it really seems typical of this youth-centric culture that has an extremely short attention span and panders to only a very narrow demographic" of young adults, Klugman’s son Adam declared on the weekend.

However, Emmy executive producer Ken Ehrlich defended the decision.

"To a younger generation, Cory Monteith's portrayal of Finn Hudson (on Glee) was highly admired, and the producers felt that he should be included along with the four other individuals we have singled out," he said in a statement.