TCA Awards Honors Television’s Best

TCA award winners Steve Levitan, Matthew Weiner and Roscoe Orman.

Who praises what the critics say? Well, the folks from Friday Night Lights certainly do, especial after the members of the Television Critics Association gave them a standing ovation at the TCA’s 27th annual awards show.

It was a big treat to see Friday Night Lights take a final bow after a five-year run, receiving this year’s Program of the Year award from the TCA. The DirecTV/NBC drama always had a small but loyal following, and this year it is also nominated for Emmy Awards in a bunch of major categories.

When producer-writer Jason Katims took the stage at the Beverly Hilton to accept, he acknowledged the Texas high school football-themed series has been a favorite of the critics since its debut, and it was their support that kept the show on the air. He was surrounded by members of the cast, including Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Matt Lauria, Jurnee Smollett and Michael B. Jordan, all beaming with happy memories of the production shot in Texas. They all left the stage with the cheer “Texas forever.”

Nick Offerman, who plays the deadpan comic in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, kicked off the TCA Awards with a funny routine about being sensitive to harsh criticism, and so he sang “I Should Stay Offline,” a parody of “I Walk the Line.” Later Offerman returned to the stage to pick up the Individual Achievement in Comedy Award. Tied for that honor was Modern Family’s Ty Burrell, who thanked all the critics for helping him break the cycle of “coming from a long line of losers.”

ABC’s Modern Family co-creator/producer Steve Levitan was surrounded by most of his cast when he received the Outstanding Achievement for Comedy. On hand were Burrell, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Nolan Gould, Ariel Winter and the greatest little scene-stealer in Hollywood, Rico Rodriguez. Levitan said that the kids on the acclaimed comedy “think this happens every time you do a TV show.” The older and wiser actors know better.

Jon Hamm picked up an award for Individual Achievement in Drama, for Mad Men, which was also honored as best dramatic series. Mad Men’s creator/producer Matthew Weiner took the stage with members of the cast, Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks. Weiner joked with the critics that it was “hard to continue as a creative person when you lose the enemy,” referring to all the critical praise he has received.

The brilliantly updated Sherlock, written by Steven Moffat for the BBC and PBS Masterpiece Theatre, won Outstanding Achievement in Movies/Miniseries. Producer Beryl Vertue received the trophy and noted that it was thanks to nepotism that Sherlock was so praiseworthy. The key to the success of Sherlock was because her daughter, producer Sue Vertue, “married the best writer [Moffat] in the UK.” They are all hard at work on the next installments of the Masterpiece films.

The Dick Van Dyke Show was acknowledged with the TCA’s Heritage Award. Carl Reiner, the classic comedy’s creator-producer-writer and occasional star, was happy to pick up the award, and cast members Rose Marie and Larry Mathews were also there to enjoy the evening.

Reiner, 89, said he miscast himself as the original star of the show he wrote about his married life and career as a TV writer. “Then I got a better actor to play me,” thus begat The Dick Van Dyke Show, according to Reiner.

Sesame Street won the Achievement in Youth Programming award and Roscoe Orman (with the show as Gordon Robinson since 1973) accepted and paid tribute to the amazing man who started it all, Jim Henson. HBO’s Game of Thrones won Outstanding New Program. The TCA’s first reality series award was given to The Amazing Race and creators Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, and host Phil Keoghan were happy to add the honor to all the Emmys the show has earned.

The National Geographic Channel’s Restrepo won the News & Information award. The intense documentary about a combat unit in Afghanistan was co-directed by Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington, who died while covering the rebellion in Libya. It was a reminder that TV is much more than mindless entertainment.

Oprah Winfrey was not on hand to pick up her Career Achievement award, but she taped a message to thank the members of the TCA and to let them know she was on a much needed vacation before she dives head on into the ambitious plans she has for her OWN network. In good humor, Oprah joked about her longwinded answers to critics’ question during the last press tour. Hey, when Lady “O” has something to say, she says it!