TCA Awards Honors TV’s Best of the Best

Photo credit Ian Mosley/TCA

Norman Lear and Rob Reiner.

Who praises what the critics say? I do, because one of the greatest pleasures of being a member of the Television Critics Association is attending the annual TCA Awards which honors the best of the best on TV. It is an evening to mingle with the top talent that makes this a new Golden Age in broadcasting. It’s also a time to reflect on the creative giants that made television history.

That was very evident with the legendary producer Norman Lear on hand to accept the Heritage Award for All in the Family (CBS), with help from Rob Reiner, aka “Meathead.” They recalled the sitcom’s early struggles. “Thank you TCA for the last 40 years. You didn’t like us at all at the beginning. You were like my mother,” Lear told the critics. “She called after the first show and said, ‘You have to flush a toilet?’ Life magazine said we ‘should flush the whole show.’ That was the beginning.” Lear and Reiner, who have been known for their political activism, then read part of a transcript from the Nixon tapes which had the former president upset at the content of All in the Family. It was hysterical hearing what Nixon thought of Archie Bunker’s hippie son-in-law. Lear concluded with praise for television’s influence.

Also a highlight was seeing entertainment giant Jerry Weintraub, who produced HBO’s Behind the Candelabra. The Liberace film won for Outstanding Achievement in Movies and Miniseries. The victory was sweet for Weintraub who said, “I couldn’t get the picture made for 12 years, then we got Steven Soderbergh, the greatest director in the world, then Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, up for Emmys with Scott Bakula. The guys really went for it and gave it everything they had.” Weintraub dedicated the award to Marvin Hamlisch, it was his last score.

Another giant in the film business, king of the documentaries and PBS’ favorite son, Ken Burns won in the News and Information category for the Central Park Five film he did with his daughter Sarah. Burns sent a video message explaining that it was his 60th birthday (no way!) and a family celebration was keeping him home in Walpole, New Hampshire.

From New York, Barbara Walters accepted her Career Achievement award via video message, saying she was absent because “I have this little daytime show called The View.” Another video thanks was from Tatiana Maslany who got the Individual Achievement in Drama honor for BBC America’s Orphan Black.

So happy to be at the TCA ceremony at the Beverly Hilton was Kaitlyn Jenkins who did a twirl when she picked up the Youth Programming trophy for Bunheads, which ABC Family just canceled (Boo!). The pirouettes kept coming when Amy Poehler and the cast of NBC’s Parks and Recreation won for Comedy, in a tie with CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. When Big Bang’s creator Chuck Lorre accepted, he mentioned that critics can help a series along when it’s struggling, but they can also “sneak into the nursery and kill the baby.” (Ouch!)

Louis C.K. won for Individual Achievement in Comedy for his FX show Louie. After making fun of his trophy he deadpanned, “Sometimes comedy undercuts feelings. It’s a problem I deal with all the time.”

HBO’s medieval fantasy Game of Thrones was the outstanding drama with stars Emilia Clarke (Mother of Dragons) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) on hand “while the rest of the cast is in the rain and mud filming somewhere, while I’m collecting awards in Hollywood,” Harington beamed. The outstanding New Program was FX’s The Americans, with the lovely Keri Russell. Also there were charming “sharks” in the ballroom when ABC’s Shark Tank won for Reality Programming, accepted by busy producer Mark Burnett, who was also nominated for Survivor and The Voice.

When Breaking Bad was named Program of the Year, creator Vince Gilligan and producer Mark Johnson, plus castmates Bryan Cranston, RJ Mitte, Dean Norris, and others took the stage to take a final bow as the critics’ darling before the series ends on Sept. 29.

The great night of schmoozing and awards began with big laughs as Jordan Peele took the podium as Obama and Keegan-Michael Key as Luther, the president’s “anger translator.” It’s one of their signature routines on their Comedy Central series Key & Peele. Awesomely funny, I’d give it an award!