The TCA Awards turn 25
Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on August 2, 2009
Alan Sepinwall – The Star-Ledger
In the summer of 1985, the members of the Television Critics Association began handing out their own awards to their favorite TV shows. At the time, I’m told, there was a lot of debate over whether this would make the TCA too much a part of the industry it covers, and that first awards ceremony was a brisk 20 minutes, with Career Achievement winner Grant Tinker the only winner invited to attend.
Saturday night, the TCA held its 25th annual awards show. By now, it’s become standard practice for all the winners to have some representative there. And because only the winners are invited — and because the show, other than one disastrous experiment in the early ’90s, isn’t shown on television — it’s a low-key, tension-free affair that can celebrate work overlooked by traditional showbiz awards shows.
Yes, our best drama series winner “Mad Men” cleaned up at last year’s Emmys (and likely will this year, too), and the Emmys also beat us to the punch on actor Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” who was our winner for individual achievement in drama. But the TCA’s Program of the Year winner was “Battlestar Galactica,” which never got any kind of love from the science fiction-fearing members of the television Academy. And both the comedy series and comedy individual awards went to CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” — the latter, specifically, to the hilarious Jim Parsons as Sheldon, who was nominated for an Emmy this year but is probably a longshot.
Other winners included HBO’s “True Blood” for new program, HBO’s “The Alzheimer’s Project” for achievement in news and information, Nickelodeon’s “Yo Gabba Gabba” for children’s programming, HBO’s “Grey Gardens” as the best movie or mini-series, Betty White for career achievement, and “ER” for the Heritage Award, a sort of career achievement for series (which, in a quirk of the voting, has almost always gone to a landmark series immediately after its final season).
The people from “Mad Men” (star Jon Hamm made a rare public appearance with his hair slicked back like Don Draper, explaining sheepishly that sometimes it’s easier to get it under control that way) are used to the love affair from the critics by now. But what’s often interesting at the TCA Awards — and what was a running theme at this year’s show — is seeing how tightly performers and producers hold on to bad reviews from the past, and how grateful (or, at least, relieved) they are to be getting praise from the critics instead.
At the 2006 TCA Awards, “The Office” star Steve Carell got big laughs by reading excerpts from a particularly vicious review of his performance in the short-lived Tim Curry sitcom “Over the Top,” which climaxed with this passage:
“I have stood in a freezer full of dead people at the morgue. I have seen a man’s scalp pulled back over his nose. I’ve even seen 35 minutes of Ellen DeGeneres’s ‘Mr. Wrong.’ But I can now honestly say that until Steve Carell’s turn in the premiere of ‘Over the Top,’ I have never known true horror.”
That speech was shown again in a clip reel at this year’s awards, as was one by “My Name Is Earl” creator Greg Garcia, where he said of his previous show, the critically-loathed “Yes Dear,” that if you don’t have the critics on your side, the best you can hope for is to run for six seasons and go into syndication.
This year’s host, E!’s Chelsea Handler, spent part of her monologue rehashing a brutal review she got for “Chelsea Lately,” and when it was Betty White’s turn to accept her award, she admitted that she still had a copy of a nasty review from her very first sitcom, 1952′s “Life with Elizabeth.”
“But I don’t look at it anymore,” she added.
“Big Bang Theory” co-creator Chuck Lorre — who opened his speech by saying he wanted to speak from the heart, “But my heart was killed 20 years ago on ‘Roseanne’” — has had an publicly contentious relationship with the critics over his other CBS hit, “Two and a Half Men.” But he seemed genuinely touched by the critics being on his side for once, using words I can’t repeat in this column (but that Lorre can probably use on “Two and a Half Men”) to say he would be forever in our debt.