Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dispatches from the TCA Awards: Tom Hanks' shame, Tina Fey's pockets, Paul Giamatti's habit and a whole lotta 'Mad Men'

Tonight was one of my favorite nights of every summer tour: the ceremony for the annual Television Critics Association Awards. Sure, there have been years where I vehemently disagreed with some of the winners ("Heroes" over "The Wire" -- or anything else -- for Program of the Year last year, to name one), but it's nice to be able to celebrate the work we admire the most, and the low-frills, untelevised nature of the event tends to lead to memorable moments.

After the jump, a list of the winners, and a rundown of some of this year's award ceremony highlights:

"Mad Men" was the big champ, winning Outstanding New Program, Outstanding Achievement in Drama and Program of the Year. As the winners know in advance what's going to happen (the losers don't come), Matt Weiner made sure to share the wealth with the acceptance speeches. He took Program of the Year, but let fellow producer Scott Hornbacher handle New Program, and sent John Slattery and Jon Hamm up on stage for the drama series award. Hamm thanked the creators of shows like "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" for creating a niche on the opposite end of the quality spectrum for them to thrive, while Slattery noted, "I would like to say how glad I am that the show's message of drinking and smoking and whoring has resonated with the TCA."

"30 Rock" swept our two comedy categories, for both series and individual achievement. Tina Fey, wearing a snazzy gown that somehow had room for pockets, cracked a "Bosom Buddies" joke during one of her speeches in the direction of Tom Hanks (more on him in a minute), and referred to "30 Rock" as "the highest-rated cable show on broadcast TV. It's a great time to be in broadcast television! It's like being in vaudeville in the '60s!"

HBO's "John Adams" miniseries was our other multiple winner, for best miniseries and for Individual Achievement in Drama for Paul Giamatti. Giamatti was particularly frenetic as he gave his speech, admitting that he just quit smoking after picking the habit back up after having kicked it for 10 years (got all that?) while filming "John Adams," which he described as a real, um, buster of a certain piece of his anatomy. Hanks, one of the executive producers, accepted the miniseries award and, after thanking Tina Fey for once again reminding us all that he starred in "Bosom Buddies," mocked us for doing such a low-frills, untelevised ceremony.

As Hanks was, with Garry Shandling, involved in the second-funniest moment in the history of the TCA Awards(*), and as he was really funny again tonight I'll let him slide. Also, after the ceremony was over, I went over to tell him that many of us in the room genuinely, unironically enjoyed "Bosom Buddies" -- particularly the second, cross-dressing-lite season -- as he laughed, then buried his face in his hands. I assured him that it was okay, that he had two Oscars and all these other awards, and he reflected on how he and Peter Scolari knew the show was doomed by the third or fourth week, and yet kept working on it for two years.

(*) The funniest moment of all-time was Sid Caesar's acceptance speech for Career Achievement, which I described in a post that has since been lost to time and the NJ.com servers, and which I'll rehash some other time. The second funniest moment was the year the Hanks-produced "From the Earth to the Moon" won the miniseries award. The award was being presented by one of our more veteran members, who very quickly lost her place in the prepared introductory remarks she had written, and so Hanks and Shandling came to her rescue and took turns reading what she had written while ad-libbing about how weird this all was. I doubt I'm doing it justice; when I retell the Sid Caesar story, you'll appreciate that one.

Other winners: Ken Burns' "The War" for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information, "WordGirl" for children's programming, the Career Achievement Award to Lorne Michaels, and the Heritage Award (sort of a Career Achievement for shows) to "The Wire." That's the one and only TCA Award the show has ever won, and while I'm not happy about that -- see last year -- at least it's one more than it'll get from the Emmys. David Simon got up and noted that a big part of the final season's newspaper storyline was about the uselessness of awards and prizes. Then he looked at his new translucent TCA Award, put on a big fake grin and said that clearly, he was wrong.

In other entertaining developments from the night:
  • The Smothers Brothers were our opening act, and after 50 years of working together, Tom and Dick still had the old patter down. As an added treat, Dick narrated an extensive slideshow and highlight reel of the best and most controversial moments from their '60s variety series, maybe, as TCA co-founder David Bianculli put it, the only series in TV history to get fired rather than canceled. By the time they were done, every person in the room -- be they critic or celebrity -- seemed to want to run out and pre-order the DVD set featuring the best of their third and final season on CBS.
  • Some years, the winners bolt as soon as the show is over. (Or, in the case of last year with both Alec Baldwin and David Chase, as soon as they've accepted their final award.) While Hanks and Fey and Michaels all left fairly quickly, everybody else stuck around for the rest of the night, so I got to both pay homage to some of my favorite actors (Bryan "Salvatore" Batt from "Mad Men," Andre "Bubbs" Royo from "The Wire") and to pay witness to bizarre scenes like Vincent Kartheiser (Pete from "Mad Men") and Jamie Hector (Marlo from "The Wire") swapping cell phone numbers. I had to really fight the urge to interrupt their tete-a-tete with my best, loudest impression of Lester Freamon screaming, "That's the cell number of the mother-****er who dropped 22 bodies on us!"
  • When I mentioned to Jon Hamm that I thought he'd be a natural for Greg Berlanti's in-the-works "Green Lantern" movie, he said I was far from the first person to mention that, and claimed that he was a comic book geek once upon a time himself. I must have looked suspicious, so he invoked the name of Hal Jordan. Still not sure I buy it, but it'd be cool if true -- and cooler if Hamm somehow wound up in the movie.
A fun night was had by all, one of the best such nights in TCA history, a lot of people seemed to agree. If you want to see a picture of Hanks accepting his award (if only to get a sense of what the awards themselves look like), go to the NJ.com version of this post.

16 comments:

par3182 said...

the heritage award always seems to go to a show that's either just finished its run (buffy, west wing, wire) or still on the air (simpsons, nightline, 60 minutes)

what chance do long ago classics such as mash or the mary tyler moore show have?

Mo Ryan said...

Alan neglected to mention that David Simon gave him a shoutout during his acceptance speech. A rude and profane shoutout, but still.

Rule of three means it's a trend: That was the third Sepinwall shoutout from the TCA stage this week.

It was a great night. When I saw Matt Weiner from Mad Men talking to David Simon, I walked up to Alan and said, "Is this like matter and anti-matter meeting?" Apparently not because the entire hotel did not explode (though my head did, a little bit).

Andrew said...

Wow, three Sepinwall shoutouts. Alan, it seems to me like you now need to restore your credibility. Your assignment is to make yourself a high profile enemy in the coming TV seeason. And when I say enemy, I mean you really got to piss someone off. Don't stop at mere artistic criticism, you need to hit somebody with mean-spirited personal attacks. Might I suggest Alan Ball?

Eric said...

Maybe Alan's getting all these shout-outs because he's the last employed newspaper TV critic left?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wow, three Sepinwall shoutouts. Alan, it seems to me like you now need to restore your credibility. Your assignment is to make yourself a high profile enemy in the coming TV seeason. And when I say enemy, I mean you really got to piss someone off. Don't stop at mere artistic criticism, you need to hit somebody with mean-spirited personal attacks. Might I suggest Alan Ball?

Personal attacks may or may not stop the name-checking. You may or may not recall the incident when Aaron Sorkin turned a press conference with dozens of reporters into a chance to rebut my interpretation of "Studio 60."

(Sorkin was actually here a few days ago at ABC's party -- he and Kristin Chenoweth are back together -- and we achieved some sort of detente.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yahoo! has a bunch of other TCA Awards photos (though, typically, nothing of "The Wire" people).

Alan Sepinwall said...

what chance do long ago classics such as mash or the mary tyler moore show have?

Heritage is a relatively new award, and one that a lot of the membership hasn't quite decided what to do with. Once upon a time, "Hill Street Blues" won one of the first Career Achievement Awards (the year it went off the air, of course), and it was assumed that we could select either people or shows in that category. As that never happened again, eventually the Heritage Award was created.

But Career Achievement does sort of balance out Heritage, in that it usually goes to more classic performers. Mary Tyler Moore won it last year, in fact, and other winners have included Dick Van Dyke, Sid Caesar, Norman Lear, Mr. Rogers and Bob Hope.

(You can see the historical list, through last year, of all our winners here, and if that link doesn't work, try this one, which involves a Word document.)

Jeff L said...

Hey Alan, the Sorken post you mention above has a link to an old column on NJ.com. Unfortunately, the link is dead.

As your old columns still on NJ.com somewhere? Any hints on how to find them?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey Alan, the Sorken post you mention above has a link to an old column on NJ.com. Unfortunately, the link is dead.

As your old columns still on NJ.com somewhere? Any hints on how to find them?


Up until last September, all my Star-Ledger columns existed on NJ.com for 14 days and then disappeared. One of the benefits to having the mirror blog over there is that I now have a permanent archive of everything I write going forward, but that still leaves 11 years of my stories that can't be found online. On occasion, I can dig an old one up and post it, as I did a few days ago with the Diane Ruggiero interviews, or a few months back with the Gilligan's Island parody Matt Seitz and I wrote, but it requires some effort and time that I don't usually have.

The blog entry in question tells you all you really need to know about how things went down 'twixt me and Sorkin.

dez said...

Mo, what did Simon say in his rude and profane shout-out?

he and Kristin Chenoweth are back together

She's apparently quite forgiving. Good for her (and him)!

Pamela Jaye said...

I did some digging this afternoon that apparently I did not do well enough. But i did come across the Sopranos guy and Alan, and I think perhaps I found the Sorkin thing as well. Also, someone who was named VP (or whatever) of the TCA on some particular year and then had to explain what the TCA was. It might have been someone from the New York Times. Alas, no Sid Caesar for me. Well, someone wrote a description of how funny his speech was.
Perhaps www.archive.org? but i've only searched that by url and a lot of sites have robots.txt blocking... spidering i'm guessing.
(though I did recently find a nearly complete copy of Ailsa Jenkin's long-down Scott Bakula site. It was like a little treasure.)

I'm also told they have a CBS 1961 Fall Preview Video. I haven't looked for it. I can't keep up with my email.

What I really miss (since they are rarely released outside of the museum) are Paley festival panels.
I've seen a Grey's and a Buffy, I think.

LA said...

I love that you paid homage to Bryan Batt. Sal Romano is a character who is real in my family... an Italian artist who had the misfortune of being a young gay man long before it was acceptable as well as having the added cultural burden. I haven't seen my cousin in 35 years because, sadly, he's long estranged from the family.

Love that Weiner gave Hamm and Slattery a moment to shine. Bravo.

Abbie said...

I want to know what David Simon actually said about you, Alan! Profane or not!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Simon: "The last thing I would say is, it really was worth it sleeping with each and every one of you, except for Sepinwall and Goodman. They made me do things I just don't wanna talk about."

I was really annoyed, as David and I had agreed that this would be just between the two of us.

nfieldr said...

Well... apparently, you just wanted "to make that sh*t special". :-)

Abbie said...

Nice!