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GUEST BLOGS #38-39: Diane Holloway, Bill Brioux on 2009 TCA Awards
August 3, 2009  | By David Bianculli
[Bianculli here: The Television Critics Association celebrated the 25th anniversary of its TCA Awards presentation this weekend in Pasadena, and two of our contributing writers were there to file reports. I was there only in spirit, but remain emotionally invested, because I originated and presented the first TCA Awards, back when it was a single TCA Award. I'll tell that story tomorrow. Today, we hear from Diane Holloway and Bill Brioux on such deserving winners as Bryan Cranston, Jim Parsons, Betty White, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men and True Blood...]
betty-white.jpgTCA Awards Go Out with a "Big Bang"

By Diane Holloway

My, how time flies! The Television Critics Awards celebrated a quarter century of high-fiving quality TV with an appropriately splashy ceremony at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena on Saturday night. Yep, we've been honoring television with our very own glass plaques for 25 years.

Sci Fi Channel [now Syfy] and its Battlestar Galactica picked up the Program of the Year award, and NBC's ER, which just ended an Emmy-laden 15-season run, received the Heritage Award. Noah Wyle was on hand to accept for the medical drama.

But the big winner was The Big Bang Theory, which won for Individual Achievement in Comedy for star Jim Parsons and Outstanding Achievement in Comedy for the show itself.


Parsons stammered through his acceptance speech, pointing out that he "depends totally on writers," winding up by sucking up to critics in his very own words: "I liked you very much before this, but I feel like I owe you dinner now."

Big Bang creator/producer Chuck Lorre pronounced his show's win "a freakin' miracle" and said he wanted to "speak from the heart, but my heart was killed 20 years ago on Roseanne."

Bryan Cranston, who pulls out all the stops as the frantic chemistry-teacher-turned-drug dealer on Breaking Bad, won for Individual Achievement in Drama.

"I wish our company of actors could be here with me tonight, but you didn't award this to them," Cranston cracked before launching into the longest and funniest acceptance speech of the night. "I want to be sincere about this... but I just can't," he said.

The stylish 1960s saga Mad Men won for Outstanding Achievement in Drama, with Mr. GQ himself, Jon Hamm, on hand along with other cast members. But it was creator Matthew Weiner who accepted, revealing that he loved TV so much that he almost flunked out of college because he watched too much.


TCA president Dave Walker (New Orleans Times-Picayune) introduced the evening's host, Chelsea Lately funny girl Chelsea Handler, who started things off by describing herself as "the poor man's Kathy Griffin."

Not really. Some of us think Handler is just as funny as, if not funnier than, Griffin. Commenting on some of the TCA nominees, Handler said she was surprised that Fox News wasn't up for a comedy award. And she described nominees Fringe, Mad Men and Lost as dramas "about the Republican Party."

A highlight of the evening was the ever-feisty Betty White, whose career spans 60 years and includes such iconic series as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls. The octogenarian received the TCA Career Achievement Award, grinning as she proclaimed, "You can't get rid of me! I just won't go away!" And indeed she stayed for the after-party, happy to enjoy a drink and praise from journalists.

I had the pleasure of handing out the evening's first award, for Outstanding New Program, to HBO's campy vampire saga True Blood. Creator Alan Ball accepted, and seemed genuinely thrilled with the show's first accolade.

Here is a complete list of winners for the 2009 TCA Awards:


New Program: True Blood, HBO
Individual Achievement in Drama: Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad, AMC
Individual Achievement in Comedy: Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory, CBS
News and Information: The Alzheimer's Project, HBO
Children's Programming: Yo Gabba Gabba!, Nickelodeon
Movies, Miniseries & Specials: Grey Gardens, HBO
Heritage Award: ER, NBC
Career Achievement: Betty White
Achievement in Comedy: The Big Bang Theory
Achievement in Drama: Mad Men, AMC
Program of the Year: Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi/Syfy


Diane Holloway was the TV critic for the Austin American Statesman for 30 years, until the downturn in the newspaper business prompted her to take a buyout. She's now sniffing out other possibilities. Before newspapers, she worked in Washington for the Library of Congress, the American Film Institute and the National Endowment for the Arts. Maybe something entirely different is next. Or not.



TCA Awards: Saluting TV's Best... And Our Own Best, Ed Bark and Dave Walker

By Bill Brioux

The TCA Awards are a blast because a) they're short -- the whole deal takes about an hour, b) they aren't televised, so the speeches are fun and filthy, and c) the winners all show up because, well, even in these tough times we're TV critics, dammit.

Chuck Lorre, the creator of The Big Bang Theory, took the stage to accept the Best Comedy award for that show. "I'd like to speak from the heart," he opened, paused just long enough, and then, "but my heart was killed 20 years ago on Roseanne."

Lorre spoke about his sometimes "adversarial" relationship with critics over the years (he also created and produces Two and a Half Men), but he seems to have mellowed now that we've given him an award (and he has more money than God).


Other winners last night were Big Bang's Jim Parsons (a critics' darling because he plays a nerd), Bryan Cranston (a repeat winner for his breathtaking role in Breaking Bad) and Betty White, who got our Career Achievement prize. Nobody deserves it more.

Besides iconic, much loved roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, White is a true TV pioneer, making her local TV debut in 1949 and being on network since 1952.

Nickelodeon's original Yo Gabba Gabba! series took the children's programming prize.

A highlight of the night for critics was the appearance of "Uncle Barky," former Dallas Morning News man Ed Bark, who told stories about the 25 years of TCA statue salutes.

The first ceremony, related Bark, took 20 minutes, had a single guest (former NBC chairman Grant Tinker) and featured plaques purchased in a local trophy shop in Phoenix, Arizona (site of part of the annual press tour back in the mid-'80s for some long-forgotten reason).


Bark, who put on another clinic for the dot-com kids in the session room with his classy questions these past few days, rallied those of us trying to bridge the beat as it lurches into the 21st century. When you know how to use words, they connect with a power and resonance that makes you want to follow them to understanding and delight. Bark has that gift, and it was so cool to share it again last night.

[The picture above, taken by me a few press tours ago, shows Bark at left, with Dusty Saunders of the Rocky Mountain News (and now the Denver Post) at center and TV WORTH WATCHING founder David Bianculli at right. You can continue to read Bark's excellent work, on the web, at UncleBarky.com.]


Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and a few of his cast members, including Jon Hamm, made the after-party scene. Mad Men was singled out for the second year in a row as TV's best drama. HBO's True Blood was named best new show, with creator Alan Ball accepting. The cable network's Grey Gardens was named best TV-movie or miniseries.

Besides Bark, several other alumni from the TV beat made the scene, including former Washington Post scribe and past TCA president Michael Hill, and Toronto Sun crush Claire Bickley (here with TCA legend Rodi Alexander), always Queen of the Scene. Some stayed even after the open bar went cash-only around 11 p.m., that's just how much love there was in the room.

Especially for outgoing TCA president Dave Walker. The rock-steady New Orleans Times-Picayune newsman gave his entire nervous system to this collection of professional cry-babies over a harrowing presidential term, surviving writers' strikes, business model breakdowns and Katrina. The man is free at last. Bow your head and give thanks.



Bill Brioux started contributing to TV WORTH WATCHING in 2008. A veteran TV critic and reporter, Brioux was TV columnist for the Toronto Sun from 1999-2007. He runs and writes his own website about all things television, called TV Feeds My Family.





1 Comment


Tom said:

I know.
Team members really should leave the comments space to the readers. But Bill's and Diane's stories from the tour have been so much fun to read that I'm going to break the rules.

I'm very certain the tour has changed drastically since I last participated in one in 1985. But I'm just as sure there's still no more energizing group to be among than a gaggle of TV critics who are doing temporary duty at a California hotel. I, who wrote from a medium market, used to compare it to those baseball weeks during which minor-league players could move up, temporarily, to the majors. What a crowd to run with for a while. Always made my reporting better.

Thanks, Bill and Diane -- and landlord David -- for taking all of us where we otherwise would not be able to go.

By the way, the tour detoured to Phoenix for a couple of years because then-CBS boss Bill Paley (who had some warm thoughts for Arizona) said it would. And while ABC and NBC stuck with LA, CBS put critics together on a plane and shuttled them back and forth (always leading the transported to worry that Paley could have eliminated many headaches with a crash into the desert).

Comment posted on August 3, 2009 9:55 AM
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