Even as the best in current television programming was honored in a dozen categories, it was the recognition for a show of yore that brought down the house at the 29th Annual Television Critics Association Awards at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom Saturday night.
Norman Lear, the creator of "All in the Family," and Rob Reiner, its beloved meathead, got a sustained standing ovation as they accepted the Heritage Award from TCA Vice President Scott Pierce.
The pair gleefully read a transcript of a recently uncovered conversation that was taped in the Oval Office between President Richard Nixon and Bob Haldeman in which they opined that the groundbreaking CBS comedy glorified homosexuality.
Reiner also couldn’t resist ribbing some of the fellow honorees of the evening.
Further hilarity ensued when Lear imitated Amy Poehler doing a pirouette imitating Kaitlin Jenkins of “Bunheads,” the now canceled ABC Family program that took the critics prize for outstanding achievement in youth programming.
It was just another comedic moment in an evening that began with Comedy Central’s Key and Peele doing an Obama and Luther schtick, during which Luther threatened a drone strike if Netflix didn’t release its viewership numbers.
Then, Louis C.K. started the running gag of the night when he accepted the individual achievement in comedy prize for his eponymous FX show, calling the acrylic trophy a “shitty piece of plastic” that he would use to post drink specials on if he ever bought a bar.
Most of the other winners also proceeded to comment on the trophies, which are voted on by the 220-member critics organization, which invites only the winners to the ceremony — making for an extremely streamlined presentation that ran for a little over an hour.
Several of the honorees, including Barbara Walters for career achievement, “Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany for achievement in drama and Ken Burns for news and information for his docu "Central Park Five," were not able to attend and taped their acceptance speeches.
It was a big night for FX, as in addition to honors for “Louie,” its freshman series "The Americans" took the award for outstanding new program. Keri Russell and Noah Emmerich were among those on hand from the show to accept.
HBO also scored two TCAs, for "Game of Thrones” as best drama — accepted by Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington — and “Behind the Candelabra” in the category for movies, miniseries and specials.
"I’m a movie guy,” said executive producer Jerry Weintraub in accepting the award. "I didn’t even know what TCA was until six months ago and (HBO’s) Nancy Lesser told me I had to come tonight and wear a suit. They were the greatest people to work with, ever," he said in describing the difficult road in getting the Liberace biopic made, even with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon on board, before the premium cabler gave him the green light.
“Shark Tank” took the prize in reality programming, accepted by the reality-prolific Mark Burnett, and “The Big Bang Theory” was the winner in comedy, adding another feather to Chuck Lorre’s cap.
The evening ended with the presentation of the program of the year award, which Vince Gilligan and Brian Cranston accepted for AMC’s “Breaking Bad” — which, sadly for its many devotees, is about to unspool its final eight episodes.
Gilligan said that three days earlier, they had a premiere in New York and Warren Buffett was there as well as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. “How the heck did it come to this?,” he recalled asking himself.
”I’ll tell you how it came to this — folks like you guys,” he said in thanking the television critics. “Back in season one when our official number was 117 viewers, folks like you guys spread the word about ‘Breaking Bad.’”