A raucous R-rated opening marked the beginning of the TV Academy Hall of Fame gala, before the night settled into the clever geniality and sincere celebration all expected Monday at the Beverly Hilton.
Kudos host Kaley Cuoco drew big laughs with her industry-centric quip (directed at CBS Corp. prexy/CEO and Hall of Fame inductee Leslie Moonves) that tied together the recent brouhaha over the CBS star’s paid-for tweet praising the Dish Network’s Hopper service, which her employer is suing Dish over.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say one thing: ‘Leslie, fuck the dish network.’ ” Cuoco said. “Are we cool now? Are we good?”
And with that out of the way, it was on to the inductions.
First came producer Dick Wolf, introduced by longtime “Law & Order” thesp Ice-T, who said Wolf offered him the ultimate praise by saying, “Ice-T is the least pain in my ass.” The actor added that the famous two-note sound in every “Law & Order” episode was actually Wolf’s cash register.
In accepting his honor, Wolf said what he did best was “hire obsessive people.” He later noted that NBC was in his blood: His parents were publicists who met while working for the Peacock.
“I’ve often wondered after that fact if I was conceived at 30 Rock,” Wolf mused.
The clip package honoring CBS newsman Bob Schieffer was marked by his joy at an appearance onstage at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. But make no mistake – Scheiffer was also praised as the consummate newsman, from the moment he scored an interview in the backseat of a car with the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald hours after the Kennedy assassination, across half a century to his present-day duties for the Eye.
Schieffer capped his thank yous with a call to action for his successors.
“The important thing we all have to be thinking about in journalism is manner and content,” he said. “The main thing is, is it accurate? Is it true?
“I accept this on behalf of all young journalists. Keep doing it – we need you, we want you to do it.”
Next, Aaron Sorkin shepherded the posthumous induction of TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, whose story was told in fascinating detail, including his original conception at age 14 of the medium and his prediction decades in advance that “a man is going to walk on the moon, and we’re going to watch it on television.” Three generations of Farnsworth’s descendants accepted on his behalf.
John Madden drew big cheers as he took the stage to introduce Inductee No. 4, Al Michaels – appropriate enough given all the cheers at the games Michaels broadcast.
“Could the history of your profession be written without your name?” Madden asked, calling this the definition of a Hall of Famer. “There’s no way the history (of sportscasting) will be written without Al Michaels.”
The retrospective of his career certainly testified to that: Michaels is the only man to broadcast the championships of all four major American sports plus both Winter and Summer Olympics. He was thankful for his good fortune.
“Were it not for the Farnsworth family, tonight I would be at my retirement dinner from State Farm insurance in San Bernardino,” Michaels said, before addressing Wolf about NBC’s struggles.
“We’d better keep it up or NBC will be working out of that State Farm insurance office in San Bernardino,” he said. “We have to at least pass Univision.”
Michaels had several good lines, including his recollection of how he got the assignment that led to his famous call of the 1980 U.S. hockey victory over the Soviet Union. His colleagues at ABC, from Jim McKay to Chris Schenkel, Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell, had broadcast a total of zero hockey games.
“Al Michaels – one,” he said. “And I knew what offside and icing were, so I got it.”
Michaels ran through his list of broadcasting partners (“Dennis Miller – that’s a chapter. … O.J. Simpson – that’s another chapter.”) and also discussed his dream, after moving more than 50 years ago as a kid from Brooklyn to Los Angeles at the same time as the Dodgers, to grow up and succeed Vin Scully as the team’s lead broadcaster.
“I saw Vinny the other day,” said Michaels, “and I asked, ‘How is it I’m going to retire before you?’”
Will Arnett did not disappoint with his deadpan clever introduction of Ron Howard, whose long life in the industry Arnett compared to “those pandas … we’re able to monitor in captivity on camera for every phase in his life.”
In the group of those who came out in support of Howard was his father Rance, the veteran actor. The audience was told that Howard pere toured in “Mister Roberts” for a year with Henry Fonda, which led to Fonda becoming the first adult to encourage the younger Howard to direct.
Finally, Ted Danson was joined in introducing Moonves by Mary Steenburgen, who recalled the early 1970s days when she and Moonves were both acting students of Sandy Meisner. Despite Moonves’ long self-deprecation of his acting career, Steenburgen insisted Meisner considered him among his most talented pupils.
Moonves – accompanied by his own parents, whom he said recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, wrapped the night with several thankful and sentimental notes, such as the memory of a phone call on his first day with CBS from Walter Cronkite, welcoming him to the company.
“I truly love what I do every single day,” Moonves said, later adding that maybe “my father tonight is finally accepting that I didn’t go to medical school.”