Steve Harvey grew up with parents who loved TV so much that they named their son after the gravel-voiced star of “Highway Patrol,” Broderick Crawford.
Harvey took that cue and grew up dreaming of being an actor. Along the way, he sold insurance and worked for a carpet cleaning company among other many odd jobs. An open mic night at a Cleveland comedy club in 1985 sent him off into the world of standup comedy.
A decade later, Harvey got his big break when he was cast in the ABC sitcom “Me and the Boys.” The show was short-lived, but Harvey has been a force in television ever since. His standing as a comedian, talk show host, game show host and yes, accident-prone Miss Universe emcee was saluted Wednesday night at NATPE’s 13th annual Brandon Tartikoff Awards, held at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel as part of the org’s annual conference.
Harvey told the crowd of execs and producers that he feels fortunate to work in television. “We don’t dig ditches. We don’t drive trucks. We go to work in television,” he said. “What a blessing that is. How did God pick us?”
In addition to God and his wife, Harvey cited another person that he credited for revving up his career: NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert, who was in attendance. Harbert was head of programming at ABC when “Me and the Boys” was greenlit. And years later, Harbert was key in the decision by the NBC-owned station group to pickup Harvey’s syndicated talk show.
“That he would put me on primetime television … and then believe in me again (with the talk show) — I think about you all time,” Harvey gushed. His award was president by Endemol Shine North America co-president Cris Abrego.
Jones’ long career in music, film, TV and live events was lovingly detailed by presenters Gloria and Emilio Estefan, who told the very personal story of how Jones came to be godfather to their daughter.
Jones urged the crowd to work to make sure that the melting pot of American life is reflected on the small screen.
Those with influence need to remember “the power of the images we put forth,” Jones said. “We live in a very diverse world with many stories.”
Herzog’s long run in cable, from the early MTV days to shepherding “The Daily Show” and “South Park” at Comedy Central, was saluted by “Daily Show” correspondent Jordan Klepper, who made the trek to Miami despite having a broken foot.
From the time he was a TV-obsessed kid. Herzog said he never considered any other career. “I only ever wanted to work in television,” he said. When he studied the biz at Emerson College, “my grandmother thought I was learning to fix televisions.” Herzog also took a quick detour from the podium to get Jones to autograph a well-worn vinyl copy of his 1969 album “Walking in Space.” “One of the great albums of all time,” Herzog assured the crowd.
Lear, the legendary producer of “All in the Family” and many other hits, got a big laugh by describing his long friendship with Brandon Tartikoff, the late NBC programming genius. “Actually when I think about it, I don’t owe Brandon Tartikoff anything — I never got a call from him picking up a show,” he said.
Laing, the British TV exec who runs the London-based Endemol Shine Group, issued a call of her own after accepting the award from 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch. She described her ascent through the business side of the TV biz, first at Jim Henson Co.’s international arm and then at BSkyB, as a process of realizing that while some were born to act, write, produce or direct, others were meant to be the people that “make things happen.”
A generation of women have made great strides in rising to positions of power in TV, Laing observed. Now those women have an obligation to “reach down and pull that next generation of enablers up the ladder,” she said. “I’m counting on you.”