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TV Land Awards 2011: Best and Worst

April 17, 2011 |  8:40 pm


One thing the TV Land Awards lack is suspense. The awards were held last weekend on April 10 at the Javits Center in New York City, so the award recipients are no big secret. But then again, we already know how all the shows being honored on the awards turned out anyway, so creating suspense really isn't the main objective here. It's about nostalgia and a chance to see who got bald and who got fat. Who got (more) famous and who drifted off into obscurity. It's the closest thing TV will ever get to a high school reunion, and for that it's also one of the most fun of the second-tier awards shows.

Here are the highlights (and regrettable lowlights) of the show, which aired on TV Land on Sunday:

No host is a good host: If Ricky Gervais' blistering Golden Globes hosting performance taught us anything, it's that if an awards show is going to have a host, it should be willing to let that host swing for the fences (a la Gervais) or risk causing a backlash (a la James Franco at the Academy Awards). This year, the TV Land Awards went without a host and ditched a potentially unfunny opening monologue and some kind of awkward pre-taped sketch or two. They were not missed.

We love New York... and 'Family Ties'?: Show opener Liza Minnelli announced the theme of this year's awards, held for the first time in NYC. The shows honored — "The Cosby Show," "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "The Facts of Life" — all took place in New York state, if not New York City. So what's "Family Ties" doing in there? Michael J. Fox may have conquered '80s Manhattan in "The Secret of My Success" and '90s Manhattan in "Spin City," but we're fairly certain "Family Ties" was set in Ohio.

Don't cross the Cos: "The Cosby Show" won the Impact award, and the entire cast reunited on stage to accept the award from Stevie Wonder. Well, not the entire cast. Lisa Bonet, who was famously fired from the show in 1991 because of alleged creative differences with the Cos, was not present. Nor was she mentioned by Bill Cosby, who painted a rosy picture of the show's groundbreaking eight years on TV. "For eight years we remained a family," Cosby said. "I want all of you to know that in the eight years working, not one of us had an argument on the set, nobody stomped off, nobody showed up late to anything." Guess he was only speaking for those in attendance.

Has the Betty White era finally come to a close?: Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick introduced the tribute to "The Facts of Life." You mean there are other people on "Hot in Cleveland"?

What's that, Mrs. Garrett? "The Facts of Life's" Charlotte Rae, filling in for Betty White in the event's beloved TV old-person category, made the evening's most befuddling comment when she said of her castmates, "I'm so proud of my girls. They all turned out to be straight! Straight!" In the interests of avoiding controversy, we'll just assume she meant they grew up without criminal records. Right, Mrs. G.?

Regis does the time warp again: Barbara Walters presented Regis Philbin with the Legend award and introduced a brief retrospective of Reeg on TV through the years. The clips revealed a star whose personality has changed little over his decades in broadcasting. However, maybe a little change would help Regis tell time a bit better. During his award speech, he told a story of putting Bill Cosby to sleep on his San Diego show in 1962 and again "last year." The photo evidence he displayed to the audience from "last year" showed a much younger Regis and a Cosby with full head of hair. (A disrepency reinforced by a reaction shot from a nearly bald Cosby at the awards.) Regis appears trapped in a time warp of his own design.

In your face, Charlotte Rae: "Family Ties" star and lesbian Meredith Baxter seemed to have a different take on Charlotte Rae's speech when she said, "Although we didn't all come out as straight as apparently 'The Facts of Life' cast, we're doing pretty well."

Michael J. Fox is indestructible: The "Family Ties" star may be entering his third decade of struggling with Parkinson's disease, but the 49-year-old still looks like he's just in his third decade of life.

Hall and Oates will rock you. Mildly.: The evening's musical guests, '80s duo Darryl Hall and John Oates got the crowd nodding their heads appreciatively while others shimmied agreeably. These stars are old, so maybe that's the most they could do. On the other hand, what more can anyone do for the music of Hall and Oates?

Life repeats itself: "Welcome Back, Kotter" co-creator and star Gabe Kaplan started off with a little speech about the creation of the series, but he quickly ceded the microphone to supporting actor John Travolta, who took control of the audience, just as Travolta broke out from the show itself.


TV Land Awards discussion

Photos from the TV Land Awards arrivals

Photos from the TV Land Awards

 — Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: The cast of "Welcome Back, Kotter," from left, Marcia Strassman, John Travolta, Ellen Travolta and Gabe Kaplan. Credit: Larry Busacca / Getty Images.