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TCA Press Tour 2011: Betty White and Ed Asner rock the critics

January 5, 2011 | 12:24 pm

The Winter Television Critics Assn. Press Tour kicked off Wednesday at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena with a very cool blast from the past: Betty White and Ed Asner together again!

Well, not exactly.

The two comics, who worked together in the 1970s on  "Mary Tyler Moore," appeared on two consecutive MTV Networks panels, but their affection was evident.  Besides her dozens (or is it thousands?) of TV appearances in 2010, White is starring on TV Land's hit, "Hot in Cleveland," which is premiering its second season on Jan. 19. Asner is part of the new CMT sitcom "Working Class," about a scrappy single mom (Melissa Peterman) who moves her children to an upscale suburb. Asner plays her cranky neighbor, Hank.

Much of the "Hot in Cleveland" session was spent addressing how much everyone loves Betty White. We know that you, too, love Betty White, and Betty White loves that you love Betty White. But Betty White is feeling a bit bashful about all the attention.  So keep on loving her, but maybe don't tell her so much? She's about to turn 89, and you should listen to your elders.

Responding to a question about why she's so darn lovable, White replied: "Oh, my dear, have I got you fooled."

When a reporter asked cast members Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick,  what it's like to work with the iconic actress, White piped up:  "What is this Betty White business? This is so silly. You've had such an overdose of me lately. But trust me, I think I'm gonna go away for a while."

She elaborated on that when she was asked if she's feeling embarrassed by all of the attention.

"It's hard for me to say no to a job because you spend your career thinking if you say no, they'll never ask you again. But my mother taught me to say no when I was a girl," she said. "I'm trying to cut down. I really am, but when you love what you do so much and this lady [executive producer Suzanne Martin] gives us such fun things to do, it's a privilege."


Up next was Asner, who declared "I hope I get to touch her" when someone on his panel mentioned that White was at the hotel. When a reporter asked Asner if White was still hot, he answered: "I just had cataracts and I'm still adjusting but what I see is looking pretty good."

Asner, who said he felt his voice work on "Up" had remade his career, offered his thoughts on why he and White have had such long, successful careers.

"I think talent has something to do it. I'd like to lay claim to that," he said and paused. "I figure I'm in that middle stage of aging. ... I'm in that middle stage prior to becoming Mickey Rooney or Betty White."

Asner then jokingly went after another senior actress, Cloris Leachman, who has one more Emmy than he does.

"No, I'm not in a race," he said later.  "I don't ever expect to get another Emmy, even on this show as good as it is. I'm very happy with the seven, which represent a variety of work in both drama and comedy. To keep working, to keep doing the thing that I enjoy the most, that's the only joy that needs to be done. I love it."

It also didn't hurt that executive producer Jill Cargerman called him a "sex symbol" and "eye candy."

--Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Betty White. Credit: TV Land. Bottom photo: Melissa Peterman and Ed Asner in " Working Class." Credit: Ron Jaffe/CMT.