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September 02, 2009

Story: 2006 Hall of Fame Honorees Inducted


A quintet of television titans, three onscreen and two behind the cameras, was inducted into the 17th Television Academy Hall of Fame during a festive ceremony hosted by Lucie Arnaz, daughter of two previous Hall of Fame honorees, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Held December 14 at Beverly Hills Hotel, the celebration recognized the achievements of Tom Brokaw, James Burrows, Leonard Goldberg, Regis Philbin and William Shatner with remarks by esteemed friends and screen clips recapping their illustrious careers.

They became the 111th through 115th inductees of the Hall of Fame, which was created by the late John H. Mitchell, a former Television Academy president, to honor those in television who have made extraordinary contributions to the medium.

Lucie Arnaz carried on her family’s Hall of Fame tradition as the evening’s host: Her mother Lucille Ball was one of the first honorees, while father Desi Arnaz was inducted at the seventh ceremony.

William Shatner

After a welcome by Academy chairman and CEO Dick Askin and Hall of Fame selection committee co-chair (with Conrad Bachmann) Sam Haskell, the first in the night’s spotlight was William Shatner, now a star of Boston Legal, celebrating fifty years on television. The actor had asked his wife Elizabeth to make his presentation.

“You set an example of constant determination for excellence,” she said, before humorously describing the Star Trek fans who still approach on the street with the request to “Beam me up.” In acceptance, Shatner noted that “had I known Star Trek would have lasted that long, I would have taken better care of myself — and asked about residuals.”

Recounting the decades of his career, he said, “Nobody mentioned a Hall of Fame. Then, in my seventies, suddenly someone said, ‘How about a Hall of Fame?’ I said, ‘Sounds good to me.’ I’m very, very grateful.”

Regis Philbin

Next up: A man with some numbers of his own: 15,662, to be exact. In September, honoree Regis Philbin broke his own Guinness World Record for “Most Hours on Camera” with that figure, which continues to climb. Because of commitments to his New York-based talk show Live with Regis and Kelly, Philbin was unable to attend the ceremony, but sent his acceptance on videotape.

Being recognized alongside such talented people is especially important to him, he said, because when he was starting out, “I wondered what my talent was."

"One day, I saw [Tonight Show host] Jack Paar, who came out and sat at his desk and talked about what he’d done that day. I thought, ‘Maybe I could do that,’ Philbin shared. "How can I possibly tell you how honored I am to be included with them in the Television Academy Hall of Fame?”

Leonard Goldberg

Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone next took the stage to introduce Leonard Goldberg, whom he called “one of the most effective, influential producers in television history…the level of success he and Aaron Spelling achieved together will probably never be matched.”

Goldberg, who in his pre-Spelling years as an ABC executive brought The Dating Game, The Mod Squad and That Girl to television and launched the careers of Barry Diller and Michael Eisner, said in his acceptance remarks that ABC’s situation as the third-place network “gave me the freedom to take creative risks.

Later, his risk-taking led to his and Spelling putting the television-movie genre on the map. “We in entertainment only make flickering images,” Goldberg said. “The need to be innovative is even more important. All we are bound by is our imagination, passion and creativity.”

James Burrows

Clearly subscribing to that philosophy was the evening’s next duo: honoree James Burrows and his presenter, Grant Tinker. The latter recalled receiving a letter from Burrows, after Tinker had co-founded MTM Productions, saying that he wanted to become a director; at Tinker’s invitation he observed and learned well from Jay Sandrich, frequent director of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Burrows, who subsequently co-created Cheers, executive-produced and directed every episode of Will & Grace, helmed the pilots for Friends, Dharma & Greg and Two-and-a-Half Men and is now executive-producing and directing The Class.

He remarked in acceptance that, “It seems strange that this is happening at a time when people are talking about the death of the sitcom. It’s not dead. It’s just napping, and it’s going to wake up just fine.”

Burrows continued, “I accept this on behalf of all the sitcom directors as an indication that we know what we are doing. We are not traffic cops. We are creativity cops.”

Tom Brokaw

The evening’s final honoree, Tom Brokaw, was inducted by California First Lady and former NBC newswoman Maria Shriver, who called the former NBC Nightly News anchor “great” in many ways: “His humanity, his soul, his heart."

"He’s honest, fair and dependable, and he’s always treated every subject he has covered with honesty and truth,” Shriver said.

After a retrospective of those subjects, Brokaw, who introduced Maria Shriver to husband, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, joked that after the ceremony’s prior laughs, “When I show up, the world falls apart.”

“This is a return home for me,” he added, as KNBC in Los Angeles had recruited him from the Midwest when he was twenty-six to do the local news. “I didn’t see television until I was sixteen,” he said. “When I began to realize this astonishing medium and its influence on the world, I wanted to be a part of that."

"I am reminded of that power of television to entertain and inform," Brokaw said. "I’m very grateful for this honor.”

The evening’s musical entertainment was provided by Mary Haskell and Sam Harris, who sang a rousing eleven-minute medley of television theme songs. They joined Arnaz for a show-capping rendition of “White Christmas.”

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