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TV Land Awards
Sunday, Apri 17, 2011

Written by H. B. Forman

Opposite Photo:
Michael J. Fox

“New York City Sparkles At TV Land Reunion”

Classic television fans are fiercely loyal to the actors they grew up with.

So attending the recent TV Land Awards, dressed to the nines, was like heading for a night on the town with a dear friend from your childhood. Everyone wants friends like Michael J. Fox, John Travolta, Bill Cosby, and Regis Philbin. Right?

“TV Land and the awards show is about everything we grew up with,” many of the fans agreed. “It’s a celebration of the comedy Gods,” actors and fans alike echoed.

There they were, walking the Red Carpet at the Ninth Annual Awards Show, reminiscing about their TV families of yesteryear: Michael J. Fox and the cast of Family Ties, John Travolta and his pals from Welcome Back Kotter, Billy Cosby and his TV family from The Cosby Show, and the girls from Facts of Life with their headmistress Mrs. Garrett.

The show, which airs at 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 17, pays tribute to classic and contemporary luminaries of television, music and movies. The star-studded night kicks off with a rousing performance of the classic tune “New York, New York,” by legendary entertainer Liza Minnelli.

Celebrity icons from television, film and music join TV Land for the “TV Land Awards 2011,” which, for the first time in the award show’s history, was held in New York. The enthusiastic audience members, all of them big-time classic TV fans, were treated to their favorite TV icons and chilled champagne to boot.

Presenters at the recent awards include Barbara Walters, Stevie Wonder, Ben Stiller, Jane Lynch, Paul Reiser, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick (from the cast of TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland), and the cast of The Real Housewives of New York.

The show honors John Travolta and the cast of Welcome Back Kotter with the 35th Anniversary Award; Bill Cosby and the cast of The Cosby Show with The Impact Award; Michael J. Fox and the cast of Family Ties with the Fan Favorite Award, The Facts of Life with the Pop Culture Award, talk show host Regis Philbin with the Legend Award, and Daryl Hall and John Oates with the Music Icon Award.

The Fan Favorite Award was presented to the Family Ties cast by comedian Ben Stiller. The show won the hearts of viewers everywhere as the fictional Keaton family humorously struggled to deal with a new generation gap and political differences in the 1980s.

Cast members Michael J. Fox, Michael Gross, Meredith Baxter, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, Tracy Pollan and Marc Price accepted, and singer Billy Vera gave a moving performance of his song “At This Moment.”

“It’s a nice memory,” Vera said of watching the show today. “It’s nostalgic. It brings back the memory of when the record was a hit and how it changed my life. My career felt like it was over; things weren’t going well. And thanks to Family Ties, I had a whole, new life. It was and still is a great show – the acting, writing held up.”

Family Ties matriarch Meredith Baxter, who recently published a dramatic memoir, says she didn’t see most the episodes when they were airing, “so when I catch it, I honestly can say this is a fun show. I remember having a great time. I just loved that guy [Michael Gross] he was my best, best friend for seven years, and the whole cast got along really well. We laughed every day and there was a lot of respect and caring that went on, and it carried on to the screen.”

Baxter added that the Family Ties cast members, “All came to see Michael Fox,” whom she has personally supported with his fund-raising efforts to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. “How could you not be enormously proud and supportive of all of the work he has done. It’s been amazing what he has been able to accomplish.”

Other memorable moments in the evening included an impromptu performance of “Higher Ground” by music legend Stevie Wonder, famed singer Billy Vera singing “At This Moment,” “Alex” and “Ellen’s Song” (real life husband and wife Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan) from Family Ties.

Presented by musical prodigy Stevie Wonder, The Impact Award is given to a show that offered both entertainment and enlightenment, with comedy that reflected reality. The Cosby Show cast – Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Tempestt Bledsoe, Sabrina LeBeauf, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Raven Symone, Geoffrey Owens and Malcolm-Jamal Warner – accepted the award.

When asked what it’s like to watch The Cosby Show today, LeBeauf says, “the show is still relevant and funny. As jaded as we are, 25 years later, and as much as television has changed, you can just turn it on and have a real good laugh.”

The classically- trained theater actress says the advice we received was the best. “We learned under the best. In terms of professionalism and comic timing, we had Mr. Cosby, so we had the best.”

Travolta said he enjoyed his reunion with the cast of his beloved sitcom Welcome Back Kotter at the TV Land Awards. The purpose was to accept the 35th Anniversary Award for the edgy sitcom, which ran from 1975-1979, and launched John Travolta’s career as the character Vinnie Barbarino.

Barbara Walters presented The Legend Award to Regis Philbin (LIVE! with Regis and Kelly, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?), whose career in television has spanned over 50 years and two Emmy Awards.

While walking the Red Carpet with his wife, Joy, beaming at his side, Philbin genuinely enjoyed reminiscing. “My first job was an NBC page in the summer of 1955, I was a page and a stage hand and they all spring boarded to the next. The first talk show I ever saw in person was my first day as a page and it was Steve Allen doing The Tonight Show.”

TV Land has original programming, classic and contemporary television series, hit movies and a full-service Web site, TV Land is now seen in more than 98 million U.S. homes. And the numbers of devoted fans keep growing.

Immediately after the 9 p.m. TV Land Awards show is “TV Land Awards: All Access” at 10:30 p.m. Hosted by TV personality Dave Price, "All Access" is look at the "TV Land Awards 2011" features red carpet arrivals and exclusive backstage interviews with those dear friends from TV yesteryear.





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