Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Red Carpet Walk Down (TV) Memory Lane...

Tonight New York City hosted the 10th Anniversary of the TV Land Awards. One has to wonder if we need another award show - there would seem to be a new one every week...or any number of reasons to uncomfortably cram like a sardine on a receiving line and ask celebrities questions about "what they're doing here?". Fortunately with this particular awards gathering, it's more of the industry (and fan's) way of showing legendary sitcom acts that before reality television took over the fabric of popular culture, we actually remembered and loved tuning-in to well-scripted situation comedies.

The event taped live for an upcoming televised broadcast for TV Land which will air later this month and was hosted by none other than morning TV's new reigning queen Kelly Ripa - who didn't stop to say "hi" to me (whatever)...that's OK - because I would have had to reach down from the perch I was on to talk to the diminutive celeb-personality. I'll always still love me my Ripa...and I'm confident that one day I'll sit as a guest co-host on her show. It was a treat to see her in all her summery bronze goodness, but before I could bat an eye the cast of some of my favorite shows ever on television were all making their way down the maroon carpet - I suppose it had to be a shade darker than a regular red carpet - for legal reason or something. It certainly wasn't a different color because any of these talented folks had lost their luster...they all shined just as brightly as any contemporary star in Hollywood.

The evening honored the very talented ensemble and writer behind a television show that started perhaps the first dialogues about television series. It was unlike anything that had ever aired before. The cast of the hit CBS series "Murphy Brown" happily made their way over to acknowledge they're receipt of the evening's Impact Award. Faith Ford looked stunning, Charles Kimbrough and Grant Shaud still looked very much the part, and I didn't admit it to him but Joe Regalbuto looked just as bit as handsome as he ever did - in that quirky sort of way (there was something about him) or maybe it was how show creator Diane English put pen to the page and made them all a wonder, but Joe always stood out to me. Perhaps it was the way he always challenged the show's star. Candice Bergen was not on the carpet...but who can blame her - she's currently appearing on Broadway.

Everyone remembers "Laverne & Shirley" - they were America's first girlfriends, even when they appeared on "Happy Days" they had stolen the show. I picked up the habit of drinking milk and Pepsi because of Laverne (played by Penny Marshall) and no one looked better than the raven haired Cindy Williams (Shirley) who admitted that if there was ever a reboot of the duo's escapades she'd want Drew Barrymore to play her part. Before they jumped the shark and moved to California from their native Milwaukee, the show was destination television every week.

Now here comes the embarrassing part: It would have been one of my crowning interviews of the evening, but I took a stumble last week that sprained my ankle and obviously paid for it on the carpet when I was approached by the cast of one of the evening's other big honorees. I was a huge fan of the show "One Day at a Time" mostly because it was one of the few shows on television that showed a single mother played by Bonnie Franklin making it all work - and it reminded me of our own situation comedy at home being raised by a single mother - though less dramatic. At just the precise moment that I was poised to ask Bonnie a question, a sharp pain seized by sprained ankle and I swear my eyes must have bulged out of my head like a classic cartoon character...I was instantly sweating profusely and forgotten what I meant to ask Bonnie almost immediately - my bad...but the recovery was quick! I took it in minute at a time I guess.

And although all this nostalgia took me back to my childhood, another show that was being honored was a little more present to me as a young person. "In Living Color" changed the way that we looked at sketch comedy and also introduced us to Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez. While "Fly Girls" Carrie Ann Inaba and Laurieann Gibson launched all-new careers since those days, to see the comedy troupe reunited including all the Wayans brothers, Tommy Davidson, Kelly Coffield and David Alan Grier - this show was among one of the first to push the envelope and introduce the mainstream world to the dynamic spectrum of life in America, and they are poised for a comeback! The show was daring, poked fun at life in America, but winning always proclaimed - without too much of a can do what you want to do - In Living Color!

Paul Reubens the man behind "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" was also present and would accept the appropriate honor of the Pop Culture Award. No one ever wants to give props to the fact that as Pee-Wee Herman, Reubens did more for children's television that any other show of its time. He proved that it can be just as engaging to the kid in all of us, at any age...and provocatively subtle.

Overall the night was a remarkable reminder of what is missing in our home entertainment. There was a time when tuning-in at a specific time to catch-up with your favorite TV family meant something. These are the days of television that can no longer be recaptured - and the ones that perhaps mattered the most. It may seem like an after-thought of sorts but let's be realistic - these were iconic moments in television history and the folks that made it happen. These snapshots of American popular culture are like a time capsule of human evolution, and unless they return for rehab stints with Dr. Drew or are competing on Dancing With the So-Called Stars the skill of talented folks gets largely forgotten. I'm grateful that clearly they are not and are still appreciated for their groundbreaking contributions to entertainment and popular culture. Thank you to TV Land for helping us to tune-in to a time not forgotten. Here's to the re-run and syndication!

JC Alvarez is the host and personality behind the nationally syndicated radio-show "Out Loud & Live!" on Modern World Radio ( and is also a pop-culture/celebrity columnist and Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net (

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