Moonves, Michaels, Schieffer, Wolf Enter the TV Hall of Fame
Beverly Hills - Leslie Moonves was the last up at the 22nd Television Hall of Fame ceremony on Monday evening -- following emotional acceptance speeches by sportscaster Al Michaels, newsman Bob Schieffer, producer Dick Wolf, actor turned director Ron Howard and writer Aaron Sorkin speaking about the late TV pioneer Philo T. Farnsworth -- but in his acceptance the Chairman and CEO of CBS managed to sum up an evening that was as much about showcasing the power of the medium of television as it was about the distinguished group of honorees.
“I guess all the people who have been saying television is dead were a little bit off,” said Moonves, beaming before a partisan audience that included many of his CBS colleagues, numerous people in the industry he has touched and helped over the past four decades, his wife Julie Chen and his parents who recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. “It’s alive and well and no better place to be.”
Moonves paid tribute to those who have helped him rise from actor to executive to a broadcasting mogul who has led his network to the top of the ratings for ten of the last eleven TV seasons. “Loyalty,” said Moonves, “is what has meant the most to me.”
Standing nearby were married actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, who presented his award. Steenburgen recalled being in the same acting school with Moonves in the early 1970s when he was a year ahead of her and didn’t have to be nice but was. “He was nice to all of us,” she recalled, “dashing, brilliant and lovely in his dance leotard and tights.”
Steenburgen said Moonves might joke with David Letterman about his early years as an actor but she said their famed acting teacher Sandy Meisner considered him “a very talented actor.”
Moonves preferred to talk about all the television business has given him back over the years.
“I’ve met the Pope and I’ve met presidents,” Moonves said, “and I am in awe of the reach and influence of our medium…It speaks to why this business is so important to our nation and the world.”
Turning to his parents, Moonves said “I think my father tonight, finally, is accepting it’s OK I didn’t go to medical school.”
Earlier in the evening at the Beverly Hilton, producer Dick Wolf, who has created more than 30 TV series and produced over 1,100 episodes - most notably the Law & Order franchise – played a similar theme when he said, “Nobody gets here alone. It is the most collaborative form of communication ever invented.”
Wolf started by praising rapper turned actor Ice-T, with whom he has done five TV series, including the past dozen years as NYPD Detective Odafin Tutola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In introducing Wolf, Ice-T said he paid him his greatest compliment: “He said Ice-T is the least pain in my ass” of all the actors and crew he worked with.
Ice-T said people always ask what is the “boom boom” sound that punctuates the action on the Law & Order shows. “We decided that’s Dick Wolf’s cash register,” joked Ice-T.
Wolf paid tribute to the late Brandon Tartikoff as his first mentor. He said it was Tartikoff who put Law & Order on the air and kept it there in the early days despite low ratings, after it had been passed over by Fox and CBS.
Wolf said he still gets a thrill out of having a new show become a hit, as Chicago Fire did this season. He looked at Al Michaels, who calls the shots on Sunday Night Football, another hit for NBC and said they had to keep going so that NBC can at least beat Univision for fourth place.
“It’s a great ride,” said Wolf, “and I hope it continues. I’ve had the best career I could conceive of.”
The tribute to Bob Schieffer started with a video in which the veteran newsman said his own life story as a country song at the Grand Old Opry, while the video showed his rise from local newsman to White House correspondent to anchor and host of the long running Sunday morning news shot Face The Nation.
Schieffer said he loved what he has done but said he worries in this fast paced world, with all the new media and new forms of journalism, that the standards he has lived by are being eroded.
“The most important thing we all have to talk about as journalists is what our rolls will continue to be,” said Schieffer. “Will these young journalists adhere to the same standards the mainstream media has adhered to and (continue to ask) the main things (about the news): Is it true?