"EZ Streets" - a program that failed miserably in the ratings while drawing plaudits from the critics - had one final hurrah as the Television Critics Association named it program of the year at its annual awards ceremony.
"I love all critics," joked "EZ Streets" executive producer Paul Haggis in accepting the award. "I hate anyone named Nielsen. And it's nice to address a room that's larger than our combined audience."With this award, you give us some really perverse pleasure," he added, pointing out that the show was first yanked off the air in less than a week. (One episode aired on Sunday, another on Tuesday and it was gone. It later returned for four more outings before getting the final ax.)
The awards, presented at ceremonies at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel here, were voted on by the 175 members of the Television Critics Association, who also did the nominating.
Two new categories were added to the TCA Awards this year, and both went to actors on NBC shows. David Hyde Pierce took home the prize for individual achievement in comedy for his work on "Frasier," and Andre Braugher of "Homicide: Life on the Street" was honored for his individual achievement in drama.
"I really am incredibly honored to have been nominated with this group of nominees," said Pierce, the "Frasier" co-star who beat out, among others, the star of "Frasier," Kelsey Grammer.
"This award . . . although it has my name on it, is really a testament to all the people I work with," Braugher said. "This award is really a testament to the dedication, the commitment, the ingenuity and the love of everyone involved in the show."
"Homicide" was also named outstanding drama series - for the second year in a row.
At the other end of the programming spectrum, HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" topped the comedy category.
After thanking the voters for their award, "Larry Sanders" star and executive producer Gary Shandling told the gathered critics, "I consider myself a critic in a way, because no one could hate me more than I do. So, of course, I genuinely appreciate this."
Cable programs took home two other awards. The Showtime movie "Bastard Out of Carolina" won as the outstanding movie, miniseries or special, and ESPN's "SportCenter" was tops in the sports category - for the second year in a row.
PBS was also well represented. "The American Experience" won in the news and information category, and the award for outstanding achievement in children's programming was shared by "Wishbone" (its second consecutive win) and "Bill Nye the Science Guy" (which is seen both on PBS and in syndication).
And the career achievement award was presented to a longtime PBS stalwart - Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
AGREE TO DISAGREE: The fact that critics disagree should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, how often do you disagree with the opinions that are expressed on these pages?
And, while I'm a loyal member of the Television Critics Association, that doesn't mean that I'm in complete agreement with all of the awards the organization presented. (Which is just another way of saying that not everyone and everything I voted for won.)
Take, for example, "Bastard Out of Carolina," the winner in the outstanding movies, miniseries and specials category.
I hated it.
This harsh, violent movie about a young girl who is sexually abused - even raped in a particularly graphic scene - held no attraction for me. Nor was I able to find any redeeming value to it.
And "EZ Streets" as program of the year? Yes, I gave it good reviews. Yes, I think it was extremely well done.
But, with the benefit of hindsight, it would have made a much better miniseries than it did a series.
It won for two reasons - first, there wasn't any show that really stood out among the nominees. And, second, critics are an obstinate bunch, and this was one last chance for them (us) to stick up for a show the viewers resoundingly rejected and the network quickly canceled.
My only other real disagreement came in the comedy category. "The Larry Sanders Show" is good at what it does, but it's not exactly to my taste. And it can't hold a candle to "Frasier" - which, incidentally, won in this category in each of the past three years.
Other than that, I'll fully endorse the other award winners. And, yes, I did vote for just about all of them.
WINNERS AND NOMINEES: Here's the list of winners:
Program of the Year: Winner: "EZ Streets," CBS. Nominees: "The Odyssey," NBC; "Seinfeld," NBC; "Homicide: Life on the Street," NBC; "The X-Files," Fox.
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy: Winner: "The Larry Sanders Show," HBO. Nominees: "Frasier," NBC; "Seinfeld," NBC; "3rd Rock from the Sun," NBC; "King of the Hill," Fox.
Outstanding Achievement in Drama: Winner: "Homicide: Life on the Streets," NBC. "Law & Order," NBC; "NYPD Blue," ABC; "EZ Streets," CBS; "The X-Files," Fox.
Individual Achievement in Comedy: Winner: David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier," NBC). Nominees: Drew Carey, "The Drew Carey Show," ABC; Kelsey Grammer, "Frasier," NBC; Rip Torn, "The Larry Sanders Show," HBO.
Individual Achievement in Drama: Winner: Andre Braugher ("Homicide: Life on the Street," NBC). Nominees: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, "The X-Files," Fox; Dennis Franz, "NYPD Blue," ABC; Anthony Edwards, "ER," NBC; Joe Pantoliano, "EZ Streets," CBS.
Outstanding Achievement in News and Information: Winner: "The American Experience," PBS. Nominees: "60 Minutes," CBS; "20/20," ABC; "Frontline," PBS; "Nightline," ABC.
Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials: Winner: "Bastard Out of Carolina," Showtime. Nominees: "The Odyssey," NBC; "Moll Flanders," PBS; "The Last Don," CBS; "The West," PBS.
Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming: Winners (tie): "Bill Nye the Science Guy," PBS and syndication; "Wishbone," PBS.
Outstanding Achievement in Sports: Winner: ESPN's "SportsCenter." Nominees: Bryant Gumbel (for HBO's "Real Sports"); Monday Night Football (ABC); the Masters Tournament (CBS); the World Series (Fox)
Career Achievement: Winner: Fred Rogers, "Mister Rogers Neighborhood," PBS. Nominees: ABC News chairman Roone Arledge; former "Tonight Show" host Jack Paar; the "Roseanne" show; Bill Cosby; producer Steven Bochco.