If there’s one thing 2012’s TV Land Awards winners have in common, it’s a willingness to buck convention. This year we honor not one, not two, but three shows featuring strong female characters in “One Day at a Time,” “Murphy Brown” and “Laverne & Shirley.” Then there’s “In Living Color,” which shattered stereotypes with its cast of irreverent black comedians (plus Jim Carrey), and “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” which doesn’t resemble any other show before or since. Add Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin into the mix as winner of the Icon Award, and you’ve got an lineup of amazing shows and people that truly broke the mold.
Innovator Award: “One Day at a Time”
When “One Day at a Time” debuted in 1975, the families on most TV shows were “traditional,” with two married parents and a couple of adorable, rosy-cheeked kids. A sitcom about a divorcée (Bonnie Franklin) raising two rebellious teenage daughters (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli) on her own wasn’t just rare for the time — it was practically subversive. “One Day at a Time” was ahead of the curve in addressing weighty topics such as birth control, suicide and teenage runaways; but it ran for nine successful seasons because it was funny, helped in no small part by the frequent drop-ins and double entendres of toolbelt-clad super Schneider (Pat Harrington).
Impact Award: “Murphy Brown”
At first, “Murphy Brown” seemed like another version of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”: a female-led sitcom set in a broadcast newsroom. But acerbic, recovering alcoholic, fortysomething news anchor Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) became a powerhouse icon for the modern working woman, tackling work, current events and life issues — even unwed motherhood, once a TV taboo — with humor, toughness and grace … and of course, a little help from her news team and house painter Eldin. The show, which ran from 1988-1998, won two Emmys for Best Comedy and a record-setting five Emmys for Bergen.
Pop Culture Award: “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”
One of those rare children’s shows that could be enjoyed by kids and adults — but in different ways — “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” introduced us to bow-tied man-child Pee-Wee Herman, played by the man once known as Paul Reubens. With his squeaky voice, cheery catchphrases, zany enthusiasm and assortment of friends both human (Cowboy Curtis, Miss Yvonne) and non-human (Chairy, Jambi the genie, Globey), Pee-Wee never lost his sense of childlike wonder, making his “Playhouse” a one-of-a-kind show that talked to kids, but never talked down to them. “I know you are, but what am I?”
Fan Favorite Award: “Laverne & Shirley”
They were gonna do it their way, yes their way … The irrepressible Laverne De Fazio and Shirley Feeney (Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams) debuted as Fonzie’s friends on “Happy Days,” but the roommates and Shotz Brewery co-workers made their dreams come true on their own show, which ran from 1976 to 1983. Though they were both (on and off again) single, Laverne and Shirley’s romantic lives never mattered so much as their quirks (Shirley loved her Boo Boo Kitty, Laverne loved her Pepsi and milk), their friends and neighbors (goofballs Lenny and Squiggy) and their sunny determination to “make it after all,” no matter how many comic misunderstandings or pratfalls it took.
Groundbreaking Award: “In Living Color” - The Cast
“In Living Color,” on the air from 1990 to 1994, was unlike any other show on TV. The sketch series was crass, hilarious and unafraid to offend, no matter who it lampooned — gays, the homeless, disabled people, African-Americans or fire marshals — and oh yeah, it featured an almost all-black cast busting stereotypes upside down and sideways. The launching pad for Keenen Ivory Wayan, Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx and “token white guy” Jim Carrey, “In Living Color” brought a wild, off-color brand of humor (as well as cutting-edge hip-hop acts) to mainstream America, and it won the 1990 Emmy for Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series.
Groundbreaking Award: “In Living Color” - The Fly Girls
Some people watched “In Living Color” for its gut-bustingly funny sketches … but some people just watched it for the Fly Girls. Choreographed by Rosie Perez (herself a former “Soul Train” dancer), the Fly Girls punched up the show with their razor-sharp dance routines and eye-catching outfits, sometimes even appearing in skits. They weren’t too tough on the eyes, either. Winning the title of Most Famous Former Fly Girl would be a then-unknown singer and dancer named Jennifer Lopez, whose bodacious booty joined the show in its third season.
Host: Kelly Ripa
She got her big break on the ABC soap opera “All My Children,” playing Adam Chandler’s daughter Hayley Vaughan for 12 years (from 1990 to 2002). But since then, she’s left Pine Valley far behind. After an on-air audition process, she won the job of co-hosting “Live with Regis and Kelly” alongside Regis Philbin in 2001, and then took over sole hosting duties for the show (now called “Live! With Kelly”) when Philbin retired in 2011. With her girl-next-door appeal and ability to put guests at ease, it’s no wonder so many viewers love waking up to coffee and Kelly every morning.
Icon Award: Aretha Franklin
She isn’t just music royalty — she’s the Queen of Soul. In her 52-year career, Franklin has 18 Grammys, 20 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s R&B chart and 45 Top 40 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. She was the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987). And despite some recent health issues, the 70-year-old is still going strong, releasing new albums and going out on tour. Is there any question she’s a cultural icon? Aretha, we have one word for you: respect.
House Band: The B-52s
“We were at a party,” the B-52s sang in their first hit, “Rock Lobster,” and they’re still at that same party an amazing 34 years later. Fronted by Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, the band (whose name derives from the bouffant hairdos Pierson and Wilson used to favor) knows how to have a good time, and there are few better ways to fill a dance floor than to put their unbelievably catchy song “Love Shack” on and turn the volume way, way up. Tiiiin roof! Rusted.
Presenters: Katie Couric and Fran Drescher
Couric is a renowned American journalist, a special correspondent for “ABC News” and former anchor for “CBS Evening News” and NBC’s “Today”; she’ll soon host the syndicated talk show “Katie.” Drescher, who had early memorable roles in “Saturday Night Fever” and “This Is Spinal Tap,” shot to fame as “The Nanny” and now stars on TV Land’s “Happily Divorced.” Who better to present at the 2012 TV Land Awards than these two leading women of the small screen?
Tune in to the 10th Anniversary TV Land Awards on April 29 at 9PM/8C!