Jay Leno, Julia Louis-Dreyfus Inducted Into TV Academy Hall of Fame at Star-Studded Gala (Video)

Mavis Leno, left, and Hall of Fame Inductee Jay Leno pose backstage.
Mavis Leno, left, and Hall of Fame Inductee Jay Leno pose backstage.
 John Shearer/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

Studio heads, network chiefs and A-list talent converged on the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel Tuesday night to celebrate the 23rd class of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

In a packed ballroom accented by some of the medium’s most powerful leaders, including NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, 20th Century Fox Television chairs Gary Newman and Dana Walden, and FX Networks president John Landgraf, an often emotional ceremony celebrated the career achievements of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, audio engineer Ray Dolby (posthumously), 21st Century Fox chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, former ABC network executive Brandon Stoddard and writer-producer David E. Kelley.

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Emmy-winning host of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars Tom Bergeron kicked off the night's activities by riffing on reports about his recently dropped co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet. “I’m a little worried about my job now. Backstage Jay Leno asked me, ‘Are you sure it’s pronounced paso doble?’ ”

Sons of Anarchy’s Katey Sagal, who attended with her Sons-showrunner husband Kurt Sutter, offered up the evening’s first honor for Murdoch, a man the FX star and alum of Fox’s Married With Children called “my boss for 25 years.” The Aussie mogul said he’d eschewed cake and candles on this, his 83rd birthday, in favor of a simple family celebration (his sons Lachlan and James were on hand to fete their father) and said he wished everyone could experience a life “as fulfilled as his has been this far.”

He also quipped, “I still deserve an Emmy for that Simpsons performance!” referencing a clip shown earlier in the evening from a 1999 episode of the animated series in which Murdoch played himself.

The rest of the evening offered up equal parts nostalgia and sentiment. Prolific drama and comedy creator Kelley, flanked by his wife, actress Michelle Pfeiffer, gave shout-outs to his longtime collaborator Bill D’Elia and agent Rick Rosen, and invoked the words of Robert Frost to describe his writing ethos: “ ‘No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader’ … if you don’t pour your heart into your work, the audience knows.”

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Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern honored former ABC exec Stoddard, whose groundbreaking moves to air controversial original miniseries and films like Roots and The Day After revolutionized primetime programming in the ’70s and ’80s. Stoddard recalled receiving personal death threats and advertisers dropping out due to his “high risks” in selecting event programs. “At one point, Orville Redenbacher was our only advertiser,” admitted Stoddard, but he said his ethos never waivered. “TV should enlighten … the audience is as smart as you are.”

Personally selected as a presenter by Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler offered an expected ace introduction to Louis-Dreyfus’ venerable comedy career (she is the only actress to win Emmys for three different comedy series). Louis-Dreyfus then delivered a rousing speech that recalled an important piece of knowledge gleaned in high school. “My high school physics teacher always said: ‘Have fun at all costs.’

Leno’s moment closed out the evening, but not before Bill Maher -- an old friend from their stand-up comedy days -- jabbed the audience for its lagging energy. “Wow … an industry crowd.”

Leno, who departed his decades-long perch at The Tonight Show on Feb. 6, was loose and seemed at home back in stand-up mode: “Ahhh, a Hall of Fame ceremony that doesn’t involve a drug test.’

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