Jon Hamm, Simon Cowell Toast Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award Winners
“Dear world. We get it. You like giving Matt [Weiner] awards,” Jon Hamm quipped in a video tribute to his Mad Men showrunner, who was being honored with a Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award in Miami Beach Tuesday.
“Enjoy it. Take your Legacy Award and your 100 Emmys, put them all over your head… it’s still not going to be this,” he concluded, pointing to his own face as the crowd gathered to toast Weiner and the three other honorees -- FremantleMedia’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz, RCN TV in Colombia’s Fernando Gaitan and Fox TV Stations’ Dennis Swanson -- roared with laughter.
Hamm, along with his cast, crew and corporate bosses, was one of many to deliver a message of pride, humor and genuine appreciation at the 9th annual Legacy Awards, bestowed in honor of broadcasting legend Brandon Tartikoff at the NATPE conference. Among the evening’s speakers on hand to celebrate this year’s television visionaries was Tartikoff’s widow Lilly, who days earlier had announced she was donated a vast collection of Tartikoff's industry correspondences to USC's School of Cinematic Arts.
In honoring Swanson, former NBC Sports chairman and longtime Tartikoff colleague Dick Ebersol spoke of his longtime rival and dear friend’s benevolence, a quality he came to deeply appreciate in the midst of tragic accidents involving Tartikoff and Ebersol’s own late son. He also used the platform to remind those in the room that Swanson was the man who brought Oprah to Chicago, paired Regis and Kathie Lee and rejuvenated the Monday Night Football franchise.
Frot-Coutaz came next, fetted by her boss, Freemantle chief executive Tony Cohen, who touted both her intelligence and her gut in listing her many successes from American Idol toAmerica’s Got Talent toThe X-Factor. But it was Simon Cowell, appearing on a celebratory video with a string of stars, who had one of the night’s winning line: “What happens when you merge a kitten with a shark? The baby would be Cecile,” he joked, adding: “She’s kind of cute, but then she bites you.”
An appreciative Frot-Coutaz used her time on stage to share her thoughts of the state of television, which she deemed surprisingly resilient. She pointed to the many casting overhauls on her own shows, from Idol toGot Talent toThe Price is Right, and applauded the fact that these and other series have been able to hold their own in the face of growing fragmentation. “That’s good news,” she said, before thanking “the Simons,” referring to Cowell and Fuller, among others.
As the night continued, it was award-winning director-producer Guillermo Arriaga, there to honor Ugly Betty creator Gaiton, who had the room in stitches. If Swanson was the bear and Frot-Coutaz the shark-kitten, he determined his Columbian friend, whose Betty has been recreated in 21 other countries, was the tiger. “Not because he’s fierce,” Arriaga quipped of the award’s first Latin American recipient, “but because he makes love every 20 minutes.”
Fortunately, Gaiton, who took the stage with a translator, got the last laugh. “I don’t speak English,” the prolific programmer said in his native Spanish. “I don’t understand English. I don’t understand anything he said. I’m not sure why I invited him.” The remainder of his speech struck a decidedly sweeter tone, with several mentions of how significant it was for him to be honored stateside.
Weiner’s award came last, with his introducer, Lionsgate programming and production president Kevin Beggs, drawing parallels between the Man Men creator, who he described as a brilliant artist, a consummate showman, a master craftsman and a visionary, and the late, great Tartikoff.
“Brandon Tartikoff loved television; he obsessed over television; he elevated television,” said Beggs, taking a beat before adding: “If there is anyone I have ever met, or worked with, who loves, obsesses and desires to elevate television with as much passion it is Matthew Weiner.”
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose