TV Academy Hall of Fame Honors Diahann Caroll, Peter Jennings


Before the 20th annual Television Academy Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Tom Freston got to the bottom of what Thursday night's event meant to him and other attending honorees.

"It's a pleasure to be in the Hall of Fame and still be alive," he said.

The former CEO of Viacom and MTV said this in the company of his presenter, Bob Daly, who knows Freston from MTV's early days when it was part of Warner Communications.

"We had to sell MTV because of the Atari losses," Daly recalled. "Can you imagine what Warners would be like today if, in addition to the studio, HBO, CNN and Turner, it had MTV and all those channels?"

With the kind of regret in his voice that only a former Warner Bros. chairman can have, Daly said: "That was a bad deal."

Also inducted during the event at the Beverly Hills Hotel were actresses Diahann Carroll and Cloris Leachman, Golden Girls creator Susan Harris and late TV theme composer Earle Hagen, late ABC anchor Peter Jennings and late game show producer Bill Todman.

Survivor executive producer and host Jeff Probst presided. "Don't worry, I'm not going to borrow any material from Ricky Gervais," he said.

Carl Reiner, filling in for Dick Van Dyke (he'd reinjured his Achilles tendon while running), presented a Hall of Fame statuette to Hagen's widow, Laura. (Hagen composed the theme song to The Dick Van Dyke Show.)

Fred Silverman presented to producer-writer Harris; Florence Henderson to Todman's son; producer George Englund to his ex-wife Leachman; Bob Woodruff to Jennings' widow, Kayce; and Tavis Smiley to Carroll.

"The TV Academy was created to speak on behalf of the television community. It's our responsibility to recognize these individuals who transformed the medium and made a mark on American culture," Television Academy of Arts & Sciences chairman and CEO John Shaffner said.