TV Land Awards: 'Freaks and Geeks,' 'Wonder Years' Casts Reunite; Betty White Honored

Betty White TV Land Awards - H 2015
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Terry Crews hosted the show, which also paid tribute to the late Joan Rivers and featured a live performance from Jennifer Hudson.

Cast reunions ran rampant at the 2015 TV Land Awards on Saturday, as the stars of past hits Freaks and Geeks, Ally McBeal, The Wonder Years and the recently wrapped Parenthood were celebrated for their work. The night was filled with reflection and pride for the lasting effects of these shows, as well as the impact of comedic great Betty White, the late Joan Rivers and pop culture icons Donny and Marie Osmond.  

On the red carpet, old friends were reconnecting at every turn. “Honestly, I don’t get to see these people as much as I would like, so these events are really fun,” said Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig to The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s good because everyone is successful. And no one’s in jail!”

Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini added, “I’ve been away working for a year, so I haven’t seen anybody. It’s nice to see my friends.”

For the series, where many of the actors grew up on set, the awards show almost seemed like a family reunion. “I was co-parents with a lot of the moms with the kids,” said Alley Mills, who played The Wonder Years matriarch Norma Arnold. “But I’m flabbergasted by how cool they are. They have grown up to be great people.”

Eleven-year-old Parenthood actress Savannah Paige Rae told THR, “I don’t really know a point of my life without them, and they’re like my second family. So it is really nice getting back together again. ”

Host Terry Crews arrived in a “white for Betty White” suit, feeling extremely confident and excited for the show. He admitted, “You’re going to feel awkward, you’re going to feel stupid and you’re going to mess up! But I have a superpower that says, ‘Be unembarrassable.’ So I just don’t.” Clearly the nerves did not get to him as he hilariously opened the show with a lip-sync medley to great TV theme songs from shows including Three’s Company, Gilligan’s Island and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Although lip-sync is big right now, as the success of Spike's Lip Sync Battle proves, the stage was also lit up with live musical performances. Charlie Wilson flawlessly performed “With a Little Help From My Friends” as part of the tribute to The Wonder Years. Later in the show, Jennifer Hudson embraced her diva side as she sang “Whatever Makes You Happy” from Empire. Donny and Marie even did a few lines of “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock and Roll,” after the audience yelled out for them to sing as they accepted the Pop Culture Award.

Aside from the great performances, one of the highlights of the evening was the tribute to Betty White. When White came up on stage after a montage of her hilarious moments on screen, she was greeted by a minute-long standing ovation from the crowd. Throughout the evening, all the stars expressed their admiration for the 93-year-old actress, who is now in her final season of Hot in Cleveland. Sutton Foster, the lead of TV Land’s Younger, told THR, “I think Betty White is so awesome, so I’m excited. I’m just dying to meet her, so even if I can get close to her, I’ll be happy.” Martin Starr of Freaks and Geeks even said, “What, she’s 93? I didn’t know. She looks 66!”

The evening also honored the late Joan Rivers in a touching tribute that celebrated her long career in Hollywood. The guests all had kind words and fun anecdotes about her comedic wit. Crews told THR, “Well, you know what is so amazing about Joan is that you know when you are yourself, there is no one else like you. That’s why Joan could get away with saying anything. Because everyone knew, that’s her. ”

Feig, who will be directing the upcoming all female Ghostbusters film, said of the two great actresses: “To stay that relevant in comedy your entire life means you are a comedy genius because comedy has a very short shelf life. When people are funny, they tend to only be funny in a relevant period and then there are a lot of jokes that feel corny. So then when you can actually be funny and prosper, talk about being cross-generational. As a comedy professional, I just tip my hat and bow my head for them. ”

The 2015 TV Land Awards will air April 18.