Chuck Lorre never mentioned his battles with Charlie Sheen over hit comedy series Two and a Half Men as he was honored as producer of the year at the 31st Annual Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors Awards dinner on Sunday in Beverly Hills. But it was clear that the memory still lingers.
Lorre had told the story of coming to Hollywood as a musician and then accidentally falling into animation writing, which led him to primetime where he now runs four series: Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, Mom and Big Bang Theory.
“My dreams have come true as a result of writing and producing television comedy beyond my wildest dreams,” said Lorre. “There were a couple of years where it was a little dicey, and I might not have said all this … but things pass. Look, you give these awards to guys like me because you’re amazed I’m still alive after all the shit I’ve been through.”
Lorre said his job is to “make people laugh,” but to do that, it takes the hard work of other people as well. “I stand on the shoulders of many, many talented people,” said Lorre. “I stand on their shoulders wearing cleats, [saying] ‘Make it better! Make it better!’ “
Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, echoed several other speakers as he accepted the Caucus executive of the year award: “This is definitely a golden age of television.”
However, added Wachtel, it is also “a very complicated age of transition” as the old system of linear networks with fixed schedules gives way to digital and other emerging distribution platforms.
“For our children and their children, [linear networks] aren’t even the main attraction anymore,” said Wachtel. “But the shows themselves, the actual content, will always have value.”
“Some writing hack once said the play’s the thing,” joked Wachtel, “and even though the context is different, the message still resonates whether you are paying 15 bucks a month for HBO or two bucks to stream an episode on iTunes — or if all it costs is the time you devote to watching a commercial or a preroll online. You will continue to seek out and engage in well-produced content.”
Other winners included Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland) as director of the year and James Duff (The Closer) as writer of the year.
Honorary awards included the presentation of the distinguished service award to Sharon Arnett (America’s Funniest Home Videos) by her boss, Vin Di Bona; a lifetime achievement award to CEO of Sunset Gower Studios Bob Papazian (Nash Bridges, NBC’s Inherit the Wind); and the new vision award to Digital Domain founder Scott Ross.
Ross, who described himself as the “token nerd,” talked about how the visual effects industry is bigger than ever in movies and TV, but the whole postproduction industry is shrinking in the U.S. as a lot of work goes overseas. He said he had been trying to form a visual effects trade association without success. “Many people fear retribution,” he explained, “but I remain hopeful.”
Ross said he had an eye condition since birth that impacted his sight, and it was getting worse with age. “I find it ironic that I’m receiving the vision award,” he said. “My doctor would be proud.”
Arnold Shapiro (Rescue 911, Big Brother) accepted the Caucus chair’s award by announcing his retirement.
“This is probably the last award I will ever receive,” said Shapiro, who won an Emmy for his documentary Scared Straight (1978). “I’m retiring next spring, after 50 years. I thought, ‘Well, I’m alive, I should try living.’ “
Caucus chair Norman Powell stood in for Caucus president Chuck Fries who was unable to attend due to illness. He shared the duties of hosting with vice chairs Lee Miller and Di Bona.
The student award recipients of Caucus Foundation grants introduced were Mike Fitzgerald (Chapman University), Puja Maewal (UCLA), Keola Racela (Columbia), Michael Tounian (USC), Johnny Nan Ma (Columbia), Brett Myer (AFI Conservatory) and Maura B. Kelly (Chapman University).
Kelly was the second place winner, earning a $20,000 postproduction package award. And Keola Racela was awarded first place, which came with a $60,000 camera package award from Panavision (the award was picked up by producer Lily Niu on his behalf).
Bill McDonald and Teresa Sullivan accepted the special television/new media award for their UCLA dramatic TV pilot Double Blind. McDonald is thecChair of the Film, Television and Digital Media department at UCLA and Sullivan is one of the co-creators of the pilot.
The host for the awards presentation was actor Bruce Boxleitner (Tron Legacy, Cedar Cover), and trophies were handed out by actress Sadie Calvano (CBS’s Mom).
Reflecting on the television industry veterans among the crowd in the ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Boxleitner said: “50 Shades of Grey is not just a new film, it’s what I see when I look out at this room tonight.”