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Television Reviews : ‘Fifth Annual TV Academy Hall of Fame’ Tonight

Maybe there’s a rule somewhere in FCC guidelines or Fox Broadcasting’s standards that prohibits tonight’s “The Fifth Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame” from being as good as the television it sets out to honor. How else do you explain a show that’s stiffer than the upper lip of Chet Huntley, one of the six deemed worthy this year for the academy’s award?

That “symbol of achievement” has been newly designed this year, looking like a crystal ball reshaped to resemble a TV screen. Next year the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences should seriously consider redesigning the show.

Even though it’s pre-recorded and edited, the two-hour affair has most of the faults of live awards shows without the added perk of live TV’s unpredictability. The presentations follow the old formula as if it were a sacred ritual: overlong, trite opening musical number featuring Tommy Tune, followed by a presenter who introduces film clips and then hands over the award to the inductee, who makes a heartfelt speech, followed by another presenter, more clips, more speeches, far too much obvious TelePrompTer reading and somewhere, in the midst of it all, an interminable musical number-cum-comedy-sketch by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

For the hardy viewer, there may be compensations enough. The inductees are (in order of presentation) Red Skelton, David Susskind, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, David Wolper and Jack Benny. The clips--especially in the case of Benny and Burns and Allen--are sometimes fun or interesting.

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A few of the speeches are not only heartfelt but heart-tugging, with the best coming from a non-celebrity, Huntley’s widow, Tippy Conrad.


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