'Facts,' 'Ties,' Regis receive TV Land Awards honors


Some television honors aren't just for those making shows now but also for those whose past work endures.

Case in point: the TV Land Awards, the nostalgia-driven ceremony now in its ninth year. The channel it's named for televises the event Sunday, April 17, a week after its taping in (for the first time) New York, and the honorees again represent some of the medium's best-loved shows and performers.

"Family Ties," with Michael J. Fox in attendance, receives the Fan Favorite Award; "The Facts of Life" gets the Pop Culture Award; "Welcome Back, Kotter," with John Travolta among those on hand, is presented the 35th Anniversary Award; "The Cosby Show" is saluted with the Impact Award; and Regis Philbin, who will leave "Live! With Regis and Kelly" toward the end of the year, is honored with the Legend Award.

"Yeah, how about that?" Philbin says. "It is nice to be honored like that. Once in a while, I do tune into TV Land, and I enjoy taking a look back at those great shows they have. You kind of forget what sitcoms were like back in those days."

Perhaps that's because Philbin was so busy, even then. The Guinness record holder for the most hours appearing on television, he was Joey Bishop's late-night partner on ABC in the mid-1960s before starting the Los Angeles morning show that eventually led him to New York ... and morphed into "Live."

Many of the other 2011 TV Land Awards honorees have been interviewed by Philbin.

"I think mine was the second television show Bill Cosby was on," he recalls. "The first was the show Jack Paar had on Friday nights, and Jack said in introducing him, 'I think we're going to be hearing a lot about him.' I remember that because he also was slated to be on my little, local San Diego show, and Cosby and I have remained friends ever since."

"The Cosby Show" shared NBC's high-rated Thursday nights with "Family Ties" from 1984 to 1987, and Michael Gross -- alias "Ties" patriarch Steven Keaton -- reflects that his show was "very much a product of its time, which was wonderful. It caught a certain zeitgeist during the Reagan years, and that had a lot to do with it."

For a time during "Family Ties," co-star Fox dated Nancy McKeon, who played tomboy Jo on "The Facts of Life." (They also made the 1983 TV movie "High School U.S.A." together.)

"We are very good friends and always will be," says McKeon, now a Texas resident. "When you live so far apart and life marches on, the times you get to see each other are sometimes not as frequent as you would like. There's something to be said for picking up a conversation with a dear friend from where you last left it."

McKeon is glad to do that with her "Facts of Life" comrades, too. She would appear in such other series as the Lifetime police drama "The Division" and Disney Channel's current "Sonny With a Chance," but NBC's 1979-88 "Diff'rent Strokes" spinoff about the all-girl Eastland School made her a star.

"We all haven't been together since I can't remember when," McKeon says. "I'm in touch with Charlotte (Rae, alias Mrs. Garrett) and Lisa (Whelchel, who played Blair) a lot, and it's nice for TV Land to look at our show as worthy of comment at this point. And mainly for Charlotte; she's such a great lady, and I love her so much. It gives all of us great pleasure to see her honored."

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