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TeeVee Awards 2000: Best New Show; Best Actor, Hour

They tell you at the Junior Showbiz Academy to always go out with a big number. Even Tony Danza knows that. In past years, we've ended our awards process in different ways. The first year, we promoted a grab bag of made-up awards. (As opposed to the high-quality, not-made-up awards you get two weeks a year from this group of ingrates who runs this snide little Web site.)

The second year, we dumped a load of slop on you -- namely Brooke Shields and Jon Seda. Interesting way to end a show -- sort of the "send in the clowns" approach. "And now, more crap!"

Last year we learned our lesson. And that's why we ended on an up note, highlighting the best series of that year before thanking the bandleader, putting in a plug for the casino, asking you to tip your waitress, and sending you home in a cab.

This year, whether through careful planning or a general exhaustion and confusion caused by posting two straight weeks of awards write-ups (combined with several Vidiots ping-ponging across the continent on business trips), we're ending up where we started -- a nice, circular approach.

We started it all off so very long ago with the award for Best Hour Show, and here we are again for Best New Show. The name's the same, and the argument is the same -- Freaks and Geeks was the highlight of the year, and now it's gone. But we remember it fondly.

This is not to say we came to this decision easily. This was the toughest category for us to choose. Rarely are there so many solid rookie series -- not just Freaks and Best Half-Hour Show co-winner Malcolm in the Middle, but The West Wing and the delightful, genre-bending (and now cancelled) Now and Again. Heck, some of us even liked Harsh Realm -- for the three weeks it was on the air.

In the end, it came down to Freaks and Malcolm, and the hour-long tale of high school students in 1980s Michigan won out.

One of the reasons we liked Freaks and Geeks so much? Its ensemble cast. We can sing the praises of Linda Cardellini -- in fact, we gave her an award. But the rest of the cast was also superb.

Still, one cast member stood out from the crowd. And in the most shocking upset the TeeVee Awards has ever known, two Vidiots with a dream skillfully coerced the group into recognizing Martin Starr, who played tall, geeky Bill Haverchuck, as the Best Actor in an Hour-long Series for the 1999-2000 season.

Martin Starr?, you ask yourself. Perhaps you Vidiots mistyped "Martin Sheen." That's it. Martin Sheen! Martin Sheen is your winner!

But we're serious. Martin Starr took the part of Bill and hit a grand slam. Bill is a fully realized character thanks to Starr, who took great material and made it even better. Bill could've been a much simpler character, but Starr made him complex -- hinting at incredible depth that lesser actors might not have bothered to instill in a tall, skinny geek with glasses who's deathly allergic to peanuts.

We love everything about Bill Haverchuck, and a lot of that has to do with the amazing facial expressions and slick comedic timing of Martin Starr.

Sure, Martin Sheen was great on The West Wing -- we'd prefer Jeb Bartlett to either of the two major-party candidates we've got on the ballot this fall. Sheen took what was to be a marginal role and grabbed the spotlight.

But we didn't give the award to him. We gave it to that guy from Freaks and Geeks.

Because if we've learned anything from our days on the stage in Laughlin, Nevada, it's that there's no better finisher than a surprise ending. And this is ours.

Good night, everyone! Drive home safely!

Additional contributions to this article by: Jason Snell.


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